TSMC aims for '28nm' instead of 32nm

Foundry TSMC has claimed it will leapfrog other chipmakers by introducing a 28nm process as a “full node” and treat what it calls its 32nm process as an interim step. The company aims to start ramping up the 28nm process early in 2010, at about the same time as other chipmakers start production of 32nm devices.

The company has confirmed that it is working on two forms of the process, one using high-k dielectric and metal gates (HKMG) as well as a more conventional silicon oxynitride-gate process. The move to HKMG will allow the company to compete as a foundry with IBM for microprocessor and other high clock-speed designs. Intel already has HKMG in production in its 45nm-based devices.

This is the second time that TSMC has claim it is running at a finer geometry than competitors – it launched a ‘40nm’ process earlier in the year, claiming it was a 10 per cent shrink of its 45nm offering. However, the dimensions of the 40nm process were the same as those quoted in a process described at the 2007 International Electron Device Meeting that was described as being aimed at the 45nm node. Critical dimensions, such as the contacted gate pitch, were roughly in line with those announced by Intel at the same conference.

For its 28nm process, TSMC’s director of advanced process marketing KT Sung refused to provide a figure for the contacted gate pitch or minimum gate lengths for either the polysilicon or HKMG variants. He said the gate length for the SiON process would tend to be higher as this allows for lower power operation. Typically, devices aimed at the SiON version will run at lower clock speeds than those envisaged for the HKMG version.

The process that TSMC has tagged its 32nm generation will go into production in the third quarter of 2009, Sung said.

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