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Monday, 21 November 2011 10:24

ARM and TSMC flat out on 20nm

Written by Nick Farell



Chip taped out and nearly ready


ARM and TSMC are flat out trying to get a Cortex A-15 out of the factory using a 20nm process.

According to Electronics Weekly a chip has been taped out already. ARM has dispatched a process team to Taiwan to handle the transition. ARM's executive VP for marketing, Lance Howarth is quoted as saying that the 20nm tape-out is a test vehicle and it will take about a year to get the 20nm production technology running properly. ARM was using the Cortex A-15 design for the test to make sure that proven IP and to prove the design flows, to verify the RTL and make sure it all works well on 20nm. He added that the interdependencies between process technology and the IP are increasing all the time.

ARM has opened a small design centre in Taiwan's Hsinchu Science Par and populating it with the bright sparks from its PIPD division including the “process guys and graphics guys.” Initially “we'll have eight guys rising to 12”. So no “gals” or “dolls” then. TSMC's 20nm process is expected to deliver some surprisingly significant gains in performance. Maria Marced, President of TSMC Europe said that compared to 28nm the 20nm process is expected to deliver a 25 per cent improvement in power consumption, a 15-20 per cent improvement in performance and a 1.9x increase in density. Marced wants the first version of 20nm in the shops by the second half of 2012.

Howarth said that TSMC are quite aggressive in pushing 20nm and they are at least running at the same speed as Chipzilla if not faster. However a more immediate concern for the time being is ARM's focus is on getting out Cortex A-15 on 28/32nm processes.

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