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Synopsys and TSMC Collaborate for 20 nm Reference Flow

Synopsys, Inc., a global leader accelerating innovation in the design, verification and manufacture of chips and systems, today announced 20-nanometer (nm) process technology support for the TSMC 20 nm Reference flow. This includes Synopsys Galaxy Implementation Platform support for the latest TSMC 20 nm design rules and models. The collaboration between TSMC and Synopsys on 20nm technology allows designers to gain performance, power efficiency and chip density advantages while achieving predictable design closure with the industry-proven Synopsys RTL to GDSII solution.

TSMC's 20 nm Reference Flow addresses 20 nm design challenges with a transparent double patterning aware design flow enabling double patterning technology (DPT) compliance, pre-coloring capability, new RC extraction methodology, DPT sign-off, and integrated design-for-manufacturing (DFM). The new Reference Flow's transparent DPT enablement reduces DPT design complexity, achieves required accuracy, minimizes 20 nm design flow setup and learning curve, and accelerates 20 nm process adoption.

TSMC Seen As Only 20 nm ASIC Supplier to Apple in the Next 2 Years

Market analysts with Citigroup Global Markets Inc. see TSMC as being the only company able to supply chips built on the 20 nanometer silicon fabrication process to Apple, for its quad-core systems on chip (SoC). J.T. Hsu, a market research fellow with Citigroup points out that Apple began verifying TSMC's 20 nm manufacturing capabilities in August 2012, and could begin risk production (preliminary batches with accepted risk of low-yields) as early as by November 2012. If all goes well, mass production (high-yield) could begin by Q4 2013. TSMC could hike its capital expenditure to the range of US $11-12 billion in 2013-14.

Source: CENS.com

TSMC Tapes Out CoWoS Test Vehicle Integrating Wide I/O Mobile DRAM Interface

TSMC today announced that it has taped out the foundry segment's first CoWoS (Chip on Wafer on Substrate) test vehicle using JEDEC Solid State Technology Association's Wide I/O mobile DRAM interface. The milestone demonstrates the industry's system integration trend to achieve increased bandwidth, higher performance and superior energy efficiency.

This new generation of TSMC's CoWoS test vehicles added a silicon proof point demonstrating the integration of a logic SoC chip and DRAM into a single module using the Wide I/O interface. TSMC's CoWoS technology provides the front-end manufacturing through chip on wafer bonding process before forming the final component. Along with Wide I/O mobile DRAM, the integrated chips provide optimized system performance and a smaller form factor with significantly improved die-to-die connectivity bandwidth.

ARM Announces POP IP Technology for Mali-T600 Series GPUs

ARM today introduced the first POP IP solution for ARM Mali-T600 series graphics processor units (GPUs). This latest offering of POP IP -- core-hardening acceleration technology that produces the best implementations of ARM processors in the fastest time-to-market -- is optimized for the Mali-T628 and Mali-T678 on TSMC 28 nm HPM process technology. Mali GPUs go into a variety of end devices, including a wide range of smartphones, from high performance to mass market, as well as tablets and smart TVs. It is critical that designers can optimize their Mali GPU for their selected end applications.

Developed in synergistic collaboration by ARM’s Media Processing and Physical IP divisions, the optimized POP IP technology has been created to produce the most efficient GPU implementations at 28 nm. The POP IP enabled Mali-T600 series GPU implementation results in superior performance density/watt, and significant silicon savings. Benefits of this POP IP have been proven to deliver up to 27 percent higher frequency, 24 percent lower area, and 19 percent lower power than implementations which do not use POP IP.

TSMC 20 nm and CoWoS Design Infrastructure Ready

TSMC announced today that the readiness of 20 nm and CoWoS design support within the Open Innovation Platform (OIP) is demonstrated by the delivery of two foundry-first reference flows supporting 20 nm and CoWoS (Chip on Wafer on Substrate) technologies.

TSMC's 20 nm Reference Flow enables double patterning technology (DPT) design using proven design flows. Leading EDA vendors' tools are qualified to work with TSMC 20 nm process technology by incorporating DPT aware place and route, timing, physical verification and design for manufacturing (DFM). The new silicon-validated CoWoS Reference Flow that enables multi-die integration to support high bandwidth, low power can achieve fast time–to- market for 3D IC designs. The CoWoS flow also benefits designers by allowing them to use existing, mainstream tools from leading EDA vendors.

Despite Estimates Cuts, Analyst Bets on Haswell Success

Following last Friday's Q3 outlook lowering by Intel, market punters such as Merrill Lynch cut estimates. Vivek Arya, an analyst with the firm, cut its Q3 and Q4 estimates for Intel, while remaining optimistic about upcoming processes in the company's pitched battle with ARM in the lightweight SoC segment. Arya believes that with upcoming technologies, Intel has a fighting chance against ARM heavyweights. Said Arya in his report:
Next-gen chip manufacturing has become a 3-horse race between Intel, TSMC and Samsung, with Intel holding a 1 to 4 year lead, in our view. As we saw in 1H12, foundries were unable to ramp 28nm capacity, leading to product delays. Rising costs/ complexity (tri-gate) could further widen this gap. We believe this could enable Intel to gain a foothold (vs. zero today) in mobile over the next 2 years, as smartphone/tablet vendors look to Intel as a second or even primary source […] We firmly believe in Intel’s ability to reliably produce the lowest cost and highest performance silicon can help it maintain a dominant position in servers/data centers (20% of sales, 10-15% CAGR), and transition from legacy PCs to next-gen smartphones, tablets, Ultrabooks and other converged devices in the next 1-2 years. Investors, meanwhile, benefit from a 3.6% div yield, $7.5bn in available buybacks (6% of mkt cap) and <10x PE.

TSMC Reports Second Quarter EPS of NT$1.61

TSMC today announced consolidated revenue of NT$128.06 billion, net income of NT$41.81 billion, and diluted earnings per share of NT$1.61 (US$0.27 per ADR unit) for the second quarter ended June 30, 2012.

Year-over-year, second quarter revenue increased 15.9% while both net income and diluted EPS increased 16.3%. Second quarter results included an impairment charge of NT$2.68 billion, equivalent to NT$0.09 EPS, of our holding of 5.6% stake of SMIC common stocks. Compared to first quarter of 2012, second quarter of 2012 results represent a 21.4% increase in revenue, and a 24.9% increase in both net income and diluted EPS. All figures were prepared in accordance with R.O.C. GAAP on a consolidated basis.

AMD Adopts 28 nm Bulk Manufacturing in 2013

According to AMD senior VP and CTO Mark Papermaster, the company will adopt the 28 nanometer bulk CMOS silicon fabrication process for its chips in 2013. The bulk process is used to manufacture high-volume and less-complex products, such as motherboard chipset, entry-level APUs, etc. The company already takes advantage of TSMC 28 nm High-Performance process for highly-complex chip designs, such as its Southern Islands GPU family, and will continue using it for its next-generation "Sea Islands" GPUs. In related news, DigiTimes learned through sources that AMD's Sea Islands GPUs have entered tape-out stage, and are on course for a late-2012 volume manufacturing, and early-2013 launch schedule.

Source: DigiTimes

AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition "Tahiti XT2" Detailed

We've known since May, the existence of a new high-end single-GPU graphics card SKU in the works, at AMD. Called the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition, the SKU is being designed to regain AMD's competitiveness against NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 680. We're hearing a few additional details about the SKU. To begin with, AMD has worked with TSMC to refine the chip design. The Tahiti XT2 will be able to facilitate significantly higher clock speeds, at significantly lower voltages, than the current breed of Tahiti XT chips.

Tahiti XT2, or Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition, will ship with a core clock speed of 1100 MHz, 175 MHz faster than the HD 7970. The GPU core voltage of Tahiti XT2 will be lower, at 1.020V, compared to 1.175V of the Tahiti XT. It's unlikely that AMD will tinker with memory clock speed, since Tahiti already has a 384-bit wide GDDR5 memory interface, which gives it 264 GB/s memory bandwidth at 1375 MHz (5.50 GHz effective). According to the source, the new SKU enters mass-production next week. So best case, it should reach markets by late-June or early-July.

Source: OCaholic.ch

TSMC Gives NVIDIA Priority for 28 nm Manufacturing

Relations between NVIDIA and its principal foundry partner, TSMC, have been unpredictable in recent times, with reports of NVIDIA expressing displeasure with it over 28 nm manufacturing capacity, which is denting its competitiveness; and later crediting collaboration with it, for the energy-efficiency of its latest Kepler family of GPUs. With NVIDIA threatening to find other foundry partners for bulk manufacturing, and reports of Samsung already preparing qualification samples for it, TSMC is responding by issuing NVIDIA a priority over other clients (such as Qualcomm, AMD) for manufacturing of 28 nm chips.

While being unsatisfied with TSMC's output, and its new policy of charging for wafers rather than working chips yielded, NVIDIA refuted rumors of it seeking other foundry partners such as Samsung and Global Foundries. When put on high-priority, TSMC will facilitate speedy launch of new NVIDIA GeForce SKUs towards the end of Q2, 2012. Supply prioritization isn't new, TSMC has, in the past, prioritized Qualcomm when it threatened to shift allocations to other foundries. It remains to be seen how AMD responds to the situation, as such a prioritization would come at the expense of its volumes, and could threaten its competitiveness.

Source: DigiTimes

TSMC's 28 nm Based ARM Cortex-A9 Test Chip Reaches Beyond 3 GHz

TSMC today announced its 28 nm high performance ARM Cortex-A9 dual-core processor test chip achieved 3.1 GHz performance under typical conditions.

The TSMC 28 nm HPM (high performance for mobile applications) process technology that achieved these results addresses applications requiring both high speed and low leakage power. Using various design signoff conditions, ARM A9 at TSMC 28HPM delivers performance speed range from 1.5 GHz to 2.0 GHz, suitable for mobile computing, and up to 3.1 GHz for high-performance uses. With its wide performance-to-leakage coverage, the 28 nm HPM process was developed for devices targeting networking, tablet and mobile consumer product applications.

TSMC Woos Apple with 20 nm Production

TSMC, which is currently able to meet less than 70 percent of orders placed by Qualcomm, NVIDIA, AMD, TI, and Broadcom, for 28 nm chip manufacturing, is planning an early investment into its succeeding 20 nm manufacturing process that will ensure it has a new process ready well in advance (of its 2013 target), so it could seek orders in advance, and attain high volume capacity by 2013. Industry sources say TSMC has a good chance of landing orders for CPUs by Apple, in 2014. Apple's current-generation A5X chip is built on the 40 nm process, by Samsung. TSMC has revealed plans to invest about US$700 million in building a 20nm R&D line in 2012 – instead of its originally-planned 2013.

Source: DigiTimes

NVIDIA Credits Close Collaboration with TSMC for Kepler's Energy Efficiency

Despite the fact that NVIDIA is frantically seeking out other semiconductor foundries for high-volume manufacturing its 28 nm chip designs, and despite some looming irritants, NVIDIA appears to value its relationship with TSMC highly. NVIDIA's senior vice president for Advanced Technology Group Joe Greco, in a recent company blog post, credited close collaboration with TSMC for the stellar energy-efficiency (performance/Watt) figures NVIDIA's Kepler architecture has been able to achieve.

"The advancement that TSMC offered was a new optimized process technology. Kepler is manufactured using TSMC’s 28nm high performance (HP) process, the foundry’s most advanced 28nm process which uses their first-generation high-K metal gate (HKMG) technology and second generation SiGe (Silicon Germanium) straining," read the blog post. "Using TSMC’s 28nm HP process enabled us to reduce active power by about 15 percent and leakage by about 50 percent compared to 40nm, resulting in an overall improvement in power efficiency of about 35 percent (see charts)."

TSMC Reports First Quarter EPS of NT$1.29

TSMC today announced consolidated revenue of NT$105.51 billion, net income of NT$33.47 billion, and diluted earnings per share of NT$1.29 (US$0.22 per ADR unit) for the first quarter ended March 31, 2012.

Year-over-year, first quarter revenue increased 0.1% while both net income and diluted EPS decreased 7.7%. Compared to fourth quarter of 2011, first quarter of 2012 results represent a 0.8% increase in revenue, and a 6% increase in both net income and diluted EPS. All figures were prepared in accordance with R.O.C. GAAP on a consolidated basis.

NVIDIA Licenses Integrated, OV-Tolerant I/O and ESD Tech. from Sofics and ICsense

Sofics bvba of Gistel, a leading provider of ESD solutions for ICs, and ICsense of Leuven, a prominent designer of analog, mixed-signal, and high-voltage ICs and turnkey ASICs, today announced that NVIDIA has licensed their integrated ESD and I/O technology to provide a stable 3.3V I/O with robust ESD protection on its Icera modem processors that use 1.8V transistors.

The license includes customized ESD solutions from Sofics and ICsense’s overvoltage-tolerant I/Os. These solutions are based on a novel circuit technique proven in TSMC 0.18 um, 40 nm, and 28 nm processes that allows I/Os to handle more than 2X the voltage of the transistors on the chip.

NVIDIA Wants 450 mm Wafers, Seeking Foundry Partnership with GlobalFoundries, Samsung

NVIDIA is formulating a long-term chip manufacturing strategy that will see its interests secure by the time chip manufacturing has moved on to 14 nm (which follows 20 nm and today's 28 nm), which could arrive around 2015. Chip manufacturing by foundry partners is a potentially major irritant for NVIDIA, which wants to see wafer sizes getting increased from the current 300 mm manufacturing at TSMC, to 450 mm, and fast. TSMC will achieve 450 mm (18-inch) wafer manufacturing capability only by 2015. Another irritant for NVIDIA is TSMC's change in business model, which charges fabless customers "per wafer manufactured", rather than "per working chip yielded", giving them what they perceive to be the shorter end of the stick. NVIDIA is thus rigorously evaluating other foundry partners. We know from a slightly older report that Samsung has sent NVIDIA test chips manufactured at its Austin, Texas facility. There is talk that NVIDIA could also seek partnerships with GlobalFoundries, of which AMD recently relinquished all its stakes on. NVIDIA needs reliable, high-volume foundry partners that can keep it competitive not just with its main business of GPUs, but also a potential gold mine that is application processors.

Source: VR-Zone

NVIDIA Approaching Other Foundries than TSMC for 28 nm Production

NVIDIA, along with Qualcomm, is reportedly in talks with foundries other than TSMC, for manufacturing of its new 28 nm chips. Despite the fact that TSMC is ramping up its 28 nm capacity at a breakneck pace, NVIDIA is seeing a shortage of production that could affect its competitiveness. An interesting revelation here is that NVIDIA has begun sampling its GPUs on Samsung's 28 nanometer fab process. Samsung uses this process for contract-manufacturing of ARM application processors. Other foundries with proven 28 nm manufacturing capability include UMC.

Source: DigiTimes

TSMC 28 nm Capacity Ramp-Up Faster Than Older Processes

With launches of new-generation GPUs by NVIDIA and AMD, and new ARM application processor designs by various industry players, TSMC is under pressure to ramp up its production capacity for its new 28 nanometer note. DigiTimes research suggests that this ramp-up is going at a faster rate than older processes such as 40 nm and 65 nm nodes (when those were new). Digitimes Research analyst Nobunaga Chai claims that the 28 nm node started generating revenues in Q4, 2011, and sales ratio reached 5% in the following quarter. It is anticipated to see TSMC significantly ramp up its 28nm production capacity later in 2012, Chai believes.

Source: DigiTimes

ARM Expands Processor Optimization Packs for TSMC 40 nm and 28 nm Process Variants

ARM today announced the availability of a significantly expanded lineup of ARM Processor Optimization Pack (POP) solutions for TSMC 40 nm and 28 nm process technologies targeting a range of ARM Cortex processors. At least nine new POP configurations targeting Cortex-A5, Cortex-A7, Cortex-A9 and Cortex-A15 processor cores will be released. An essential element of ARM's comprehensive implementation strategy, POPs enable ARM partners to quickly close timing of single-, dual- and quad-core implementations across a broad envelope of power, performance and area optimization points. This solution reduces risk and improves time-to-market in the development of Cortex processor-based Systems-on-Chip (SoCs) with partners achieving competitive results in as little as six weeks.

At the leading-edge 28 nm HPM (high performance for mobile) and 28 nm HP (high performance) process variants, ARM is launching new POPs for the Cortex-A9 core as well as the first POPs for ARM's newest Cortex-A7 and Cortex-A15 processors. Since the Cortex-A7 and Cortex-A15 cores are used in tandem as ARM's big.LITTLE energy-efficient processing solution, the addition of POPs for both cores assures a complete solution for big.LITTLE implementations. ARM's lead licensee for the Cortex-A15 POP for TSMC 28 nm HPM is progressing toward the tape out of its first chip in the coming months.

TSMC Faces Acute 28 nm Capacity Shortage

Taiwan's premier semiconductor foundry, TSMC, is reportedly facing an acute shortage in 28 nm manufacturing capacity. This shortage is expected to relax in Q3, 2012, according to sources. Qualcomm, AMD, and NVIDIA are the three biggest patrons of the 28 nm process, Qualcomm uses it to manufacture performance ARM application processors, while AMD and NVIDIA use it for their new generation GPUs. Although launched at the very end of Q4 2011, AMD's HD 7970 shipped a relatively small volume due to low manufacturing capacity. NVIDIA launched only two 28 nm GPUs, the GTX 680, and GT 640M, and has had to delay launch of more models, due to this reason, according to source. Qualcomm, meanwhile, shifted some of its orders to UMC.

Source: DigiTimes

EVGA GeForce GTX 680 Pictured, Too, $499 Pricing Confirmed

Here is the first picture of EVGA GeForce GTX 680. The best-selling GeForce AIC partner in the US, EVGA, opted for a minimalist sticker design, while sticking to NVIDIA reference board and cooler designs. In fact, all GeForce GTX 680 launched in the first-wave, do. Speaking of first-wave, TechnoReviews managed to screengrab American Retailer Newegg.com listing out nearly all the GeForce GTX 680 models that will be available on launch of the SKU.

The listing confirms the US $499 (before taxes) pricing of NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680, because that's how low these cards are available for; they will never price it below NVIDIA-recommended MSRP. Newegg.com applying a $10 margin is quite natural, they've done it with pretty much every major graphics card market-launch this year, including that of the Radeon HD 7900 series. Assuming the GeForce GTX 680 beats Radeon HD 7970, as NVIDIA claims, our educated guess is it still won't start a "price-war" as such. AMD might recalibrate prices of HD 7900 series down 5~10%, but AMD and NVIDIA won't be able to drive prices below a threshold, and that threshold is governed by TSMC, its ability to ship 28 nm chips in volumes big enough, and at prices low enough, to support a price-war between the two GPU giants.


Source: TecnoReviews, Image Courtesy: Newegg.com

TSMC Expanding 28 nm Manufacturing Facility

With the advent of highly-complex 28 nm discrete PC graphics processors, and ARM designers lined up with their increasingly powerful SoCs, TSMC is bound to see a pile up of orders for chips built on its newest bulk manufacturing process. In view of this, the "messiah of the fabless" is planning an expansion of its 28 nm manufacturing facility. This expansion is set to occur a little later in 2012. TSMC reportedly is running at full capacity at its 12-inch fabs because of strong demand for 28 nm as well as 40 nm and 65 nm. Due to this, some designers are approaching TSMC's competitors UMC and Samsung for 28 nm bulk manufacturing, according to sources. The expansion will follow a revision of TSMC's capex target for 2012, up from US $6 billion.

Source: DigiTimes

TSMC seeing orders fill sub-40nm capacity

Taiwan's premier chip foundry, TSMC, is reportedly seeing strong demand for sub-40 nm chip manufacturing. It's easy to manufacture smaller, simpler chips on new foundry nodes than complex devices such as GPUs. Hence, the source notes that it's wireless communication device chip manufactures that have sub-40 nm nodes at TSMC fully booked up. The foundly also scored orders from local and foreign fabless audio IC firms. "In fact, TSMC's 6-inch fab dedicated to process analog and LCD driver ICs has been running at full capacity since late February, with shipment delivery times to customers being extended to more than 12 weeks, the sources pointed out," notes DigiTimes.

Source: DigiTimes

NVIDIA Kepler Yields Lower Than Expected.

NVIDIA seems to be playing the blame game according to a article over at Xbit. This is what they had to say, "Chief executive officer of NVIDIA Corp. said that besides continuously increasing capital expenditures that the company ran into in the recent months will be accompanied by lower than expected gross margins in the forthcoming quarter. The company blames low yields of the next-generation code-named Kepler graphics chips that are made at TSMC’s 28nm node. “Decline [of gross margin] in Q1 is expected to be due to the hard disk drive shortage continuing, as well as a shortage of 28nm wafers. We are ramping our Kepler generation very hard, and we could use more wafers. The gross margin decline is contributed almost entirely to the yields of 28nm being lower than expected. That is, I guess, unsurprising at this point,” said Jen-Hsun Huang, chief executive officer of NVIDIA, during a conference call with financial analysts.

NVIDIA’s operating expenses have been increasing for about a year now: from $329.6 million in Q1 FY2012 to $367.7 million in Q4 FY2012 and expects OpEx to be around $383 million in the ongoing Q1 FY2013. At the same time, the company expects its gross margins in Q1 FY2013 to decline below 50% for the first time in many quarters to 49.2%. Nvidia has very high expectations for its Kepler generation of graphics processing units (GPUs). The company claims that it had signed contracts to supply mobile versions of GeForce “Kepler” chips with every single PC OEM in the world. In fact, NVIDIA says Kepler is the best graphics processor ever designed by the company. [With Kepler, we] won design wins at virtually every single PC OEM in the world. So, this is probably the best GPU we have ever built and the performance and power efficiency is surely the best that we have ever created,” said Mr. Huang.

Radeon HD 7700 Series Specifications Surface

In the coming week, AMD will release its Radeon HD 7700 series, which aims to increase its competitiveness in the sub-$200 market. The latest specifications exposé reveals AMD's new design strategy: Instead of increasing components such as stream processors and ROPs, which would increase transistor counts, and unnecessarily increase power draw, AMD is counting on a lesser number of better-configured Graphics CoreNext stream processors. While the previous-generation HD 5770/6770 "Juniper" GPU featured VLIW5 stream processors, the new "Cape Verde" GPU, which will go into making up Radeon HD 7770 and 7750, will feature GCN stream processors. Apart from architectural performance improvements, AMD is counting on increased clock speeds to do the trick. The specifications are listed below.

Cape Verde Physical
  • Built on TSMC 28 nm process, ~1.5 billion transistors
  • 10 Graphics CoreNext Compute Units (CUs)
  • 640 stream processors
  • 40 TMUs, 16 ROPs
  • 128-bit wide GDDR5 memory interface
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