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June 2017

Foundry Roadmaps: Real Solutions, or Just Hedging?

Major semiconductor foundries have revealed their advanced technology roadmaps for the next few years.  They’re all investing billions of dollars into the development of process technologies and packaging options.  The number of alternatives has been described as ‘dizzying’.  How can all the foundries remain profitable?  How does the customer decide which ‘route’ to take? 

For the twenty-year period from the mid-1980s through the mid-2000s, process technology nodes were relatively easy to segment.  Semico forecasted wafer demand into very clear process technology categories.  Starting with the 45/40nm node in 2007, the two major logic manufacturers (Intel and TSMC) along with competing foundries began taking different paths.  But the paths were still relatively clear.  Intel rolled out their 45nm technology, and then TSMC rolled out their 40nm process.  The foundries began to focus on low-power processes first.  Then they followed up with their high-performance process several months to a quarter later.

Today, in addition to the number of different nodes, the challenge includes Intel’s claim that their 10nm process is comparable to the 7nm offered by other foundries. Semico believes the matching of product needs with process performance and cost will dictate market acceptance, not the marketing claims of technology-naming convention.  

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