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Another Vote for Gate-First HKMG

On September 15th, 2010 Panasonic Corp. quietly announced they would begin shipping 32nm gate-first HKMG LSI parts for use in their consumer line of Blu-ray DiscTM players.  This announcement is notable for several reasons.  First, this is another endorsement for the gate-first HKMG team.  IBM and the Common Platform foundries are going with gate-first.  Intel and TSMC are the other big players going with the gate-last HKMG technology. 

 Panasonic developed their process with Renesas Electronics Corp. based on a research program with IMEC.  Panasonic uses a hafnium based high-k dielectric with their metal gate electrodes.  Assuming this chip is being manufactured in Panasonic’s Uozu fab in Japan, that means Panasonic is the second company to mass produce and ship a 32nm HKMG product. Of course, Intel was the first.  AMD has manufactured chips at GLOBALFOUNDRIES using their 32nm gate-first HKMG technology but is not expected to begin shipping product until 1H 2011. 

Who would have guessed that the industry’s most advanced process technology would be used to mass produce chips that would be shipped this month for a consumer video player?  I do love my videos but does a Blu-ray 3D DiscTM really require semiconductor chip technology that is considered bleeding edge?  This is most likely a MOS Special Purpose Logic chip.  Panasonic says this technology is enabling them to improve transistor performance by up to 40% while cutting power consumption by 40%. 

The adoption of gate-first for a consumer application does make sense.  Gate-first HKMG is touted as the solution for applications in fast-growing markets and is suppose to be less expensive and easier to implement with fewer process steps.    

Anyone who said that technology development and adoption is slowing better take another look at what is selling in Best Buy this holiday season.  Semico is expecting another 32nm/28nm product announcement using gate-last sometime in October.  If I were to start keeping score, I think gate-first and gate-last are still tied in this playoff series. 

Joanne Itow

Managing Director

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