ARM, GlobalFoundries join forces on 20 nm and FinFET devices


— 9:38 AM on August 13, 2012

Last month, ARM announced a partnership with TSMC involving sub-20-nm chips with FinFET, or non-planar, transistors. That results of that partnership are expected in 2015, when TSMC ramps its 16-nm fab process.

Now, ARM has announced a similar partnership with GlobalFoundries. This latest deal involves both next-gen FinFET chips and chips manufactured at 20 nm. GlobalFoundries expects to have 22- and 20-nm fab processes ready for "product introduction" next year. The company already taped out a 20-nm ARM test chip last December, as well.

Here's what the new partnership entails, in the jargon-laden words of the press release:

GLOBALFOUNDRIES plans to develop optimized implementations and benchmark analysis for next-generation, energy-efficient ARM Cortex™ processor and ARM Mali™ graphics processor technologies, accelerating customers" own SoC designs using the respective technologies. The comprehensive platform of ARM Artisan Physical IP for GLOBALFOUNDRIES" 20nm-LPM and FinFET processes and POP IP products provide fundamental building blocks for SoC designers. This platform builds on the existing Artisan physical IP platforms for numerous GLOBALFOUNDRIES" process technologies including 65nm, 55nm and 28nm, as well as the Cortex-A9 POP technology for 28nm SLP, now available for licensing from ARM.

Put more simply, ARM and GlobalFoundries say their new alliance will "promote rapid migration to three-dimensional FinFET transistor technology." Simon Segars, ARM's Executive VP and General Manager of Processor and Physical IP Divisions, weighs in, "Customers designing for mobile, tablet and computing applications will benefit extensively from the energy-efficient ARM processor and graphics processor included in this collaboration."

FinFETs are field-effect transistors with a fin-like conducting channel. They're similar to Intel's tri-gate transistors—except, of course, those are already in production, powering Intel's 22-nm Ivy Bridge processors. GlobalFoundries and TSMC are both a ways behind Intel in that respect.

Correction: This story originally stated that ARM and GlobalFoundries planned to collaborate on FinFET devices at 20 nm, which is incorrect. The official announcement mentions collaboration both at 20 nm and on FinFETs. To our knowledge, GlobalFoundries doesn't plan to use FinFETS at 20 nm.

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