Did Globalfoundries Delay 14nm ? – The Full Story


News just broke of Globalfoundries warehousing 14nm manufacturing equipment. As a result rumors surfaced of 14nm ramp up delays.

Globalfoundries Samsung 14nm FinFET PartnershipHowever the giant contract chip maker was quick to diffuse these rumors. Stating that there are absolutely no 14nm delays, in fact the opposite has occurred. And the warehousing of equipment is standard practice to insure the speediest ramp once facility readiness has been established.

Is Globalfoundries Actually Facing 14nm Delays ?

The rumor started after a report surfaced of Globalfoundries storing manufacturing equipment in a nearby warehouse to FAB 8 in Malta, New York rather than directly equipping the fab in question. However according to an official spokesperson from GF the facts about FAB 8 tool orders are being misconstrued. According to GF the foundry is already producing 14nm chips and the new equipment was merely brought in anticipation of a large clean room real estate expansion.

Jason Gorss, a spokesmen from the company presented the following statement:

Our 14nm plan has not changed. A key part of the strategy is to order tools ahead of facility readiness to enable the fastest possible ramp. Due to the large number of tools coming in, we have our vendors stage these tools at a nearby warehouse to facilitate a fast install. This logistical move is in no way related to yield challenges or a delay in our technology ramp and is, in fact, quite the opposite. Our Fab 8 ramp is on track and we have yielding customer product on our 14nm technology.

The explanation given is quite logical and we're inclined to believe that what Globalfoundries had said is accurate. After all the foundry garnered so much praise from its leading customer AMD only a month ago. During the Credit Suisse Technology Conference, Devinder Kumar, AMD's Chief Financial officer had this to say about the contract chip maker :

I can tell you that with the changes that have occurred on GlobalFoundries with the management team and the focus that Abu Dhabi has and the investment that they have as a partnership with GlobalFoundries, the relationship between AMD and GlobalFoundries is the best in the history of the relationship. The folks that we're working with, in fact we just had a meeting in Abu Dhabi just a couple of weeks ago. Really good discussions, very business oriented.

And I think the execution of GlobalFoundries has improved significantly and that helps us from an overall standpoint. In 2014 for the first time, some folks may not know this. For the first time in the history of the relationship we went beyond PC product and actually we are making graphics, PC, and semi-custom products at GlobalFoundries in 2014 and that continues into 2015. When you diversify the product that you make at a foundry like GlobalFoundries, it benefits them from a mix standpoint and benefits us from a mix standpoint. And like I said, the execution is continuing to get better and we are very pleased - very, very pleased with that relationship.

In addition, only two weeks ago we reported on how both Samsung and Globalfoundries had beaten TSMC in the race to FinFETs. Globalfoundries management had divulged and outlined the company's roadmap for 2015. Showing a measurable time to market lead over its largest contract chip making rival TSMC.

Q: Can you tell us when the 14nm process at your company will begin volume production? And why did your company choose to cooperate with Samsung Electronics?

A: We plan to begin volume production with a 14nm LPE (low power early) process in the first half of 2015 and then push ahead with a 14nm LPP (low power plus) process in the second half of the year. Based on chip design projects commissioned by our clients, we believe a number of clients will produce wafer starts using 14nm LPE process initially. However, we expect the number of clients as well as wafer orders to grow robustly when we enter the 14nm LPP process, which will help ramp up our market share and sales significantly.

As things stand right now Samsung leads the contract chip making pack on FinFETs, both in terms of capacity and yields. Globalfoundries is closely following its Korean partner's progress. TSMC currently stands slightly behind the rest but is slowly making headway. The good news is that all three will have FinFET mass production well underway in some shape or form when all is said and done at the back-end of 2015.