Despite claims from companies like Micron Technology that chips smaller than 15nm were unfeasible, GlobalFoundries is working on a 14nm chip in their Malta, NY Fab 8 foundry and they are reporting that their work is on track for release in the next generation of Apple products. Will this move towards yet again more compact chips delay the adoption of stacked die or 3D NAND chips? Or can we expect the rest of the market to go forward while 14nm chips keep the profile of Apple’s products slightly slimmer?
Apparently the foundry is housing tools nearby, at a warehouse where they clearly weren’t being used. Spokesman for GlobalFoundries Jason Gorss said that their delivery expectations hadn’t changed but that capacity at their warehouse would allow them to stage the ramp up as quickly and efficiently as possible. This storage strategy was met with curiosity by some and concern by others, as questions were raised about potential delays. But even industry analysts are saying that GlobalFoundries probably has good reason to stage tools nearby until they’re ready for a complete change-over.
With a short time frame and a lot of new equipment to install, it’s not a surprise that they are staging tools until everything is ready for the installation. Chip delivery doesn’t seem to be affected yet and no one is predicting a problem anymore.
With a leading edge fab like Fab 8 for 14nm chips, it’s not surprising that they would wait rather than build in blocks and expand slowly over time, which is the typical process at a foundry like GlobalFoundries.
GlobalFoundries offers factory and manufacturing services for clients who have designed products elsewhere. The expectation that their work is being commissioned by a huge client and that the chips are slated to be used in Apple products are also signals that this isn’t the typical transition. And with competitors moving toward 3D NAND, or stacked die, technologyit’s no surprise that they want to ensure that the 14nm chip goes into production as soon as possible.
It is possible that planar chips are in their last quarters, as 3D NAND is proving highly efficient and security concerns are being met with high production standards and safety procedures. But it looks like GlobalFoundries and their clients still have enough time to make 14nm a reality.