"Innovations for Next Generation Scaling"
We have a guest contribution from Zvi Or-Bach, the President and CEO of MonolithIC 3D Inc. Zvi discusses The Common Platform Technology Forum 2013.
The 2013 Forum today (Feb 5, 2013) started with a presentation by Dr. Gary Patton, VP, IBM Semiconductor Research & Development Center. Gary very clearly articulated the two irresolvable challenges the industry now faces:
- On chip interconnect
These two challenges connect very well with our recent blog IEDM 2012 - The Pivotal Point for Monolithic 3D IC
. Gary showed both the exponential increase of RC which results from the dimensional scaling of copper below 100nm width and the high cost associated with double and quad patterning. In addition, he showed how the extreme scaling of the copper metallization creates reliability challenges such as fatal EM modes, and scaling of the insulator k breeds TDDB and strength issues. As a reminder, in the recent IEDM (Dec. 2012) short course, IBM presented the following slide indicating that interconnect now dominates device power!
L. Chang, D.J. Frank - IEDM 2012 Short Course – IBM Watson Research Center
Gary also presented a multi-decade past to future slide that resembles the one presented here below. The decade ending at the year 2000 was the good old days of easy scaling of planar transistor, which he called the gate oxide limit. Then the industry followed with a decade of "Material Innovation" that he called the planar device limit, and starting in 2010 is the beginning of the "3D Era" - 3D transistors and stacked devices.
Finally he shared with us his vision of 3D devices with three planes of devices:
- Logic Plane
- Memory Plane
- Photonic Plane
A vision we mutually share.
Now, here is my failure to understand. As a company who has been in the forefront of 3D and TSV research, IBM is well aware of the severe limitations of TSV as an alternative for vertical interconnect. The following cross-sectional picture by IBM, presented at the recent GSA Summit, clearly illustrates how large a TSV is in comparison to an interconnect via.
IBM Systems and Technology Group – GSA Silicon Summit 2012 (S.s lyer) – 2012 IBM Corporation
With TSVs of 5 micron diameters (and pitches of 15 micron due to keep out zones from stress issues) vs. vias of less than 50 nm, the ratio in vertical connectivity is 1:10,000 as illustrated in the following chart by Perinne Batude of CEA Leti.
Clearly IBM technologists are well aware of the many research papers showing that TSVs, with their relatively huge size compared to all the other on-chip elements, diminish the performance or power benefits in folding designs to 3D. For example, the chart below was presented by Kim at the 2011 IEEE International Interconnect Technology Conference. The chart illustrates the performance benefits of folding a design twice (4 tiers of transistors) as dependent on the via size. At a via size of 5 microns there are actually no benefits, while at a via size of 0.1 micron the benefits are the equivalent of two nodes of dimension scaling!!!
So can someone please explain to me how come IBM is still talking about TSV as if it is the only representative of the "3D Era"???
And particularly now, when monolithic 3D is finally practical, and the NAND Flash memory vendors are adopting it across the board!?
We have a guest contribution from Zvi Or-Bach, the President and CEO of MonolithIC 3D Inc. Zvi discusses The Pivotal Point for Monolithic 3D IC.
From our biased point of view we see the recent IEDM12 as a pivotal point for monolithic 3D. Here’s why:
We start with the EE Times article IEDM goes deep on 3-D circuits
, starting with "Continuing on the theme of 3-D circuit technology addressed in an earlier post
about this year’s International Electron Device Meeting, Rambus, Stanford University and an interesting company called Monolithic 3D will address issues related to cooling 3-D circuits. .." and follow with a quote from the abstract to IEDMs short course "Emerging Technologies for post 14nm CMOS
" organized by Wilfried Haensch, of IBM’s Watson Research Center:
"Scaling the dimension was the key for the unprecedented success of the development of IC circuits for the last several decades. It now becomes apparent that scaling will become increasingly difficult due to fundamental physical limits that we are approaching with respect to power and performance trade-offs. This short course will give an overview of several aspects in this “end-of-scaling” scenario. ..."
"Yet there are a variety of developments in another type of 3-D scaling that are likely to have a similarly large impact on semiconductors in the near future - 3-D devices for NAND flash.... And as in planar CMOS logic, NAND flash technology has been progressively scaled to smaller feature sizes, becoming the process leader in driving the smallest line-widths in manufacturing as evidenced by the current 1x-nm (~19-nm) process node. Yet, despite plans to scale down to the 1y-nm (~15-nm) and possibly 1z-nm (~13-nm) nodes, the traditional planar floating gate NAND flash architecture is approaching the scaling limit, prompting the search for new device architectures. Not to be upstaged by the planar to 3-D (FinFET) transition in logic devices, NAND flash has embarked on its own 3-D scaling program, whereby the stacking of bit cells allows continuous cost-per-bit scaling while relaxing the lateral feature size scaling."
In our recent blog 3D NAND Opens the Door for Monolithic 3D
we discussed in detail the adoption of monolithic 3D for the next generations of NAND Flash. The trend was very popular subject of this year’s IEDM and is nicely illustrated by this older chart:
And accordingly the updated ITRS 2012 present the change from dimension scaling to monolithic 3D scaling as presented in the following slide.
This year’s IEDM brought up two of the driving forces behind the shift from dimensional scaling to monolithic 3D IC scaling, that we will detail below as #1 and #2.The Current 2D-IC is Facing Escalating Challenges:
- On-chip interconnect (#1)
- Dominates device power consumption
- Dominates device performance
- Penalizes device size and cost
- Dominates Fab cost
- Dominates device cost and diminishes scaling benefits
- Dominates device yield
- Dominates IC development costs
The problem with on-chip interconnect didn’t start today. This vintage Synopsys slide below clearly indicates that on-chip interconnect started to dominate overall device performance a decade ago:
In response, the industry has spent an enormous amount of money to convert from aluminum to copper and to low-K inter-metal dielectrics. But now, we have very few additional options left (perhaps air-bridge?) as illustrated by the following chart:
It shows that neither Carbon Nano Tube (CNT) nor Optical interconnect are better than copper, and that monolithic 3D still is the best path.
The practiced ‘band-aid’ fix so far has been throwing more transistors (they are getting cheaper, right? No longer. See father below) at the problem in the form of buffer and repeaters. But as we scale down we need exponentially more of these ban-aids as illustrated by the following:
"The 14 nanometer node is expected to be an inflection point for the chip industry, beyond which the resistivity of copper interconnects will increase exponentially and may become a limiting factor in chip design. On December 11, 2012, Applied Materials, Inc. will host an important forum in San Francisco to explore the path that interconnect technology must take to keep pace with transistor scaling and the transition to new 3D architectures.” (emphasis added)
This had been illustrated before in the following chart
And to make it crystal clear, IBM presented the following chart in its short course:
Power is now dominating IC design and clearly dimensional scaling does not improve the interconnect’s impact – see the following chart built from the ITRS Roadmap. The only effective path forward that addresses interconnect is monolithic 3D.
As for the second challenge – lithography – we start again with an old chart by Synopsys:
The implication is that any new node of dimensional scaling comes with escalating lithography costs; and sure enough, that’s what is happening. When litho costs are plotted over time, it fits a log-linear scale….this is not a sustainable trend.
The following chart illustrate the lithography escalating cost of equipment which directly reflect the wafer cost.
This resulted in the following slide by IBM at the GSA Silicon Summit 2012:
Quoting from the slide: "Net: neither per wafer nor per gate [are] showing historical cost reduction trends"
Another EE Times IEDM12 article covering a keynote given by Luc van den Hove, chief executive of IMEC, IEDM: Moore’s Law seen hitting big bump at 14 nm
, repeats the same conclusion. In fact, some vendors are already changing course accordingly. GlobalFoundries, in its recent 14nm announcement, disclosed that the back-end will be unchanged from 20nm. This suggests a similar die size and respective increase in per-transistor cost. Further, ST Micro in the Fully Depleted Transistors Technology Symposium (11 December, 2012) during IEDM12 week also acknowledged that their 14nm node will have a 20nm node metal pitch, and, just like GlobalFoundries, a similar die size and increase in per-transistor cost. So it would seem that also for lithographic reasons, the industry’s next generation path, and the continuation of Moore's Law, would be achieved by leveraging the third dimension.
Now that monolithic 3D is feasible and practical, the time has come to move in this new direction, as has been nicely illustrated by this concluding chart below
Imec's Luc van den Hove vs. Intel's Mark Bohr
We have a guest contribution from Zvi Or-Bach, the President and CEO of MonolithIC 3D Inc. Zvi discusses EE Time's article about: "Moore’s Law seen hitting big bump at 14 nm".
The EE Times article
covering Imec's Luc van den Hove keynote talk at IEDM 2012 reports: "Chips made at the 14-nm process node may deliver as little as half the typical 30 percent performance increase—and still carry a hefty cost premium—due to the lack of next-generation lithography". Van den Hove provided the following slide photo as an illustration:
Yet, in an article about Intel’s 22nm IEDM presentation, EE Times is quoting
Mark Bohr of Intel: "Projections from an IMEC keynote that 14-nm wafers will be 90 percent more expensive than 28-nm parts due to the lack of EUV lithography are inaccurate, Bohr asserted. The cost increase for 14-nm wafers at Intel “is nowhere near that,” he said. “Cost per wafer has always gone up marginally each generation, somewhat more so in recent generations, but that’s more than offset by increases in transistor density so that the cost per transistor continues to go down at 14 nm,” Bohr said.
So who is right between those two giants?
Could it be that both of them are?
In a recent blog titled "Is the Cost Reduction Associated with Scaling Over?"
we presented charts clearly supporting Luc van den Hove, IMEC's CEO, position. The following slide from an IBM presentation includes an NVidia chart (which we also discussed in another blog, Is NVIDIA in a Panic? If so, what about AMD? Other fabless companies?
Accordingly, it would seem that TSMC wafer costs are in line with Luc and so is the case with IBM.
GlobalFoundries, in its recent 14nm announcement, disclosed that the back-end will be unchanged from 20nm. This suggests a similar die size and respective increase in per-transistor cost. Further, ST Micro in the Fully Depleted Transistors Technology Symposium yesterday (Dec. 11) also acknowledged that their 14nm node will have a 20nm node metal pitch and, just like GlobalFoundries, a similar die size and increase in per-transistor cost.
In other words, it seems that the Luc van den Hove keynote is in-line with the cost road map of the non-Intel foundries!
Intel might indeed be different, yet something did cause Intel to take what seems like an extreme measure, when it put $4.1B in ASML just recently
If, however, Mark Bohr has not been misled by the Intel accounting department, and the Intel process is still providing a nice cost reduction at every node of scaling, then clearly Intel has a true competitive edge relative to all other foundries. I have no doubts that Intel has filed enough patents to protect its unique process advantage, but then I wonder why did Mark say
: "However . .. we don’t intend to be in the general-purpose foundry business … [and] I don’t think the [foundry] volumes ever will be huge [for Intel].”
If Mark Bohr is right, with such a competitive edge Intel should aggressively expand its foundry business, which would achieve both a great profit margin and rapid business growth. Now that Intel is looking for a new CEO its Board should consider it as a major criterion for who should lead Intel into the future.
Clearly, dimensional scaling (and its cost reducing benefits) is not what it used to be, and the market appetite for cheaper-faster-better consumer-oriented products grows stronger. Both Intel and non-Intel fabs should start development of monolithic 3D technology. ;-)
We have a guest contribution from Zvi Or-Bach, the President and CEO of MonolithIC 3D Inc. Zvi discusses about Qualcomm overtaking Intel in market capitalization.
On Nov 9, 2012 we learned that Qualcomm overtook Intel in market capitalization. Quite shocking news if one considers that Intel’s revenue is almost three times that of Qualcomm and its net margin is more than twice that of Qualcomm. Clearly investors evaluate Qualcomm using a different scale than what they use for Intel, as is evidenced by Qualcomm’s P/E of 20.12 vs. Intel's mere 9.07. EE Times explained it in an article that day stating: "In the eyes of investors who have driven up its market capitalization, the fact that Qualcomm is a fabless company relieves it of the burden of having to invest billions of dollars each year in process development and wafer fabs." However, given that TSMC, a pure foundry, has a P/E of 15.67, it behooves us to look for another explanation. It’s also worth noting that TSMC had a revenue growth of 2% in the last year, far less than Intel's 25.6%, and its net income actually went down vs. a net income growth by Intel of 213%!
My explanation is that it is all about IP strength. I will expand on it in the rest of this blog but as prime evidence I offer SanDisk, who sports a P/E of 20.78 yet has continued to invest heavily, together with its partner Toshiba, in fab capacity upgrades.
Let’s first look at the previous two decades as Intel grew consistently year after year while riding the PC business growth. During those years the team Intel + Microsoft was the exclusive vendor in the PC 'game'. All others had to compete neck to neck in this fast growing commodity market. And as we all know, broad competition erodes margins and allows only the lowest cost producer to achieve some profits. In the case of PC this erosion actually pushed out the market creator - IBM - which eventually exited the market and sold its business to Lenovo. The only real winners back then were Microsoft and Intel, who had pivotal differentiating IP. Yes, Intel had a licensor - AMD - but as a licensor, AMD had to pay heavy royalties that impacted its profits, and helped those of Intel.
Both Intel and Microsoft were able to leverage there unique IP into years of growth and became the largest companies in their field.
But being the largest today does not guarantee the tomorrow. Or, as Andy Grove famously said, "only the paranoid survive".
The technology world is about change. While many of the changes are incremental, at times the paradigm changes too. The change that took away Intel’s and Microsoft’s unchallenged market and IP position was the shift to "smart mobile," or mobile internet, as is illustrated in the following chart.
The technology world is about change. While many of the changes are incremental, at times the paradigm changes as well
And with these changes new technology leaders have been emerging: companies such as Apple, Qualcomm, and Google.
To make matters even worse, a small company - ARM - was able to create a disruptive change in the computing engine with its preferred computing architecture, first for 'smart mobile,' then for tablets, and now it seems to penetrate the PC and the server markets.
In my view, as soon as the investment community realized that Intel’s exclusive market and IP position is not relevant to the new market of Mobile Internet, it started to tune down Intel’s P/E. This trend even got stronger as investors became concerned regarding Intel’s position in the PC and server market.
It should be noted that in this context IP is not counted by the number of patents or the amount of trade secrets but rather by the ability to exclude competitors from major markets or extract royalties from those competitors, which may make you a winner even when you loose business. This is a status that Qualcomm and other companies such as SanDisk enjoy.
Economists estimate that two-thirds of the value of large businesses in the U.S. can be traced to intangible assets.
"IP-intensive industries" are estimated to generate 72 percent more value added
(price minus material cost) per employee than "non-IP-intensive industries".
[dubious – discuss
] , as is illustrated by the following chart
So, is the game over for Intel??? Is the Market irrational, or is the Market perceptive?
Some pundits clearly think so, but given its leadership semiconductor technology, strong leading edge manufacturing infrastructure, and balance sheet, it is way too soon to call game over for Intel. But it would seem that Intel needs to introduce some real change in order to correct its course. Perhaps Intel should look back at what Andy Grove’s said and ask itself: does it really act like a paranoid company, or perhaps it is just the inverse.
We at MonolithIC 3D believe that the whole semiconductor industry is about to go through a major disruptive change. After 50 years of successful growth and progress by dimensional scaling, the time has come for a direction change, and the time is now for starting to embrace scaling-up, going for monolithic 3D. The current leaders in dimensional scaling, the NAND Flash vendors, seem to be leading the way. They are pushing ahead with monolithic 3D-NAND. This disruptive change will bring vast new opportunities, and those who will be early to embrace the change may be able to reap the IP reward.
Yes, unless we Augment Dimensional Scaling with monolithic 3D-IC Scaling
We have a guest contribution from Zvi Or-Bach, the President and CEO of MonolithIC 3D Inc. Zvi discusses about Cost Reduction Associated with Scaling.
The last 50 years of the semiconductor industry have been all about the manifestation of Moore's Law in dimensional scaling of Integrated Circuits (ICs). As consumers of electronic devices we all love to see with every new product cycle better products at a lower cost. But now storm clouds are forming, as was recently publicly expressed "Nvidia deeply unhappy with TSMC, claims 20nm essentially worthless
Clearly dimensional scaling is no longer associated with lower average cost per transistor. The chart below, published by IBS about a year ago, shows the diminishing benefit of cost reduction from dimensional scaling. In fact, the chart indicates that the 20nm node might be associated with higher cost than the previous node.
The following Nvidia chart provides the first order explanation. The cost reduction of dimensional scaling resulted from doubling the number of transistors per wafer. But if the wafer cost of the new technology node increases by too much then it neutralizes that cost reduction. The Nvidia chart shows the wafer cost of recent nodes over time. In the past (...80nm, 55nm, 40nm) the incremental wafer cost increases were small and rapid depreciation of those costs resulted in almost constant average wafer price. Recent nodes (28nm, 20nm, 14nm, ...), however, signal a new reality.
The following busy slide of IBM summarizes it clearly: "Net: neither per wafer nor per gate showing historical cost reduction trends"
The number one driver to the increase of wafer cost is the increase in the equipment cost required for processing the next technology node. The following chart presents the increase in costs of capital, process R&D, and design.
The sharp increase of costs associated with scaling is a new phenomenon. There were always costs to move from one node to the next, but they were about constant or incrementally small.
The following slide presents the innovations that enable dimensional scaling. Clearly, for many nodes we were able to use the same lithography tools. But once dimensional scaling reached the limit of light wavelength the lithography tool became critical and dominant. About for every node the lithography became a major challenge that required newer equipment and substantial process R&D. Moreover, in the recent lithography nodes the transistor itself required significant innovation at every node (high-k, Metal Gate, Strain, SiGe, Tri-gate,...) and it is clear that future scaled nodes will require even more of those innovations and their associated costs.
An important part of these costs is the escalating cost of the capital equipment for the next node fabrication lines. The following figure present the cost dynamic for the lithography equipment. Note the logarithmic scale of the cost axis.
Lithography tools grew from less than 10% of wafer fab equipment (WFE) spending to over 25% and accordingly lithography now represents about 50 % of the wafer cost.
An interesting implication of growing domination of lithography in semiconductor processing is the fact that the ASML, which is the lead vendor of lithography tool, recently passed Applied Material’s (the leader of all other tools) market cap. Following is the chart of the stock price of ASML (in red) vs. Applied Material (AMAT).
The clear conclusion of all of this is that future dimensional scaling is not about to change these trends. Accordingly, as stated in the IBM slide above: "Net: neither per wafer nor per gate showing historical cost reduction trends."
Unless we change the way we do scaling
(remember Einstein’s famous quote
). Moore’s Law is about doubling the number of transistors in a semiconductor device. At that time dimensional scaling was one of the three trends Moore described that would enable the observed and predicted exponential increase of device integration. It would seem that it is about time to look on another one of those - increasing the die size. If we do it by using the 3rd dimension – monolithic 3D-IC – we can achieve both higher integration and cost reduction!
It is not that we should stop scaling down, it just that if we augment it with scaling up we can introduce the required changes that can achieve the continuation of the cost reduction trend. Clearly almost all of the increases of wafer costs are related to the pace of dimensional scaling. If those costs could be spread over four years instead of two then the increase in wafer cost would be only about half of what it is now.
It might not be so clear, however, why monolithic 3D should reduce wafer cost. Shouldn’t the cost of the double die size spread over two layers be at least double …?
Monolithic 3D IC would reduce wafer cost because of the following elements:
1. Reduced Die Size
- It has been shown in many research studies that each folding into 3D has the potential to reduce the total required silicon area by 50% due to the reduced re-buffering and reduced sizing of the buffers.
- Scaling up enables the use of the same fab and process R&D for few additional years with the associated improvement in deprecation costs and improved manufacturing efficiencies and yield.
3. Heterogeneous Integration
- Scaling up would enable heterogeneous integration. This will open up the third trend of Moore- improved circuit design. As each strata of 3D IC could be processed in a different flow, cost and power could be saved by using a different process flow for logic, memory and I/O.
4. Multiple Layers Processed Together
- This would be most effective for a memory type circuits. Using the right architecture, multiple transistors layers could be process simultaneously with the result of a huge reduction of cost per layer.
Let’s detail each of these. Reduced Die Size
Dimensional scaling has always been associated with an increase of wire resistivity and capacitance. The industry had spent a huge effort to overcome these by first replacing the conducting material with copper and then changing the isolation material to low-K dielectrics. But the interconnect problem is still growing as demonstrated in the following chart.
Every node of dimensional scaling is associated with larger cells, output drivers, and more buffers and repeaters. Monolithic 3D enables one to fold the circuit where the next strata is about 1µ above with a very rich vertical connectivity between the strata. The following IBM/MIT slide illustrates the effectiveness of such folding.
Further, the reduced silicon area generates an additional reduction of buffers and the average transistor size. MonolithIC 3D Inc. released an open-source top level simulator IntSim v2.0
to simulate a given design’s expected size and power based on process parameters and the number of strata (more than 300 copies have been downloaded so far).
Using the simulator we can see in the following table that a design that uses 50 mm2 with average size gate size of 6 W/L, will need an average gate size of 3 W/L and accordingly only 24 mm2 if folded into two strata (the footprint will be therefore just 12 mm2).
These results are in-line with many other monolithic 3D research results.
The semiconductor industry is very capital intensive and a very significant part of the wafer cost is associated with the cost of capital. Since every two years we have been scaling to a new node, then the wafer cost needs to support this rapid loss of capital value. Achieving the next level of device functionality using the same generation of tools allows for a far better utilization of the investment capital. In addition the learning curve of yield and manufacturing efficiency contributes further to the end-product cost reduction. The following chart portion demonstrates this well known trend.
Let’s start with quoting Mark Bohr, in charge of Intel’s process development:
One important perspective is that chip technology is becoming more heterogeneous. If you go back 10 or 20 years ago, it was homogenous. There was a CMOS transistor, it was the same materials for NMOS and PMOS, maybe different dopant atoms, and that basic CMOS transistor fit the needs of both memory and logic. Going forward we’ll see chips and 3D packages that combine more heterogeneous elements, different materials, and maybe transistors with very different structures whether they’re for logic or memory or analog. Combining these very different devices onto one chip or into a 3D stack—that’s what we’ll see
. It will be heterogeneous integration"
The most important market for semiconductor products is smart mobility. For this market the SoC device needs to integrate many functions. In most cases the pure high-performance logic would be about 25% of the die area, 50% would be memories and the rest would be analog functions such as I/O. In 2D they all need to be processed together and bear the same manufacturing costs. In a monolithic 3D-IC stack using heterogeneous integration each stratum is processed in an optimized flow, allowing for a significant cost reduction. The following illustration suggests the use of only two strata to build a device that in 2D would have a size of 196 mm2. By having one stratum for logic and one for memory, and by using DRAM instead of SRAM, the device could be reduced to 98 mm2 with footprint of 49 mm2. The device cost would be further reduced by the memory using only 3 or 4 metal layers.
Multiple Layers Processed Together
Using the right architecture, multiple transistor layers could be processed together with a huge reduction in cost per layer. This could be applied to many different types of regular devices.
The following illustrate the concept with respect to a floating-body DRAM:
MonolithIC 3D Inc’s website presents more details for the DRAM
flow, and also related flows for RRAM
and NAND Flash
In short, we do have a path to continue the semiconductor industry drive for better products and with lower costs, but we should continuously apply innovation to do so. Now that monolithic 3D is practical, it is time to augment dimension scaling with monolithic 3D-IC scaling.