Published in PC Hardware

First GlobalFoundries 14nm commercial chips in 2015

by on22 April 2014

Apple might be the first big customer

We asked around about ambitious plans coming out of Samsung and GlobalFoundries, as the chipmakers claim they can manufacture some 14nm parts before the end of the year. Some people who know the industry quite well are claiming that risk manufacturing can start later this year, but full volume production is definitely taking place in the latter half of 2015.

It takes time to transition from a manufacturing node and the general feeling is that industry will move from 20nm to 14nm much faster than it moved from 28th to 20nm.

FinFET transistors in 14nm/16nm are not easy to do and even Intel, the undisputed leader in the foundry business, is having trouble moving to 14nm production despite the fact that it mastered the 22nm process quite some time ago.

AMD’s 20nm, 14nm transition plan


AMD went on record saying that it plans 20nm parts next year and we expect to see both APUs and GPUs from this company in 20nm. We don’t know who will make them, TSMC or GlobalFoundries, or both. We would be surprised if all of AMD’s graphics business moves to GlobalFoundries, as TSMC has a lot of experience with big GPU designs, as it has been churning out GPUs for ATI (now AMD) and Nvidia since the first 3D accelerators back in the nineties.

Looking into our crystal ball, we see 16nm parts shipping in 2016 and if we are lucky we might even see some 16nm GPUs in the same year. Things are getting complicated as GlobalFoundries and Samsung calls their next node 14nm and the answer of whether the subsequent generation AMD parts will be 16nm or 14nm will depend on another answer – whether GlobalFoundries or TSMC have won the deal.

Our sources are also claiming that Apple wanted to get hold of Samsung and GlobalFoundries manufacturing capacities in USA. Samsung has the S2 Fab in Austin Texas, while GlobalFoundries have their new FAB 8 in Saratoga, New York State. Apple will be much happier to be able to manufacture its future chips closer to Cupertino.


Apple SoCs Designed in California, Made in USA


If all goes well the 2015 iPhone and iPad might end up with a 14nm custom SoC manufactured by the Samsung / GlobalFoundries alliance. According to the Samsung - GlobalFoundries 14nm collaboration presentation the performance of 14nm chip goes up 20 percent and the power consumption drops by about 35 percent. This is a big deal for battery operated devices.

With all we have gathered so far, we expect to see Apple A8 SoCs manufactured in 20nm in the latter half of 2014, just in time for the iPhone 6 and the next generation iPad launch. In 2015, Apple might be among first ARM licensees to start the 14nm chip production, manufactured on US soil. 

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