GlobalFoundries, AMD’s former chip manufacturing arm, is a fab that has seen some hard times. After being spun-off from AMD in 2009, the company has encountered repeated trouble releasing new manufacturing nodes in a timely process, culminating in the company canceling their internally developed 14XM FinFET process. Charting a new course, the in 2014 the company opted to license Samsung’s 14nm FinFET process, and in some much-needed good news for the company, today they and AMD are announcing that they have successfully fabbed AMD’s first 14nm sample chip.

Today’s announcement, which comes by way of AMD, notes that the fab has produced their first 14nm FinFET LPP sample for AMD. The overall nature of the announcement is somewhat vague – GlobalFoundries isn’t really defining what “successful” means – though presumably this means AMD has recieved working samples back from the fab. Overall the message from the two companies is clear that they are making progress on bringing up 14nm manufacturing at GlobalFoundries ahead of mass production in 2016.

Of particular importance in today’s announcement is the node being used; the sample chips were fabbed on 14nm Low Power Plus (LPP), which is Samsung’s (and now GlobalFoundries’) second-generation 14nm FinFET design. Relative to the earlier 14nm Low Power Early (14LPE) design, 14LPP is a refined process designed to offer roughly 10% better performance, and going forward will be the process we expect all newer chips to be produced on. So in the long-run, this will be GlobalFoundries’ principle FinFET process.

Samsung Brochure on 14LPE vs. 14LPP

AMD for their part has already announced that they have taped out several 14LPP designs for GlobalFondries, so a good deal of their future success hinges on their long-time partner bringing 14LPP to market in a timely manner. For today’s announcement AMD is not disclosing what chip was successfully fabbed, so it’s not clear if this was CPU, APU, or GPU, though with GlobalFoundries a CPU/APU is more likely. Though no matter what the chip, this is a welcome development for AMD; as we have seen time and time again with chips from Intel, Samsung, and Apple, a properly implemented FinFET design can significantly cut down on leakage and boost the power/performance curve, which will help AMD become more competitive with their already FinFET-enabled competition.

Finally, looking at the expected timetables, GlobalFoundries’ production plans call for their 14LPP process to enter the early ramp-up phase this quarter, with full-scale production starting in 2016. Similarly, in today’s announcement AMD reiterated that they will be releasing products in 2016 based on GlobalFoundries’ 14LPP process.

Source: AMD

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  • Shadow7037932 - Thursday, November 5, 2015 - link

    Finally some good news out of AMD.
  • MapRef41N93W - Thursday, November 5, 2015 - link

    Not really. Think about, this is for products that are supposedly due in late 2016 and they are just now figuring out how to successfully produce a chip on this 14nm with any kind of yield. They aren't even close to taping out Zen yet and tapeout is usually 6-8 months or more before release. Looking more and more like AMD will be out of business before Zen even releases.
  • effingterrible - Thursday, November 5, 2015 - link

    They did a tape out back in July.
  • iwod - Thursday, November 5, 2015 - link

    And that is due to Samsung's 14nm Tech, not because they manage to do it themsevles.
  • looncraz - Friday, November 6, 2015 - link

    Companies license tech from each other all the time. Intel even licenses tech from AMD and vice versa.
  • Morawka - Saturday, November 7, 2015 - link

    Architecture tech is easy, Fabbing is hard
  • koko4kaka - Saturday, November 14, 2015 - link

    They're both remarkably difficult endeavours actually.
  • testbug00 - Sunday, November 8, 2015 - link

    Tape out under a month ago for Zen.
  • Intel999 - Friday, November 6, 2015 - link

    These production chips are Zen as Arctic Islands is coming out of TSMC. All they need now is to work on yields. Under perfect conditions, Zen can be out in late Q2 next year.

    AMD may actually come in earlier to market than expected with Zen.

    Thanks to Samsung for bailing out Glofo's normal "late" to market performance expectations.
  • looncraz - Saturday, November 7, 2015 - link

    Technically, the shortest time period from sampling to mass production is only a few months, but it is always longer since so much work needs to be done to verify that you want to go ahead with full production.

    It is conceivable, but it would be unheard of, for AMD to be completely satisfied with the initial silicon, yields, AND be ready with the platform by the end of Q2. Especially with a completely new design on a complete new process.

    It's a double-whammy of a new design on a new node. If they get it out in Q3 I'd be stunned. I have much more confidence in AM4 being ready, and we know AMD already has a DDR4 controller (a dual DDR3/4 controller, in fact.. I really hope that means Zen will have it and I can use DDR3 instead of DDR4 since I have so much high-end DDR3).

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