The semiconductor industry is reaching a crunch point at which companies that form it have to work together much more closely if they are to have any success in pushing beyond 20nm processes and into processes with measured in single-digit nanometers, Future Horizons president Malcolm Penn told delegates at the company’s International Electronics Forum in Bratislava today.
“The business models are going to have to change,” said Penn, if the semiconductor is going to continue to offer the reductions in cost per function to which customers have become accustomed for more than four decades.
The changes to new transistor structures and other manufacturing issues that are cropping up at 20nm and beyond will force the change, Penn said. “A lot of things that have to be changed dramatically. People will have to address significant process issues that will affect cell design and other aspects of chip design. They will affect everything.
“We have been saying for some time you need more of an Airbus model: more collaboration rather than the adversarial relationship the industry has had traditionally,” Penn added.
“We need to move to a collaborative environment, because the costs are so high. We have seen the start of that with the work that has been done at IMEC. There are only two companies of any worth that don’t work with IMEC. That’s a tremendous achievement. I think ASML have put a foot on the ground by saying if you want this stuff you have to help up build it,” Penn explained, referring to the equity investments from Intel and Samsung that ASML called for in order to be able to continue work on EUV lithography and accelerate the pace of development of 450mm production lines.
Penn pointed to areas where collaboration through necessity has already sprung up and flourished: “Europe actually does this very well indeed. ARM has done a super job at the infrastructure level. That could be copied and escalated at many other levels. It’s pretty clear that it’s working. The foundries are also a lovely example of collaboration.”