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GlobalFoundries gears up for the next generations of chip manufacturing

Mar. 06, 2018 – 

GlobalFoundries, born out of AMD's manufacturing arm many moons ago, made a statement last year when it served as the sole source for AMD's Ryzen and Epyc CPUs and a wide range of Radeon GPUs. Now that 14-nm LPP is a mature process, GloFo is looking toward the future at its Fab 8 manufacturing facility in upstate New York. 7-nm Leading Performance, or 7LP, is the company's next major stop on the road towards the limits of silicon, and that process may eventually mark one of the first times we'll see the use of extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV) in the mass production of semiconductor products.

EUV has, to put it mildly, proven difficult to implement in any form, much less one suitable for high-volume chip manufacturing. Semiconductor companies have been saying that EUV has been just around the corner for well over a decade, but the practical challenges of delivering that technology have delayed its introduction time and time again. Just one semiconductor-production-tool company in the world, ASML, is even bothering to plumb the depths of making EUV scanners at this stage, and so the fate of the technology is largely tied to whether ASML can overcome the challenges inherent in generating and delivering radiation that straddles the border between ultraviolet light and X-rays.

Unlike the argon-fluoride excimer lasers that power today's 193-mm immersion lithography tools, an EUV scanner has to start with a completely new approach to generate the electromagnetic energy that inscribes the incredibly tiny features of next-generation processes on silicon wafers. Deep within the guts of GlobalFoundries' newly reconfigured sub-fab, droplets of molten tin are converted to a high-energy plasma using laser pulses, generating light with a wavelength of just 13.5 nm.

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