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AMD 45nm ramp revisited

22 October 2007 | By Mark Osborne | Editor's Blog

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News from last week’s AMD conference call that told us the company would start production of 45nm microprocessors in the first half of 2008 shouldn’t be looked at from the point of view of ‘volume production.’ The message that should be taken from the news is that at some time in the first six months of next year, AMD may well have a small amount of devices entering the supply-chain. 

AMD had said that we should see 45nm chips ‘mid-year,’ which could easily have applied to the time period from June through September based on Barcelona schedules!

A key aspect for AMD’s coming out with this revised 45nm schedule could be that yields have been good, prompting an earlier-than-expected launch date. AMD has one big advantage over Intel at the 45nm node, namely the ability to push out the adoption of high-k dielectrics and metal gates until the 32nm node due to the use of SOI wafers.

Process tweaks will still be required especially in post-immersion litho processing.  So too will strain engineering, which is still controlling gate leakage levels without the benefit of high-k.

In many respects we regard the 65nm to 45nm migration by AMD as more of a litho-friendly design shrink than a fundamental process switch compared to that of Intel’s migration.

Over the next several quarters we are anticipating that AMD will ramp Fab 36 to full capacity with the vast majority of production at the 65nm node. The 45nm migration should start ‘mid-year,’ but with new immersion tools required, both qualified and ramped, we would still expect ‘volume production’ to be in 2009, not 2008, with a significant amount of Fab 36 production switched to 45nm by 2Q09.

Two key aspects that could see the 45nm ‘volume ramp’ coming earlier are the facts that 45nm yields are above expectations, and also that immersion litho tool orders are placed early enough in that yield target achievement for the tools to be delivered and qualified to enable the ramp.

Currently, immersion tool delivery times are long and are close to 10 months or more depending on NA spec. AMD may go ‘blind’ and order the tools now so that a ‘volume’ ramp could happen in the second half of the year. We haven’t as yet picked up on that actually happening, but it is possible!

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