Follow-up: Renesas and TSMC form strategic tie-up for embedded flash MCUs
Renesas Electronics Corp. and TSMC jointly announced on Monday that they will collaborate on development of a 40nm process for embedded SG-MONOS* flash microcontrollers—a process Renesas announced last December, claiming it to be the most advanced of its type. Increased outsourcing and deployment of multi-fab networks are pressing tasks for Renesas, given added urgency by the 3.11 megaquake last year. But the stock market was clearly unimpressed by the move, sending Renesas' share price to a record low on the day of the announcement, probably because it doesn't settle the flurry of speculation about the company's rumored restructuring plans. Although the share price recovered somewhat the next day, it is only about half the recent peak value reached in February.
*Split-Gate Metal Oxide Nitride Oxide Silicon
In accordance with the scheme that Renesas and TSMC agreed, Renesas will outsource 90nm embedded flash MCU fabrication to TSMC and the two companies will collaborate on process development of 40nm embedded flash technology by merging TSMC's CMOS and Renesas' SG-MONOS flash embedded technologies. It is envisaged that the collaboration will be extended to 28nm. From 40nm technology onward, Renesas and TSMC intend to establish a mechanism for sharing IP to promote the embedded flash memory technology in their respective ecosystems.
There is speculation that TSMC is negotiating with Renesas with a view to purchasing its Tsuruoka fab in Yamagata, but Shinichi Iwamoto, senior vice president in charge of Renesas' MCU Business Unit, and Cheng-Ming Lin, director responsible for Specialty Technology at TSMC, both side-stepped the question by saying they are microcontroller specialists who are not in the position to comment on the matter.
Following the announcement last December of the development of the 40nm embedded flash technology, in February Renesas announced the RH850 MCU family for automotive applications based on the technology. According to the schedule, samples should be available this autumn.
The SG-MONOS flash memory features high leakage resistance and a simple structure, which are advantageous for scaling, high-speed operation and low power consumption compared with the widely used floating-gate structure, according to Renesas. The embedded flash memory in the 40nm RH850 chip achieves a speed of 120 MHz.
Cheng-Ming Lin, director of Specialty Technology at TSMC said that TSMC was looking for a company capable of bringing solid and fresh IP to a partnership and thinks it made a good choice. He said that Renesas has a good cell suitable for downscaling not only to 40nm, but to 28nm and beyond.
"Once the collaboration gets underway, it will be a special case for TSMC," said Makoto Onodera, president of TSMC Japan Ltd. TSMC either fabricates devices for customers that port its technology, as in the case of Renesas' 90nm embedded flash MCU fabrication, or customers design their devices based on TSMC's platform and entrust fabrication to TSMC. Onodera said that Renesas' 40nm embedded flash MCU will be a departure from these models. He described it as "a brand new model just for TSMC." The combination of TSMC's advanced logic and Renesas' industry-leading MCU will drive market growth and Renesas' 40nm embedded flash technology may become part of TSMC's standard process, according to Onodera.
Since the merger with NEC Electronics in April 2010, Renesas has been trying to establish what it calls a "multi-fab network," that is, an arrangement enabling the same product to be fabricated with the same process at multiple locations. In view of the major problems its customers, notably automakers, suffered owing to supply disruption caused by the earthquake, Renesas has been increasing outsourcing to foundries. In the 100-day program mapping out the new company's strategy following the 2010 merger, Renesas had already decided to pursue a fab-lite strategy beyond 40nm. So it is only natural that the company should seek to strengthen relationships with foundries.
Shinichi Iwamoto, senior vice president of Renesas, said that outsourcing will account for about 30% of the company's semiconductor fabrication in 2016. The figure for Fiscal 2011, ended in March, was about 15%.
Thus, Renesas is outsourcing to GlobalFoundries MCUs of legacy processes up to 150nm using 120mm wafers. "Especially after the quake, the foundry made a big contribution," said Iwamoto. For MCUs on the 90nm and 40nm processes, Renesas Naka 3 300mm wafer fab and TSMC's Fab 12 will form a multi-fab network sharing the same process.
Volume production of embedded flash MCUs for consumer applications using the jointly developed 40nm process will begin in 2013, with those for automotive applications following around 2015.
Renesas Electronics and TSMC Collaborate to Construct Ecosystem for Microcontrollers
About the media reports regarding Renesas
Renesas Electronics Unveils New-Generation RH850 Microcontroller for Automotive Applications (Feb. 29, 2012)
Renesas Electronics Develops Industry's First 40nm Embedded Flash Memory Technology IP for Automotive Real-Time Applications (Dec. 14, 2011)
Related Renesas page:
Jumping Far Ahead to 40nm Generation Process Technology
Renesas and TSMC collaborating on embedded flash microcontroller process technology (May 28, 2012)
Speculation whirls around Renesas (May 23, 2012)
Disaster-prone 2011: Renesas revenue falls 22% (May 11, 2012)
Fujitsu, Panasonic, and Renesas to merge SoC operations: media report (Feb. 8, 2012)
Globalfoundries negotiating purchase of fabs from Renesas and Toshiba: media report (Jan. 23, 2012)
Renesas accelerating deployment of multi-fab system for risk management (Aug.4 2011)
Renesas' strategy: Five MCU cores offered on integrated platform with streamlined processes (Sept. 16, 2010)
Renesas shifting to fab-lite model, everything post-40nm to be outsourced (July 30, 2010)