back to article Dear chip designers, if you're struggling to get components made, try 28nm. Supply set to overtake demand

Amid the semiconductor crunch, there's an interesting cliff forming at 28nm. While demand for other process nodes exceeds supply, the tech world's need for that mid-level node may drop below available manufacturing capacity, if not already. Early indications of a potential oversupply at 28nm emerged during an earnings call …

  1. imanidiot Silver badge

    Sort of inbetween

    I think the problem is that 28nm right now is sort of nowheresville when it comes to fab nodes. A lot of the currently in use designs for microcontrollers and the like use older nodes like 30-ish and up from what I can see as that is what previously was available cheaply, while the current state of the art for (phone) CPUs has moved on to lower nodes (probably 14nm and down). As fab capacity in the 28nm node becomes available (and cheap) we'll probably see a lot more chips designed on that node to fill up the available capacity.

    1. Electronics'R'Us Silver badge
      Go

      Re: Sort of inbetween

      The 28nm node is perfectly fine for many quite advanced devices (the first series 7 devices from Xilinx are on that process and they are very capable with multi gigabit ports).

      If the process is underutilised but could produce what the manufacturers / market needs, then it would make sense to move over to it.

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: Sort of inbetween

        Thing is that it's not very easy to move a part taped out for a certain node over to a different node size. That would require a near complete redesign. So manufacturers tend to stick to the node size part was designed for once it's been produced at that node, they tend to only move to smaller nodes for new products during the initial design

        1. Paul A. Clayton

          Re: Sort of inbetween

          Even for a new design, a less dense process might not make financial sense. Microcontrollers often use older processes because pads and analogue circuits do not scale as well as logic or memory and because minimum cost rather than price-performance is a common design goal (high voltage support and on-chip support for persistent memory are also factors). Production volume also has an impact since newer processes have larger non-recurring expenses (e.g., more expensive mask sets).

          Older process equipment can be fully depreciated, so selling capacity near incremental cost makes sense (but there is also pressure to upgrade a fab if all the new equipment fits space, power, etc. requirements, which is not a given as new processes tend to add steps). However, if one gets 90% more chips per wafer on 20nm than 28nm — very good design scaling — and gain some power and/or performance that adds value (or perhaps improve cost/power/performance by integration), that one major node older process will have to be a lot less expensive unless NRE is a major factor.

  2. Old Used Programmer Silver badge

    Good news for Raspberry Pi

    The Pi4 SoC (BCM2711) is a 28nm part.

  3. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    40 and 80nm

    Popular STM32 chips are made on 40nm and 80nm tech. Try to find those... mostly out of stock for over a year now.

  4. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

    Larger sizes ?

    If a FAB is designed to make 28nm chips would it be capable of producing larger feature size chips (eg 40nm) or would the required processing conditions (eg temperature and chemicals) be too different ? If it is possible to produce the larger feature chips on a 28nm line then that could be a double win - use idle time on the 28nm line and produce some of the 40nm chips that are in short supply.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Larger sizes ?

      My understanding is that the materials, processes and chemicals are different. You'd have to revalidate everything... and if you are going revalidate everything anyway, you might as well just change your design to 28nm while you're at it (by change your design, we're mostly talking about a drop-down in the options menu).

      I'm assuming that 28nm fab capacity being "available" is a well known thing. Maybe people are suspicious that if even a few customers switched to that, it would be as unavailable as the other node sizes...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Focus - Bogus ...

    This (CPU shortage) is TOTALLY Bogus from the start.

    Just ONE example:

    You wrote:

    "Dear chip designers..."

    Shortage of ""ANY"" product is NOT related [much] to ""Designer"" , but to Production !!

    Just One example -> YOU lying about something what you NOT fully understand !!

    Subject #2.

    "" WHY ? "" you lying ...

    Well, this is totally different subject.

    /* Have a Good day and please keep doing what you are already doing */

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