Renesas, TSMC tout licensable MCU platform using 40-nm eFlash

May 29, 2012 // By Junko Yoshida
Renesas Electronics and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., (TSMC) outlined plans to develop an embedded flash-based MCU platform licensable to other semiconductor suppliers around the world at a press conference on Monday (May 28).

The new MCU platform integrates Renesas’ 40-nanometer embedded flash (eFlash) technology, the Japanese MCU giant’s crown jewel, with TSMC’s CMOS logic and analog IPs.

Details of the licensing model and business arrangements between the two companies are “still under discussion,” said Shinichi Iwamoto, senior vice president of Renesas Electronics. They plan to complete the new platform by the end of 2012, he added.

Neither Renesas nor TSMC representatives at the press conference would confirm or deny reports of Renesas’ pending sale of Tsuruoka fab in Yamagata prefecture to TSMC.

However, as Cheng-Ming Lin, director of specialty technology at TSMC pointed out to the press gathering, Monday’s announcement was “the first step toward further collaboration between TSMC and Renesas.”

For Renesas’ part, the company is now sending a clear signal that it’s more willing to pursue an “outsourcing” model – including MCUs for automotive applications. Previously, Renesas executives had said that Renesas was committed to Japan-based manufacture of the company’s “core products” like automotive MCUs.

To be clear, Renesas had previously agreed to outsource MCUs to TSMC using 90-nm eFlash process technology. However, that was based on “a straightforward outsourcing model,” explained Iwamoto, under which “TSMC simply builds our eFlash based on Renesas’ 90-nm spec, which [TSMC] would not be able to release to its other customers.” In contrast, the new 40-nm agreement will allow TSMC to use Renesas’ MONOS (Metal-Oxide-Nitride-Oxide-Silicon) embedded flash technology on TSMC’s own 40-nm process, and make it available for its customers throughout the world.

By getting access to Renesas’ MONOS eFlash technology, TSMC substantially strengthens its IP portfolio. “This is particularly attractive to us,” said TSMC’s Lin. The announcement represents TSMC’s shift in embedded memory cell IPs from Microchip’s licensable 90-nm SuperFlash technology (originally developed by Silicon Storage Technology) to Renesas 40-nm eFlash, explained Lin. Noting that it is no stranger to MCU foundry business, Lin said that TSMC is currently producing more than one million