Lagging Edge Semiconductor: What You Need to Know About It

Lagging Edge Semiconductor

What do you think of when you hear the phrase “lagging edge semiconductor”? You might assume that it refers to a particular type of semiconductor – one that’s behind the times, technologically speaking. While that is correct, it is quite an uncommon term, although the semiconductor industry relies heavily on it. 

In this blog post, we’ll dive into what lagging edge semiconductors are and if they are the same as the popularly used term “trailing edge semiconductor”? We will also compare it against leading-edge microprocessors and semiconductors, along with an insight into the lagging edge semiconductor manufacturing process. Stay tuned to learn more about lagging edge semiconductors. 

What Are Lagging Edge Semiconductors?

An image of a Lagging Edge Semiconductor

Lagging edge semiconductors also known as trailing edge semiconductors are larger chips and legacy nodes in the semiconductor industry built on older technology powered by larger nodes. They are used in many computing devices and other semiconductor-led applications. At least a handful of chips built on lagging-edge technology are used in most modern digital devices. 

In comparison to cutting-edge processors, legacy chips do not power extensive requirements like the cloud and IT servers, etc. Instead, they power important aspects of medical monitoring equipment, automobiles, computer devices, and many other devices. Most modern digital devices run on at least a few of these semiconductor devices. 

So how and where are lagging edge semiconductor devices created? Read on to find out.

How Lagging Edge Semiconductor Manufacturing Works

Most of the semiconductor companies that develop these lagging edge devices or rather, chips, are made using manufacturing processes of 90nm or higher. They also use horizontal transistors rather than the 3D FinFET circuitry used in cutting-edge semiconductors. They do not require advanced manufacturing techniques such as EUV, which can increase manufacturing costs.

Instead of the 300 mm wafers that are commonly used in the leading edge, the trailing edge frequently uses older 200mm wafers to yield 350 nm to 90nm components. Because the fabrication priority is not on the lagging edge, components and elements used in the production of these mature semiconductors are frequently renovated rather than mass-produced.

As a result, certain trailing-edge semiconductors necessitate refurbished manufacturing equipment that is no longer in production.

Where Are Lagging Edge Semiconductors Fabricated?

Inside a semiconductor fab

Most trailing-edge semiconductor fabs are based in China. This has given China a major advantage in the semiconductor supply chain, as most companies don’t invest in the lagging edge semiconductor manufacturing process, which uses higher technologies than 90nm while having to be refurbished. 

 Comparatively, major names like Samsung, Intel, Global Foundries, and other global semiconductor firms don’t partake as much in the chip manufacturing of the semiconductor industry’s older sector. However, new fabs are being built to accommodate legacy processes, especially to ensure that China does not become the sole controller of the lagging-edge chips developed in the world.  

Are Lagging Edge Semiconductors Important?

Although leading-edge manufacturing nodes take all the hype due to how they can power the cloud, not all computing devices rely on just leading-edge and cutting-edge semiconductors. While the chip demands continue to increase as they are used in various devices from radios to microwaves, automobiles, and whatnot, mainstream processors created from these lagging edge nodes and chips have an undeniably powerful impact on the supply value chain.

An astounding example of its importance was when the semiconductor industry saw supply chains temporarily halt work due to the unavailability of a single 50-cent legacy chip for the automobile industry. This is a clear-cut example that although the leading edge powers the infamous cloud, a single lagging edge semiconductor can halt the entire semiconductor supply chain. 

The Difference between Lagging Edge and Trailing-Edge Semiconductor Manufacturing

A semiconductor chip on a circuit board

In semiconductor manufacturing, trailing edge semiconductor is the most common word used to describe the development of legacy nodes and chips. Trailing edge technology is, in fact, the same as lagging edge technology, both terms used to describe the development of these lower-level processors that the vast majority of people ignore. 

So why are most large fabs not focusing on trailing-edge semiconductor manufacturing although they are indeed more powerful chips with fewer capital costs and challenging manufacturing processes than leading-edge processors? In the section below, we explore why the priority has been shifted to devices produced through leading-edge technologies and if they are more important than our main hero of the day, the trailing edge semiconductors. 

Leading-Edge Manufacturing vs Lagging Edge Manufacturing: What Is More Important?

Assembling a circuit with a semiconductor chip

While both these sensitive technologies have their own advantages and disadvantages, the key takeaway is that firms producing lead-edge processors cater to the demands of the current consumers who find efficient but extremely small devices more appealing. While other chip demands for everyday consumer needs, especially in the automobile industry, require larger chips, leading-edge semiconductors have been romanticized far too much. 

However, glamorizing leading-edge semiconductors overshadows the importance of lagging-edge semiconductors. In reality, both types of semiconductors are essential to ensuring seamless operation of the final products. While more money and effort are poured into developing leading-edge technologies, companies that focus on building trailing-edge semiconductors play a critical role in ensuring overall functionality in electronic devices. In essence, both types of semiconductors are equally important to power our digital world.

Partner with Inquivix Technologies for Your Semiconductor Manufacturing Needs

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It would be a mistake to overlook the unsung semiconductor hero- lagging edge/trailing edge semiconductors. While they may not have the fanfare of their leading-edge counterparts, these devices are essential in making sure our technology keeps up with demand. Leading-edge manufacturing is certainly important, but it would be nothing without the lagging edge/trailing edge semiconductors that make it all possible. Inquivix Technologies is a key link in the supply chain for semiconductor manufacturers. We source high-quality semiconductor parts and equipment from South Korea and distribute them to manufacturing plants across the globe. If you are interested in partnering with us, contact us now.


What Is the Largest Semiconductor Fabrication Plant in the World?

The largest semiconductor company globally is Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Limited (TSMC), founded by Morris Chang. TSMC is primarily involved in providing top-tier foundry services for the worldwide logic IC industry.

Is Trailing Edge Semiconductor Manufacturing a Necessity?

Yes, it is vital to the successful working of almost all everyday electronic devices. At least a handful of chips are produced through trailing edge processes. Together with leading-edge processors, these semiconductors can power computing devices and other applications.

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