Korean Economy News
Samsung Elec to cement chip leadership by start 3nm fabrication in 2021

Sohn Jae-gwon and Minu Kim

Samsung Electronics aims to widen its gap with its rivals in chipmaking technology by moving onto the 3-nanometer (nm) next year with an aim to start mass production of chips based on the bar-raising fabrication in 2021, according to its foundry process roadmap unveiled at the Samsung Foundry Forum 2019 USA held in Santa Clara, California on Tuesday (local time).

If the company succeeds in volume production of 3nm chips by 2021, it would be the first foundry to provide the chip manufactured based on the Gate-All-Around (GAA) technology that is supposed to improve speed performance by 35 percent and cut power use by 50 percent with a 45 percent reduction in chip area than the 7nm chip, the latest chip technology first produced early this year.

With the 3nm chip, consumers will benefit from longer lifetime of their mobile devices.

Samsung Electronics is the first in the silicon industry to update its technology advances and roadmap for the 3nm process. TSMC, the current champion in the foundry market, has yet to share its development schedule. Foreign media reports say that Samsung Electronics is already ahead of TSMC in a race for developing the 3nm process, speculating the latter’s commercial production may begin in 2022. Foundry consulting firm IBS said Samsung Electronics is one year ahead of TSMC and two to three years ahead of Intel in GAA technology.

The Korean chip giant said its Process Design Kit (PDK) version 0.1 for the 3nm process was released in April to help fabless customers get an early start on the design work.

The nanometer process deals with the space between the transistors mounted on a substrate at a nanometer level. The narrower the distance, the more chips can be squeezed in to boost computing power and energy efficiency. One nanometer corresponds to one ten-thousandth the diameter of a human hair.

Samsung Electronics plans to use its patented version of GAA, MBCFET (Multi-Bridge-Channel FET) for the 3nm process instead of FinFET manufacturing technology which was applied to the previous 4nm process.

“Gate all around will mark a new era of our foundry business,” said Ryan Lee, the foundry business vice president of marketing at the event in Santa Clara, California, home to Intel.

Samsung entered the foundry business later than its rivals. But it has rapidly narrowed the gap with the front runner with fast development of technology on massive investment. In the first quarter of this year, TSMC remained atop in the worldwide foundry market with a 48.1 percent share, followed by Samsung Electronics (19.1 percent) and Global Foundries (8.4 percent).

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