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Samsung chip foundry will complete GAA process development in 2020

By Hotenda

In October last year, the Samsung chip factory officially began to use its 7LPP (7nm low power +) manufacturing process to produce chips, and has not slowed down its manufacturing technology since then. The company is expected to begin mass production of chips in the second half of 2019 with its refined 6LPP (6nm low power +) technology. In addition, the company said it will introduce its first 5LPE (5nm low power early) SoC and will complete its 4LPE (4nm low power early) process development in the coming months.

Although Samsung's memory business is weak, the company said its foundry business is strong. According to Samsung, its contract manufacturing division has strong demand for mobile SoCs manufactured using 10LPP / 8LPP technology and mobile, HPC, automotive and networking products manufactured using the 14LPx / 10LPP process. In general, the Samsung chip factory uses its leading FinFET process technology to produce a large number of quality products.

Later this year, Samsung will begin production of chips using its 6LPP process technology. The 6LPP is a refined version of the Samsung 7LPP, offering higher transistor density (10% higher density) and lower power consumption. In addition, 6LPP is willing to develop new IP. The customer provides intelligent structure support. The next step in the development of Samsung 7LPP production technology will be its 5LPE manufacturing process. Compared with 6LPP, this provides more benefits in terms of power consumption, performance and area. Samsung is expected to launch its first batch of chips using its 5LPE technology in the second half of this year, which is expected to be mass-produced in the first half of 2020.

Anyone concerned about the semiconductor industry knows that the speed of chip performance is starting to slow down. At the same time, process companies have discussed some of the challenges they face in reducing the size of their chips. Although it is usually related to the continued development of Moore's Law, more is accompanied by a decrease in the size of semiconductor process nodes, and factors affecting performance will continue to increase.

Just a few months ago, Samsung Semiconductor's foundry business announced a major new development in transistor design called Gate-All-Around (GAA), which is expected to maintain transistor-level semiconductors in the next few years. Fundamentally, GAA provides a rethinking and re-architecting of basic transistor designs in which the silicon channels inside the transistor are completely surrounded by gate material rather than being covered by gate material like a three-pole, just like a FinFET design. This design can increase transistor density while increasing the scaling potential of the channel.

The entire technology industry is looking forward to improvements in semiconductor processes that will continue to reduce semiconductor size and power and improve semiconductor performance. Together with extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography, GAA is considered to be the next major technological advancement in semiconductor manufacturing, providing the chip industry with a clear path from 7nm to 5nm to 3nm process nodes.

Technically, the GAA FET technology reduces the voltage, which also provides a way for the semiconductor foundry business to go beyond the FinFET design. As transistors continue to shrink, voltage regulation has proven to be one of the most difficult challenges to overcome, but the new design approach adopted by GAA reduces this problem. A key advantage of GAA transistors is the ability to reduce power consumption due to voltage scaling while improving performance. The specific timelines for these improvements may not be as fast as in the industry, but at least the uncertainty about whether they will arrive may now change. For chip and device manufacturers, these technological advances provide a clearer picture of the future of semiconductor manufacturing and should give them the confidence to advance aggressive long-term product plans.

The timing of GAA is also an accidental factor in the technology industry. Until recently, most advances in the semiconductor industry have focused on single-chip or monolithic SOC (system-on-a-chip) designs based on silicon chips built on a single process node size. In addition, as the momentum of the new "small chip" SOC design increases, these designs combine several smaller chip components that can be built on different process nodes, and it is easy to be misunderstood that transistor level enhancement does not bring much value. In fact, some may argue that as a single SOC is broken down into smaller parts, the need for smaller manufacturing process nodes is reduced. However, the facts are more complicated and more subtle. In order for chipset-based designs to be truly successful, the industry needs to improve the process technology of certain chip components and improve packaging and interconnection to connect these components with all other chip components.

It's important to remember that the most advanced small chip components are becoming more and more complex. These new designs require transistor density that 3mm GAA manufacturing can provide. For example, specific AI accelerators, as well as increasingly complex CPU, GPU, and FPGA architectures require all the processing power they can handle centrally. Therefore, while we will continue to see certain semiconductor components stop at the process node roadmap and stabilize with larger process sizes, the need for continued process shrinkage of critical components continues unabated.

According to businesskorea, foundry consulting company IBS announced on May 15 that Samsung Electronics has led TSMC in GAA technology for one year and Intel (Intel) for two to three years. GAA technology is the next generation of non-storage semiconductor manufacturing technology and is considered a breakthrough in the foundry industry.

This means that Samsung is ahead of its competitors in current and next-generation foundry technologies.

Samsung announced at the 2019 Samsung Foundry Forum in Santa Clara, USA on May 14th that it will complete GAA process development next year and begin mass production in 2021.

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