August 10, 2022

Samsung is rumored to start 3nm mass production next week

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A news agency in Korea reports that Samsung is about to make a major announcement. The world’s second-largest silicon foundry is set to enter mass production of its 3nm process next week. In doing so, Samsung becomes the first global foundry to achieve this milestone in the production of advanced nodes. It notably beats its main rival TSMC to the punch, as the Taiwanese powerhouse is not expected to reach 3nm before the end of this year. Intel will reach 3nm in 2023 with its Intel 3 process.

Samsung’s move marks its transition from FinFet transistors to Gate-All-Around (GAA) transistors. It is the first major foundry to make the switch. The company claims it will enable a 45% reduction in chip area compared to FinFet. It will also allow 30% more performance and require 50% less energy. Samsung has been developing its 3nm process for quite some time and even recently showed it to President Biden. However, reports have indicated that it is suffering from low yields. This is expected when developing a new process node. Yet it has been reported to only get between 10-20% yields at 3nm before. If it moves into mass production, also known as high-volume manufacturing (HVM), it’s likely made progress on that front.

The transition from FinFET transistors to GAA transistors is on the horizon. (Picture: Samsung)

Samsung first revealed its 3nm plans in 2019 when it said it was in the Alpha stage. The company announced that it had chosen Nanosheets as its preferred design. It is one of two possible GAA designs; the other is Nanowires. Samsung’s design is called MBCFET, which stands for Multi-Bridge Channel Field Effect Transistor. Interestingly, when he announced his plans, he trumpeted a 35% increase in performance. However, the latest reports have reduced that number by five percent. Still, this report is not an official announcement from Samsung, so that could change if and when Samsung officially announces it.

One thing to note here is that just because Samsung is the first foundry to achieve HVM at 3nm does not necessarily mean that it is ahead of its competition. As we previously reported in an article on TSMC, some analysts believe that customers might not want to be first in line for a brand new drastic change such as GAA transistors. Instead, they might be more inclined to stick with TSMC’s “old” 3nm technology, which sticks with FinFet for its 3nm process. As we reported earlier this week, it will use a new configurable design called FinFlex. This allows customers to customize the on-chip design for various benefits such as power consumption, performance, and chip size.

Since Samsung builds chips for its customers to integrate into their own products, it will be a while before we see true 3nm products for sale. Still, it’s an exciting development to see a company the size of Samsung finally go beyond FinFet for the first time. The agency’s report also states that Samsung is also in the early stages of developing its 2nm process. That won’t go live until 2025, though.

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