Samsung’s next manufacturing process with 3-nanometer structure widths is on schedule to go into series production from the first half of 2022. This is what Siyoung Choi, head of Samsung’s manufacturing division, said at the Samsung Foundry Forum 2021. The first products with 3-nm chips can therefore be expected from next summer – usually smartphones will start.
Currently According to Samsung, the yield of the 3-nm production approaches the level of the 4-nm process, which is an improved 5 nm version and is already in series production. The first 4 nm chips should reach the market by the end of the year, possibly in the form of a successor to Qualcomm’s smartphone processor Snapdragon 888 (Plus).
30 percent more performance
Since 4 nm is only a small improvement compared to 5 nm, Samsung is comparing the next big jump to 3 nm with the 5 nm generation: The space requirement should be reduced by up to 35 percent, and a 30 percent higher performance or a achieve halved power consumption.
Instead of the FinFETs that have been in use since 14 nm, Samsung is introducing the 3 nm “Gate All-Around” (GAA) technology to build the transistors. The conductive channel of the field effect transistor (FET) is surrounded on all sides by the gate electrode in GAA-FETs. An improved 3-nm version should follow in the meantime in 2023.
This is followed by the next big step down to 2 nm, albeit with a longer development time than previously usual – series production should start in 2025. One reason for this is probably the technology required, because from the 2 nm generation onwards, exposure to extreme ultraviolet (EUV) wavelengths becomes more complex. Chip manufacturers need EUV exposure machines with a high numerical aperture (High-NA EUV) of 0.55 instead of 0.33 in the current systems. The Dutch supplier ASML plans to sell these exposure machines from 2025 and only fit into new semiconductor factories.
Aside from cutting-edge manufacturing technology, Samsung is preparing cost-efficient special processes such as 17 nm FinFET as a replacement for older 28 nm chips. In the case of the 14 nm portfolio, Samsung is planning a modification for voltages of up to 3.3 volts, for example for non-volatile embedded magnetoresistive random access memory (eMRAM) as a faster flash alternative.