from the is-that-a-Cray-in-your-pocket? dept.
Samsung has said its chip foundry building Arm Cortex-A76-based processors will use 7nm process tech in the second half of the year, with 5nm product expected mid-2019 using the extreme ultra violet (EUV) lithography process.
The A76 64-bit chips will be able to pass 3GHz in clock speed. Back in May we wrote: "Arm reckoned a 3GHz 7nm A76 single core is up to 35 per cent faster than a 2.8GHz 10nm Cortex-A75, as found in Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845, when running mixed integer and floating-point math benchmarks albeit in a simulator."
[...] Samsung eventually envisages moving to a 3nm Gate-All-Round-Early (3AAE) on its process technology roadmap. Catch up, Intel, if you can.
Also at AnandTech.
Samsung has shipped 70,000 silicon wafers worth of "10nm Low Power Early" chips, and is planning a supposed 6 nanometer process. The company implies that it will make 8nm and 6nm chips in addition to 10nm and 7nm:
It's looking like Samsung will be the first company to manufacture 10nm chips, besting both Intel and TSMC. Samsung has also already set its eyes on the 8nm, 7nm, and 6nm process technologies. The 8nm and 6nm processes will likely be follow-up technologies to the 10nm and 7nm processes, respectively.
The company is expected to reach 7nm by 2019, a move that could be enabled by its partnership with IBM. The company may also use EUV lithography for its 7nm process, but it's not yet clear whether EUV lithography will be available for the first ever 7nm process iteration. Intel has hinted before that it may not adopt EUV lithography until the 5nm process generation. Samsung will reveal more details about its roadmap, including the 8nm and 6nm process generations, at the upcoming U.S Samsung Foundry Forum scheduled for May 24, 2017.
Intel is talking about improvements it has made to transistor scaling for the 10nm process node, and claims that its version of 10nm will increase transistor density by 2.7x rather than doubling it.
On the face of it, three years between process shrinks, rather than the traditional two years, would appear to end Moore's Law. But Intel claims that's not so. The company says that the 14nm and 10nm process shrinks in particular more than doubled the transistor density. At 10nm, for example, the company names a couple of techniques that are enabling this "hyperscaling." Each logic cell (an arrangement of transistors to form a specific logic gate, such as a NAND gate or a flip flop) is surrounded by dummy gates: spacers to isolate one cell from its neighbor. Traditionally, two dummy gates have been used at the boundary of each cell; at 10nm, Intel is reducing this to a single dummy gate, thereby reducing the space occupied by each cell and allowing them to be packed more tightly.
Each gate has a number of contacts used to join them to the metal layers of the chip. Traditionally, the contact was offset from the gate. At 10nm, Intel is stacking the contacts on top of the gates, which it calls "contact over active gate." Again, this reduces the space each gate takes, increasing the transistor density.
Samsung has added a so-called "4nm" process to its roadmap:
At the annual Samsung Foundry Forum, Samsung announced its foundry's roadmap for the next few years, which includes an 18nm FD-SOI [(Fully Depleted – Silicon on Insulator)] generation targeting low-cost IoT chips as well as 8nm, 7nm, 6nm, 5nm, and even 4nm process generations.
[...] 7LPP (7nm Low Power Plus): 7LPP will be the first semiconductor process technology to use an EUV lithography solution. 250W of maximum EUV source power, which is the most important milestone for EUV insertion into high volume production, was developed by the collaborative efforts of Samsung and ASML. EUV lithography deployment will break the barriers of Moore's law scaling, paving the way for single nanometer semiconductor technology generations.
[...] The 4LPP process generation will be Samsung's first to use a "Gate All Around FET" (GAAFET) transistor structure, with Samsung's own implementation dubbed "Multi Bridge Channel FET" (MBCFET). The technology uses a "Nanosheet" device to overcome the physical limitations of the FinFET architecture.
But how many transistors per square millimeter is it?
Samsung has replaced planned "6nm" and "5nm" nodes with a new "5nm" node on its roadmap, and plans to continue scaling down to "3nm", which will use gate-all-around transistors instead of Fin Field-effect transistors. Extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV) will be required for everything below "7nm" (TSMC and GlobalFoundries will start producing "7nm" chips without EUV initially):
Last year Samsung said that its 7LPP manufacturing technology will be followed up by 5LPP and 6LPP in 2019 (risk production). The new roadmap does not mention either processes, but introduces the 5LPE (5 nm low power early) that promises to "allow greater area scaling and ultra-low power benefits" when compared to 7LPP. It is unclear when Samsung plans to start using 5LPE for commercial products, but since it is set to replace 7LPP, expect the tech to be ready for risk production in 2019.
[...] Samsung will have two 4 nm process technologies instead of one — 4LPE and 4LPP. Both will be based on proven FinFETs and usage of this transistor structure is expected to allow timely ramp-up to the stable yield level. Meanwhile, the manufacturer claims that their 4 nm nodes will enable higher performance and geometry scaling when compared to the 5LPE, but is not elaborating beyond that (in fact, even the key differences between the three technologies are unclear). Furthermore, Samsung claims that 4LPE/4LPP will enable easy migration from 5LPE, but is not providing any details.
[...] The most advanced process technologies that Samsung announced this week are the 3GAAE/GAAP (3nm gate-all-around early/plus). Both will rely on Samsung's own GAAFET implementation that the company calls MBCFET (multi-bridge-channel FETs), but again, Samsung is not elaborating on any details. The only thing that it does say is that the MBCFET has been in development since 2002, so it will have taken the tech at least twenty years to get from an early concept to production.
MBCFETs are intended to enable Samsung to continue increasing transistor density while reducing power consumption and increasing the performance of its SoCs. Since the 3GAAE/GAAP technologies are three or four generations away, it is hard to make predictions about their actual benefits. What is safe to say is that the 3GAAE will be Samsung's fifth-generation EUV process technology and therefore will extensively use appropriate tools. Therefore, the success of the[sic] EUV in general will have a clear impact on Samsung's technologies several years down the road.
Previously: Samsung Plans a "4nm" Process
GlobalFoundries has halted development of its "7nm" low power node, will fire 5% of its staff, and will also halt most development of smaller nodes (such as "5nm" and "3nm"):
GlobalFoundries on Monday announced an important strategy shift. The contract maker of semiconductors decided to cease development of bleeding edge manufacturing technologies and stop all work on its 7LP (7 nm) fabrication processes, which will not be used for any client. Instead, the company will focus on specialized process technologies for clients in emerging high-growth markets. These technologies will initially be based on the company's 14LPP/12LP platform and will include RF, embedded memory, and low power features. Because of the strategy shift, GF will cut 5% of its staff as well as renegotiate its WSA and IP-related deals with AMD and IBM. In a bid to understand more what is going on, we sat down with Gary Patton, CTO of GlobalFoundries.
[...] Along with the cancellation of the 7LP, GlobalFoundries essentially canned all pathfinding and research operations for 5 nm and 3 nm nodes. The company will continue to work with the IBM Research Alliance (in Albany, NY) until the end of this year, but GlobalFoundries is not sure it makes sense to invest in R&D for 'bleeding edge' nodes given that it does not plan to use them any time soon. The manufacturer will continue to cooperate with IMEC, which works on a broader set of technologies that will be useful for GF's upcoming specialized fabrication processes, but obviously it will refocus its priorities there as well (more on GF's future process technologies later in this article).
So, the key takeaway here is that while the 7LP platform was a bit behind TSMC's CLN7FF when it comes to HVM – and GlobalFoundries has never been first to market with leading edge bulk manufacturing technologies anyway – there were no issues with the fabrication process itself. Rather there were deeper economic reasons behind the decision.
GlobalFoundries would have needed to use deep ultraviolet (DUV) instead of extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography for its initial "7nm" chips. It would have also required billions of dollars of investment to succeed on the "7nm" node, only to make less "7nm" chips than its competitors. The change in plans will require further renegotiation of GlobalFoundries' and AMD's Wafer Supply Agreement (WSA).
Meanwhile, AMD will move most of its business over to TSMC, although it may consider using Samsung:
Samsung recently hosted its Samsung Foundry Forum 2018 in Japan, where it made several significant foundry announcements. Besides reiterating plans to start high-volume manufacturing (HVM) using extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUVL) tools in the coming quarters, along with reaffirming plans to use gate all around FETs (GAAFETs) with its 3 nm node, the company also added its brand-new 8LPU process technology to its roadmap. Samsung Foundry's general roadmap was announced earlier this year, so at SFF in Japan the contract maker of semiconductors reiterated some of its plans, made certain corrections, and provided some additional details about its future plans.
TSMC[*] this week said that it has completed development of tools required for design of SoCs that are made using its 5 nm (CLN5FF, N5) fabrication technology. The company indicated that some of its alpha customers (which use pre-production tools and custom designs) had already started risk production of their chips using its N5 manufacturing process, which essentially means that the technology is on-track for high-volume manufacturing (HVM) in 2020.
TSMC's N5 is the company's 2nd generation fabrication technology that uses both deep ultraviolet (DUV) as well as extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography. The process can use EUVL on up to 14 layers (a tangible progress from N7+, which uses EUVL on four non-critical layers) to enable significant improvements in terms of density. TSMC says that when compared to N7 (1st Gen 7 nm, DUV-only), N5 technology will allow chip developers to shrink die area of their designs by ~45%, making transistor density ~1.8x higher. It will also increase frequency by 15% (at the same complexity and power) or reduce power consumption by 20% power reduction (at the same frequency and complexity).
[*] TSMC - Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation
Same chip(let) size? Approximately double the core count.
Previously: TSMC Holds Groundbreaking Ceremony for "5nm" Fab, Production to Begin in 2020
TSMC Details Scaling/Performance Gains Expected From "5nm CLN5" Process
TSMC Tapes Out Second-Generation "7nm" Chip Using EUV, Will Begin Risk Production of "5nm" in April
At the end of March, two semiconductor manufacturing titans climbed another rung on the ladder of Moore's Law.
TSMC says its 5-nm process offers a 15 percent speed gain or a 30 percent improvement in power efficiency. Samsung is promising a 10 percent performance improvement or a 20 percent efficiency improvement
Also, "both Samsung and TSMC are offering what they're calling a 6-nm process" as a kind of stepping stone for customers with earlier availability (H2 2019) vs 5nm production.
Unfortunately, but perhaps not unexpectedly, the playing field has narrowed significantly with the progression to 5nm foundry production
GlobalFoundries gave up at 14 nm and Intel, which is years late with its rollout of an equivalent to competitors' 7 nm, is thought to be pulling back on its foundry services, according to analysts.
Samsung and TSMC remain because they can afford the investment and expect a reasonable return. Samsung was the largest chipmaker by revenue in 2018, but its foundry business ranks fourth, with TSMC in the lead. TSMC's capital expenditure was $10 billion in 2018. Samsung expects to nearly match that on a per-year basis until 2030.
Can the industry function with only two companies capable of the most advanced manufacturing processes? "It's not a question of can it work?" says [G. Dan Hutcheson, at VLSI Research]. "It has to work."
According to Len Jelinek, a semiconductor-manufacturing analyst at IHS Markit. "As long as we have at least two viable solutions, then the industry will be comfortable"
There may only be two left, but neither company is sitting still: