from the nano-SoCs dept.
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.
First up, Samsung added another fabrication technology into its family of manufacturing processes based on its 10 nm node. The new tech is called 8LPU (low power ultimate) and, according to Samsung's usual classification, this is a process for SoCs that require both high clocks and high transistor density. Samsung's 8LPP technology, which qualified for production last year, is a development of Samsung's 10 nm node that uses narrower metal pitches to deliver a 10% area reduction (at the same complexity) as well as a 10% lower power consumption (at the same frequency and complexity) compared to 10LPP process. 8LPU is a further evolution of the technology platform that likely increases transistor density and frequency potential vs 8LPP. Meanwhile Samsung does not disclose how it managed to improve 8LPU vs. 8LPP and whether it involved advances of design rules, usage of a new library, or a shrink of metal pitches. Samsung's 8LPP and 8LPU technologies are aimed at customers who need higher performance or lower power and/or higher transistor density than what Samsung's 10LPP, 10LPC, and 10LPU processes can offer, but who cannot gain access to Samsung's 7LPP or more advanced manufacturing technologies that use EUVL. Risk production using 8LPU was set to start in 2018, so expect high-volume manufacturing to commence next year at Samsung's Fab S1 in Giheung, South Korea.
[...] By the time the new production line in Hwaseong becomes operational, Samsung Foundry promises to start risk production using its 5/4 nm node. As reported earlier this year, Samsung is prepping 5LPE, 4LPE, and 4LPP fabrication technologies, but eventually this list will likely expand. Based on what Samsung has disclosed about all three manufacturing processes so far, they will have certain similarities, which will simplify migration from 5LPE all the way to 4LPP, though the company does not elaborate. [...] One of the unexpected things that Samsung Foundry announced was start of risk production using its 3 nm node already in 2020, which is at least a year ahead of what was expected earlier. Samsung's 3 nm will be the first node to use the company's own GAAFET implementation called MBCFET (multi-bridge-channel FETs) and will officially include at least two process technologies: 3GAAE and 3GAAP (3nm gate-all-around early/plus).
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
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.
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 Foundry this week announced that it has completed development of its first-generation 5 nm fabrication process (previously dubbed 5LPE). The manufacturing technology uses extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUVL) and is set to provide significant performance, power, and area advantages when compared to Samsung's 7 nm process (known as 7LPP). Meanwhile, Samsung stresses that IP developed for 7LPP can be also used for chips to be made using 5LPE.
Samsung's 5 nm technology continues to use FinFET transistors, but with a new standard cell architecture as well as a mix of DUV and EUV step-and-scan systems. When compared to 7LPP, Samsung says that their 5LPE fabrication process will enable chip developers to reduce power consumption by 20% or improve performance by 10%. Furthermore, the company promises an increase in logic area efficiency of up to 25%.
One interesting technology that will eventually be on Samsung's roadmap: "gate-all-around" field effect transistors.
Meanwhile, TSMC has announced a new node, "6nm", which will allow for smaller die sizes than "7nm" with no improvements to performance or power consumption. It is also not better than the TSMC "7nm+" node, which will use extreme ultraviolet lithography:
TSMC this week unveiled its new 6 nm (CLN6FF, N6) manufacturing technology, which is set to deliver a considerably higher transistor density when compared to the company's 7 nm (CLN7FF, N7) fabrication process. An evolution of TSMC's 7nm node, N6 will continue to use the same design rules, making it easier for companies to get started on the new process. The technology will be used for risk production of chips starting Q1 2020.
TSMC states that their N6 fabrication technology offers 18% higher logic density when compared to the company's N7 process (1st Gen 7 nm, DUV-only), yet offers the same performance and power consumption. Furthermore, according to TSMC N6 'leverages new capabilities in extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUVL)' gained from N7+, but does not disclose how exactly it uses EUV for the particular technology. Meanwhile, N6 uses the same design rules as N7 and enables developers of chips to re-use the same design ecosystem (e.g., tools, etc.), which will enable them to lower development costs. Essentially, N6 allows to shrink die sizes of designs developed using N7 design rules by around 15% while using the familiar IP for additional cost savings.
See table in article.