Samsung Developing Low-Cost 14nm and High-Performance 10nm Processes

Samsung has revealed its foundry’s roadmap for the next few years, which includes the development of a low-cost 14nm FinFET process (14LPC), with hopes that it can pass on those savings to its customers, and a new 10nm process (10LPP) that increases performance by up to 10% over its previous 10LPE process.

Samsung foundry’s process technology roadmap for the coming years includes:

  • 28nm: addition of RF and eNVM technology to our 28FDS baseline.  RF will be available this year and eNVM will be rolled out in phases in 2017 and 2018;
  • 14nm: 3rd generation 14LPC offering which provides a lower cost option, without design rule changes or performance sacrifice.  To enable connectivity features, we are also introducing RF add-on to 14LPC this year.  We have also expanded solutions on our 14nm FinFET to cover product applications in the Networking/Server and Automotive segments;
  • 10nm:  2nd generation 10nm with higher performance over 10LPE will be introduced.  We call this 10LPP.  10LPP will come with 10% speed boost, maintaining design results with 10LPE;
  • 7nm: we have already begun work on our cost optimized 7LPP node which comes with very competitive PPA scaling;
  • 8” matured node: keeping in mind there are still ample of new designs and applications that can take advantage of 8in technology, we are opening up our differentiated 8in technologies ranging from 180nm to 65nm, covering eFlash, Power devices, Image sensors and High voltage processes.

“There are always concerns about trading off cost versus performance,” Kelvin Low, Samsung’s Senior Director of Foundry Marketing, told EE Times. “LPC has the same PDK of [14nm] LPP. The number of steps has been reduced […]That allows us to achieve a lower cost point on manufacturing and we decide to share that with our customers.”

“We think 10nm will be a much longer node than other foundries are claiming it will be. We think 7nm has to be defined and optimized to be cost effective to the masses, not just the high margin products,” he added. “EUV is an important enabler for a 7m cost affordable node.”

Semiconductor Marvell Could be up for Sale

The semiconductor industry is a tough area to operate in and it is a dog-eat-dog world, and now it looks like Marvell Technology Group could be the next to be swallowed by a bigger dog on the market. According to an article in the New York Post, the chip maker could be up for sale and Broadcom/Avago could be the possible buyer.

This isn’t the first time that we’ve heard of Avago’s interest in Marvell. Last July several news outlets reported that Avago was interested in the purchase, but was holding their bid until the Broadcom and Avago merger was completed.

It hasn’t gone all that good for Marvell lately despite them making some great chips that we see all the time here in the office when we review products. For example, last month they reached a settlement with Carnegie Mellon University for $750 million and they have also just been through an audit for alleged fraud. They were however cleared in the audit and there wasn’t found any evidence of wrongdoing or accounting fraud as the allegations said.

Still, the stock has been on a steady decline as the semiconductor business generally has been going down and stockholders demand that the company cuts costs. After the stock dove about 40 percent of the past year, it doesn’t come as a big surprise that the stockholders demand some action.

Whether Broadcom (AVGO) will make an official bid or not is something time will tell and I’m sure that there will be a lot of details to iron out between the two before they’ll reach an agreement, if they do at all. There is however also some doubt on whether such a merger could result in an antitrust scrutiny as some of the areas of the two overlap, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Ethernet switching chips, among others.

Taiwan Earthquake Will Affect TSMC Fab More Than Expected

In the hours after the Taiwanese earthquake, TSMC was one of the major tech firms affected by the magnitude 6.4 quake. While the semiconductor manufacturer has initially stated that only minor damaged has occurred, it looks like effects will be longer lasting than expected. In fact, the damage will cause a greater than 1% disruption in Q1 2016 wafer shipments.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company or TSMC has 9 fabs in operation in Taiwan, with Fabs 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 12A, 12B, 14 and 15 located in the island country. While it’s unknown which fabs were impacted, Fab 6 and 14B is already back up and running while. The main damage is due to a reassessment of the damage done to Fab 14 which is expected to take longer to restore. The original estimate was that 95% of foundry machines would be back up and running within 3 days.

Despite the damage and disruption, TSMC is still expected to hit its revenue targets for the quarter. The firm does have a $100 million range for its target so I would presume that the disruption will likely remain under 2%. Hopefully, this means that Nvidia and AMD won’t face any delays and it’s still much better than what happened to HDDs after the Thai floods in 2011 which saw a massive price spike.

Intel Admits End to Scaling and Moore’s Law

Even though everyone has pretty much already seen the writing on the wall by now, Intel has remained staunch publicly. At long last, the chip giant is admitting that scaling will have to rely on improvements other than clock speeds. In fact, Intel is going as far to say that the future of semiconductors will rely on technologies that reduce power consumption rather than performance.

According to William Holt, the head of Intel’s Technology and Manufacturing Group, the semiconductor industry will see “major transitions” and the new technology will be “fundamentally different.” In order to continue moving forward, most of the new technologies mostly present a reduction in power consumption but at the cost of clock speeds due to lower switching speeds. This means all performance gains will have to come from improved IPC, new instruction sets and more cores.

With industry leader Intel already having delayed both 14nm and 10nm, it looks like silicon is nearing the end of the road. Even with the use of problematic EUV, the move to alternatives like lead telluride, carbon, Indium antimonide and indium gallium arsenide will likely happen within the decade. Even without major performance gains though, there is going to be a lot of excitement as laptops and mobile devices get better and better battery life.

Nvidia Pascal GPU Will Have Impressive 17 Billion Transistors

After being stuck for what seems like forever on 28nm, we’re finally getting a glimpse of the monsters set to arrive with TSMC’s 16nm  process. Code-named Pascal, Nvidia’s top end 16nm GPU is reportedly pushing 17 billion transistors, set to replace the current GM200.

To put that number in context, the current Titan X only clocks in at about 8 billion transistors, making the “GP100” Pascal more than twice as complex and likely twice as dense. Even AMD’s monster Fury X only pushes 8.9 billion transistors, which is still far and behind Pascal. Combined with a reported 32Gb of HBM VRAM at the highest SKU, Pascal may show a massive jump in performance compared to our current chips.

These gains are only possible with the new 16nm FinFET process from TSMC. Being nearly twice as dense, 16nm would allow Nvidia and AMD to double transistors in only a slightly larger die size. Combined with better power efficiency from being a lower process, FinFETs and HBM, efficiency should also improve despite having more transistors. Despite being called 16nm, TSMC’s process is closer to Intel’s 22nm or Samsung’s 20nm design, so there is certainly even more room to shrink in the future.

While CPUs have not benefitted as much from increased transistor counts, GPUs are relatively less complex and easier to make full use of the extra transistors. With DX12 and Vulcan in line as well as the new architectures from Nvidia and AMD, these new technologies should create a perfect storm to push GPU performance and gaming forward.

Thank you Fudzilla for providing us with this information 

TSMC Ships 16nm FinFET Chips – 10nm and 7nm On Their Way

In a move that is sure to please AMD and Nvidia fans, TSMC has started volume production of 16nm FinFET chips. According to TSMC president and co-CEO Mark Liu, the ramp up for 16nm will be more aggressive than their 20nm process, leading to improved market share for TSMC. Both AMD and Nvidia rely heavily on TSMC to deliver their chips, with the mobile focus of 20nm leading to an extended cycle on the 28nm for PC GPUs.

With the reveal that AMD has taped out their first FinFET chip, its looks like the chip was for TSMC 16nm FinFET, not Global Foundries/Samsung 14nm FinFET. With shipments for 16nm already started, AMD and Nvidia may have new GPUs set for Q2/Q3 2016, offering improved power efficiency and lower power consumption.

TSMC also revealed that their 10nm process, based heavily on 16nm, will also begin production in 2016. The 10nm process will improve frequencies by 15% and power consumption by 35%, which is understandable given that FinFETs tend to reduce clock speeds when they are introduced. 7nm is also planned for early 2018, which is a pretty aggressive schedule for TSMC.

With TSMC back on track, the future for GPUs looks brighter. Given the differing standards for semiconductors, Intel 14/10nm and Samsung 14nm are not comparable with TCMC’s. So while TSMC may reach 10nm before Intel does, Intel will actually still have the smaller process.

Samsung to Make Apple A9 Chips for the Next iPhone

Samsung has won the new contract to build Apple A9 processors for the next iPhone model, stealing the role back from rival Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), sources close to the matter have revealed to Bloomberg. Samsung will begin manufacture of the A9 chip at its Giheung plant in South Korea, while additional orders will be handled by Samsung partner Globalfoundries Inc.

Prior to the A8 chip, Samsung was Apple’s go-to semiconductor manufacturer, but their relationship crumbled after a series of legal disputes, at which point Apple opted for TSMC as its new chipmaker. Reclaiming the Apple processor contract will help Samsung challenge TSMC, which became the second-largest chip manufacturer during its time providing chips for Apple’s iPhones and iPads, with the semiconductor industry market worth an estimated $300 billion.

Song Myung Sup, an analyst from Seoul’s HI Investment & Securities, thinks that Samsung’s new contract might bring further contracts, saying, “If Globalfoundries quickly adopts Samsung’s most advanced technology and increases yield, it could also win orders from Qualcomm.”

Samsung, Globalfoundries, and Apple all refused to comment.

New Research May Allow For Atomic-Scale Semiconductor Devices

A new technique has been developed by a team of researchers at the North Carolina State University which allows for the creation of high-quality semiconductors thin films that are just one atom thick. Not only can the build on the small scale of one atom, but the technique can be scaled to create thin films sufficient to coat a wafer of two inches wide or beyond, meaning it could be used for actual production.

“This could be used to scale current semiconductor technologies down to the atomic scale – lasers, light-emitting diodes (LEDs), computer chips, anything. People have been talking about this concept for a long time, but it was not possible. With this discovery, I think it is possible,” said Dr. Linyou Cao, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at NC State and senior author of a paper on the work.

By using Molybdenum Sulfide (MoS2), which in its self is a fairly inexpensive semiconductor material that has many similar properties to that of materials already used in semiconductor processes, with the added ability that it can be “grown” in layers just one atom thick without compromising its properties.

“We can create wafer-scale MoS2 monolayer thin films, one atom thick, every time. We can also produce layers that are two, three or four atoms thick,” Said Dr. Cao.

Cao has already filed a patent for the new technique and is currently working on creating similar layers with different materials, creating field-effect transistors and even LEDs, but one thing is for certain is that this is a big discovery and it could have massive implications on the future of semiconductor manufacturing.

Source / Image Courtesy of XbitLabs