TSMC Expects 7nm Mass Production by Early 2018

Now that 14nm/16nm chips are finally upon us en masse, some are already looking past that to the next node. Logically, the next node would be 10nm but that won’t be true for GPUs. Both AMD and Nvidia have tended to skips nodes and jump on every other node to save cost. This means today’s announcement from TSMC on 7nm holds special importance for the PC GPU market.

According to the latest shareholder report, TSMC is planning to bring forward 7nm production from previous roadmaps. This is reportedly due to a desire to beat competitors Intel and Samsung/Global Foundries to the new node. TSMC already has 20 customers lined up for 7nm, with 15 tapeouts expected in 2017 and mass production in 2018. 2 of those customers are pretty much guaranteed to be Apple and Nvidia.

Unlike 10nm which is mobile oriented, 7nm will target high-performance parts like GPUs as well. This means if TSMC hits 7nm before Samsung/Global Foundries, Nvidia has a chance to beat AMD to the new node and hold a process advantage. 7nm is expected to be 60% denser and 30-40% more efficient than 10nm so it’s a good deal better than 14/16nm. Given the difficulties Intel has faced with 10nm and how close we are to the end of silicon, it remains to see if TSMC can reach its goal.

Samsung Starts Mass Production of 256bit V-NAND

With super large SSDs arriving for both consumers and enterprise, the ability to produce dense NAND dies is critical. As with all silicon products, a denser die means lower costs on the same wafer size as it means you can get more usable dies out of the same wafer if the dies are denser. Samsung looks to have raced ahead of its competitors with the mass production of 256 Gbit (32GB) 3D V-NAND dies.

Samsung has always been at the forefront of extracting more efficiency from their wafers with dense dies. They were the first to arrive at market with TLC dies and the first to get 3D NAND out. With the first 32GB 3D V-NAND, Samsung has the ability to offer cheaper NAND or to reap a larger margin. One major caveat though is that the 256 Gbit dies are actually TLC, which normally is slower but denser than the usual SLC or MLC and suffers from slower speeds and lower lifespan. This shouldn’t be an issue though as V-NAND TLC is just as fast as 2D MLC and the lifespan should be improved compared to 2D TLC.

Samsung likely plans to use these new dies in their tablet and smartphone lines where space and cost savings are always welcome. We can also expect the V-NAND to show up in the refresh of the 850 EVO TLC SSD lineup later on. With ever cheaper NAND, the 16GB tier of smartphones may soon disappear from flagship devices as NAND gets cheaper and cheaper; you can find the Samsung release here.

IBM Manufactures World’s First 7nm Chip

IBM, in collaboration with leading companies including GlobalFoundries, Samsung and SUNY have finally cracked the sub 10nm process and produced a fully working 7nm chip. This technological marvel is based on commercial FinFet transistors, but utilizes a silicon-germanium (SIGe) alloy, self-aligned quadruple patterning (SAQR) and EUV lithography to produce chips on a minuscule design process. It’s important to reiterate though, that this is still in the early stages of production and it’s unlikely to become an integral component of mainstream appliances for at least 2-3 years.

The engineering teams have also managed to perform extremely dense stacking with a 30nm transistor pitch. According to IBM, this will result in a surface area reduction of close to 50% over the 10nm process.  Allegedly, IBM is aiming for at least a 50% power to performance ratio increase and feel the move from 10nm to 7nm will be more dramatic than 14nm to 10nm.

So how does it all work? SIGe operates at a higher electron mobility than traditional silicon making it the better choice with smaller transistors. Additionally, the gap between silicon nuclei is unbelievably small and cannot transfer current through a standard atomic structure. This is where the  germanium alloy comes into play which increases the electron mobility and leads to a proper current flow. EUV is another piece of intriguing technology and designed to help alleviate problems with light etching on smaller chips. This is vital because as the chip size decreases, you have to infuse a narrower beam of light to etch the structure accurately. Currently, this procedure is complex and quite expensive so it’s unsure how long it will be before it becomes a viable option on a large scale.

It’s always fascinating to see the prototype phases of incredibly advanced technological advancements coming to fruition. Yes, 7nm is some time off, but today is the first step on this revolutionary journey.

Thank you ArsTechnica for providing us with this information.

UK Tech Sector is Booming. Reported to be Growing Faster than Silicon Valley

Said to contribute £12bn to the English economy over the next decade, London alone is becoming a massive player in the worldwide technology industry at a massive growth rate of 5.1 percent per annum as quoted by London Mayor Boris Johnson.

This information was let loose at London Tech Week – showing that there are more contenders than just the famous Silicon Valley and the UK tech industry is booming.

As according to Bloomberg Philantropies, London also employs a greater number of workers in financial technology than any other major city on earth.

Image courtesy of Startup-book

IBM Builds Graphene Circuit Boards, Sends Text Messages Faster At Lower Power Cost

Recent reports point to IBM creating a graphene-based circuit that they say performs 10,000 times better than existing options. It was reliable enough that they used it to send and receive a text message.

What is graphene? Simple. It’s an atom-thick sheet of carbon atoms renowned for its strength and conductivity. It is heralded as a possible alternative to silicon, which currently dominates electronics production. One of the major potential applications for graphene is transistors, which control the flow of electricity in circuits. The more transistors you can fit onto a chip, the more powerful it can be.

It is said that researchers should be able to pack far more atom-thick graphene transistors into a chip than the bulkier silicon alternative. Graphene also transports electricity 200 times faster than silicon. The IBM team integrated graphene into a radio frequency receiver, a device that translates radio waves into understandable information that can be sent back and forth. They tested it by sending a text message that read “IBM” with no distortion.

“This is the first time that someone has shown graphene devices and circuits to perform modern wireless communication functions comparable to silicon technology,” IBM Research director of physical sciences Supratik Guha said in a release.

The circuit announced today was made by adding the graphene only after the rest of the circuit was assembled, which means it is never exposed to the manufacturing steps that could damage it, having included three graphene transistors. The team is particularly interested in how the technology could be used in wireless communications systems, though graphene could be integrated into any silicon-based technology. Mobile devices would potentially be able to transmit data more quickly at a lower cost using less power.

Thank you GIGAOM for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of GIGAOM