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Rumor has it that Samsung will start mass production of 3nm chips next week

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At the moment there are only two independent foundries that can produce state-of-the-art chips. The companies are TSMC and Samsung Foundry. Independent foundries take chip designs made by other companies and build the actual chips from that design. Both TSMC and Samsung are working on building chips using their 3nm process nodes. The smaller the process node used, the greater the number of transistors in a chip.

Rumor has it that Samsung will announce mass production of 3nm chips next week

This is important because the more transistors used in a chip, the more powerful and energy-efficient that chip can be. Every two years, the process node gets smaller and more transistors fit into an integrated circuit. This is the famous “Moore’s Law” you’ve heard about, named after Gordon Moore, the co-founder of Intel and Fairchild semiconductors. Remember, this isn’t a real law, and as smaller and smaller components are built, this “observation” can no longer be fully counted on to double the number of transistors every two years.

Still, over time, you can see how “Moore’s Law” predicted the incredible increase in processing capabilities over the years. Let’s take the iPhone X, which was released in November 2017, powered by the Apple A10 Bionic chipset. The latter carried 4.3 billion transistors in each chip. Now let’s move on to the 2021 iPhone 13 series with the A15 Bionic chipset. The A15 Bionic contains 15 billion transistors, an increase of 27.1% over the 11.8 billion transistors used by the A14 Bionic chip.

So now Samsung and TSMC compete for supremacy in building chips for third parties. TSMC is number one in most stats and its client list includes top tech companies such as: Apple (the number one customer), MediaTek, Nvidia, Qualcomm and others. But it seems, according to ExtremeTechSamsung will soon beat TSMC by starting mass production of chips made using its 3nm process node next week, while TSMC will begin mass production at 3nm later this year.
In addition, Samsung is going to use a new transistor structure on its 3nm chips, called GAA or gate-all-around. With this structure, the current flow is controlled by gates that contact the transistor on all four sides. TSMC will continue to use the FinFET structure that has existed since the 22nm process node debuted. TSMC will permanently scrap FinFET from GAA when it starts shipping 2nm chips in 2026.

Samsung’s GAA design is called Multi-Bridge Channel Field Effect Transistor (MBCFET), also known as nanowires. This is one of only two different gate all-round designs currently available with the second being known as GAAFET or nanowire.

The report quotes a major Korean news agency as saying that Samsung is expected to make a major announcement about the production of 3nm chips soon. It also notes that the move from FinFet to gate-all-round will reduce a chip’s surface area by 45% to deliver a 30% performance bump, while reducing power consumption by 50%. However, there is a big problem. Samsung reportedly achieved yields of only 10% to 20% on 3nm, meaning the vast majority of its 3nm chips cut from a wafer failed quality control.

In February, a report indicated that: Samsung’s yield on 4nm manufacturing was only 35%, causing Samsung to lose some sales to chip designer Qualcomm. The latter is said to have moved some of those orders to TSMC. However, if Samsung Foundry is about to announce the start of high volume manufacturing (HVM) on the 3nm process node, one could conclude that Samsung Foundry has improved its 3nm yield.
Speaking of 3nm, Digitimes reported that TSMC’s key customers such as AMD, Apple, Broadcom, Intel, MediaTek, Nvidia, and Qualcomm have been lining up for 3nm capacity. And next on the horizon, of course, is the 2nm process node that both TSMC and Samsung are working on. Another name is expected to join TSMC and Samsung on the list of advanced foundries. Intel Chief Executive Pat Gelsinger has announced that the US company will regain process leadership from Samsung and TSMC by 2025.

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