Samsung outlined its foundry business roadmap for the next five years at its Foundry Forum event last week. The company plans to introduce its next generation fabrication technologies in a timely manner and intends to make chips on its 1.4 nm (14 angstroms) manufacturing process by 2027. Also, the company will keep investing in new manufacturing capacity going forward as it strives to strengthen its position in the foundry market.
New Nodes Incoming
Samsung has been introducing new production nodes and/or variants on production nodes every 12 – 18 months for several years now, and plans to keep its rather aggressive pace going forward. Although the company’s roadmap illustrates, fanfare aside, that it is now taking longer to develop new fabrication processes. The company’s second-generation 3 nm-class gate-all-around (3GAP) technology is now set to arrive sometime in 2024. Meanwhile, Samsung Foundry intends to be ready with its 2 nm (20 angstroms) node in 2025, and with its 1.4 nm-branded fabrication process in 2027.
“With the company’s success of bringing the latest [3 nm-class] process technology to mass production, Samsung will be further enhancing gate-all-around (GAA) based technology and plans to introduce the 2 nm process in 2025 and 1.4 nm process in 2027,” a statement by Samsung reads.
|Chip Fab Roadmaps
Data announced during conference calls, events, press briefings and press releases
|HVM Start||in 2023||in 2024||in 2025||2026||in 2027|
|Intel||Process||Intel 3||Intel 20A||Intel 18A||?||?|
|FET||FinFET||RibbonFET + PowerVia||?||?|
|EUV||0.33 ON EUV||0.55 High-NA EUV|
|Samsung||Process||3GAE||3GAP||2.0 nm||1.4 nm|
|EUV||0.33 ON EUV||?||?||?|
|FET||FinFET||GAAFET||GAAFET with backside power delivery (?)|
|EUV||0.33 ON EUV||?||?||?|
Painting some very broad strokes, compared to those of Intel and TSMC, it seems like TSMC is a little bit more conservative (which is something expected when you are the world’s largest contrast maker of microelectronics). Whereas Intel is more aggressive (which is again expected given the company’s position in the market of semiconductors). Meanwhile, naming of fabrication processes these days is essentially aspirational, with little connection to their real physical measures. Which is why comparing different semiconductor companies’ roadmaps is an imprecise metric at best.
In addition to new ‘general’ nodes, Samsung plans to expand its process technology optimization programs for each specific application as well as customized services for customers, the company said.
Meanwhile, one of the things that Samsung notably did not mention in its press release concerning its 1.4 nm node is usage of High-NA equipment. Intel, for its part, plans to use High-NA starting its Intel 18A node (in 2024), where it will eventually be supplanting the EUV multi-patterning used on initial 18A production.
According to Samsung, the adoption of new process technologies and demand for new fabrication processes will be driven by already known mega trends — AI, autonomous vehicles, automotive applications in general, HPC, 5G, and eventually 6G connectivity. Keeping in mind that Samsung is a large industrial conglomerate with many divisions, many of the applications that it intends to address with future process nodes are its own.
The company disclosed last week that its LSI Business (chip development division) currently offers around 900 products, which include SoCs, image sensors, modems, display driver IC (DDI), power management IC (PMIC), and security solutions. Going forward the company plans to put even more efforts into the development of performance-demanding IP, including CPU and GPU, by working closer with its industry partners (which presumably includes Arm and AMD).
Expanded Production Capacity
Offering state-of-the-art production technologies is good, but to produce those advanced chips in sufficient quantities to meet market demands is equally important. To that end, Samsung announced that the company will also continue to invest heavily in building out additional production capacity. In recent years Samsung’s semiconductor capacity CapEx was around $30 billion a year and it does not look like the firm plans to put a cap on its spending (although it is noteworthy that it does not disclose how much money it intends to spend).
Samsung plans to expand its production capacity for its ‘advanced’ process technologies by more than three-fold by 2027. While the companies is not naming the nodes it considers “advanced”, we would expect a significant addition of its EUV capacity in the next five years – especially as more ASML EUV machines become available. Meanwhile, the company will adopt ‘Shell-First’ tactics in its expansion and construct buildings and clean rooms first, and add equipment later depending on market conditions.
Samsung’s new fab under construction near Taylor, Texas, will be one of the company’s main vehicles to add capacity in the coming years. The shell-first site will start to produce chips in 2024. And as the company adds new tools to the fab and builds new phases, the production capacity of the site will further increase.
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