Samsung Begins Manufacturing Intel Chips
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Doubling down on manufacturing is one of the major moves Gelsinger has made since taking the helm. He also recently announced Intel Foundry Services, a business that opens up Intel's fabs to make chips designed by Amazon, Qualcomm and other customers. For decades, the markets have rewarded giants like Apple and Qualcomm for being fabless. But the chip shortage has made manufacturing chips a more attractive business, allowing TSMC, for example, to raise chip prices as much as 20%.
Samsung Foundry on Wednesday said that it had started production of chips using its 7LPP manufacturing technology that uses extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUVL) for select layers. The new fabrication process will enable Samsung to significantly increase transistor density of chips while optimizing their power consumption. Furthermore, usage of EUVL allows Samsung to reduce the number of masks it requires for each chip and shrink its production cycle.
Samsung produces its 7LPP EUV chips at its Fab S3 in Hwaseong, South Korea. The company can process 1500 wafers a day on each of its ASML Twinscan NXE:3400B EUVL step and scan systems with a 280 W light source. Samsung does not say whether it uses pellicles that protect photomasks from degradation, but only indicates that usage of EUV enables it to cut the number of masks it requires for a chip by 20%. In addition, the company says that it had developed a proprietary EUV mask inspection tool to perform early defect detection and eliminate flaws early in the manufacturing cycle (which will likely have a positive effect on yields).
Intel's chip manufacturing technology has been outpaced by rivals like TSMC and Samsung in recent years, but the company is looking to put its troubles behind it. The first step forward will be the Intel 4 manufacturing process, which Intel has shared more details about at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' annual VLSI Technology Symposium (as reported by AnandTech and Tom's Hardware). The new manufacturing tech is on track to be used in consumer chips starting in 2023, starting with Intel's "Meteor Lake" CPU architecture. Meteor Lake will likely come to market as Intel's 14th-generation Core CPU sometime next year.
The company said today that its contract chipmaking business will begin manufacturing two-nanometer chips by 2025, with the 1.4-nanometer process set to kick off two years later. Samsung began producing three-nanometer chips in June, becoming the first in the industry to do so.
Gelsinger has referred to this strategy as IDM 2.0, which he believes is key for his company making a comeback after falling behind TSMC and Samsung in leading-edge manufacturing technologies. At the same time, Intel plans to increase its reliance on other foundries to manufacture certain chips, with the goal of delivering the best products possible.
Gorss declined to say when Intel will begin manufacturing chips for MediaTek, though he did say Intel will be ready to tape out Intel 16 chips for foundry customers this year while the initial ramp in volume production for the node will happen in early 2023.
One tantalizing thought is the fact that MediaTek has been a long-time user of the Arm instruction set architecture. This means that Intel, x86's biggest champion, could potentially be manufacturing Arm chips for MediaTek.
It wouldn't be a surprise, given that Intel has vowed to open its factories for chips based on not just x86 but also the Arm and RISC-V ISAs. But the new direction in neutrality, combined with its revitalized foundry push, is nevertheless a sign of how Intel, after suffering from years of manufacturing setbacks, is letting go of past notions with the hope that it can make the company bigger and better than ever before. ®
Historically, manufacturing with larger wafers helps increase the ability to produce semiconductors at a lower cost. The total silicon surface area of a 450mm wafer and the number of printed die (individual computer chips, for example) is more than twice that of a 300mm wafer. The bigger wafers help lower the production cost per chip. Additionally, through more efficient use of energy, water and other resources, bigger wafers can help diminish overall use of resources per chip. For example, the conversion from 200mm wafers to 300mm wafers helped reduce aggregate emissions per chip of air pollution, global warming gasses and water, and further reduction is expected with a transition to 450mm wafers.
About Samsung ElectronicsSamsung Electronics Co., Ltd. is a global leader in semiconductor, telecommunication, digital media and digital convergence technologies with 2007 consolidated sales of US$103.4 billion. Employing approximately 150,000 people in 134 offices in 62 countries, the company consists of five main business units: Digital Media Business, LCD Business, Semiconductor Business, Telecommunication Business and Digital Appliance Business. Recognized as one of the fastest growing global brands, Samsung Electronics is a leading producer of digital TVs, memory chips, mobile phones and TFT-LCDs. For more information, please visit www.samsung.com.
The risk of Chinese aggression against Taiwan could possibly cut off the flow of high-end computer chips that are needed in the U.S. for military gear as well as consumer goods. Similarly, the hermetic North Korea has been test-firing ballistic missiles amid a coronavirus outbreak, a possible risk to South Korea's manufacturing sector should the brinksmanship escalate.
According to Samsung, its 14nm LPE process technology allows to boost performance of 20nm chips by 20 per cent at the same power or cut power consumption by 35 per cent without decreasing their performance or complexity. The process relies on back-end-of-line (BEOL) interconnects of 20nm manufacturing technology and does not significantly reduce costs of chips compared to the previous-generation node.
TSMC and Qualcomm have been partners ever since the first production of 65nm SoCs back in 2006 and it seems that this time around, the Taiwanese tech giant will beat Samsung by a few months for the 7nm FinFET manufacturing process. Foundries will begin working towards the end of this year and there's a reason to believe that TSMC will also produce the 5G modem chips for the US firm. These rumors coincide with a report that came earlier this month about TSMC ramping up 7nm production to meet the massive demand from various fabless partners.
Samsung has announced plans to build a $17 billion chip plant in Taylor, Texas. The news comes on the heels of a government push to jump-start more U.S. semiconductor manufacturing and Senate approval of $52 billion in industry subsidies for new processor factories. The South Korea-based electronics giant already operates a chip fabrication plant in Austin, Texas, opened in 1997 and expanded in 2007. The Taylor facility will create new sourcing for chips, which have become precious amidst a global shortage, although the new factory is not expected to become operational until 2024. 2b1af7f3a8