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What about Samsung?

prime007

Member
I know the narrative lately has been about Intel...but what about Samsung? Their stated goal is to supersede TSMC in process technology by 2030. Samsung is investing $116 billion towards that goal, and South Korea has indicated that it will invest 1.5 trillion won ($1.34 billion USD) to assist Samsung (and SK Hynix) develop their next generation technology.

The tech media generally recognizes TSMC, Samsung and Intel as the only bleeding-edge foundries. With Intel currently slipping in process technology, it would seem like Samsung is the only viable competitor to TSMC for process technology leadership. However as Robert Maire pointed out, their previous 10nm and 7nm (yield rate is rumored to be about 30%) launches have been a disaster. Digitimes recently indicated that Samsung is struggling to improve their 5nm process yield. Moreover when Scotten Jones compared TSMC, Intel and Samsung...it seems the state of Samsung's process technology to be more or less equivalent to where Intel is now.

Samsung's decision to skip 4nm and go directly to 3nm GAAFET feels like a "bet the farm" move to me. It seems like a high risk bet for Samsung to bring a new technology into the market on-time AND with good yield. During a recent earnings call, TSMC chairman (Mark Liu) indicated that Samsung's 3nm GAAFET was only roughly equivalent to TSMC's current 5nm process node. TSMC's future (superior?) 3nm process is scheduled to be introduced around the same time as Samsung's 3nm. The only upside that I can see is that Samsung's engineers become well-versed in GAAFET that their 2nd-generation product will be superior to TSMC's future products going forward.

But what ultimately maybe more worrying for Samsung (and SK Hynix), is China's recent entry into the DRAM/NAND market. It's been speculated that China's state-sponsored/state-supported firms will cause a memory glut and result in lower profit margins and perhaps even a collapse of a current supplier. If this happens, Samsung may soon no longer be able to use their profits from their memory business to subsidize their foundry...and perhaps their only means to beat TSMC.

Those are my thoughts on Samsung....would appreciate hearing what others think regarding Samsung's future.
 

Daniel Nenni

Admin
Staff member
I liked the headline" Samsung skipping 4nm to Compete with TSMC". Shortly thereafter TSMC started talking about 4nm. Funny stuff.

Samsung skipping 4nm means that no customers signed up for it. Simple as that. Samsung is also having problems with 5nm yield so skipping 4nm is the right thing to do but let's not spin it into a good thing. It's never good when a foundry fails to deliver.

Here is Samsung's foundry problem in a nut shell: Samsung does not have the ecosystem loyalty that TSMC does and without a loyal ecosystem a foundry cannot compete with TSMC. Period. Without silicon proven EDA tools and IP customers cannot tape out with confidence. Without the trust that you can deliver wafers at a given yield and time frame you cannot compete with TSMC. That goes for Samsung, UMC, SMIC, and Intel.

The TSMC ecosystem of customers, EDA, IP, Services, and Equipment manufacturers is a force of nature and there is no stopping it. There will always be a need for a second foundry source and at the leading edge that is Samsung and Intel. But, until they can deliver on the expectations a foundry must set, Samsung and Intel has zero chances of being a first source provider, absolutely.
 

Portland

Member
The market is too big for a single company. I just read that some ereaders were cancelled because of production problems.
 

Fred Chen

Moderator
Samsung made a statement yesterday: https://www.samsungfoundry.com/foun...yOut=homepageLayout&menuIndex=0504&blogId=280

Foundry Blog

[Statment] Regarding negative news coverage on our 5/4nm process development

2020-08-03

Recent media coverages on the delay of Samsung Electronics’s 5/4nm process development are inaccurate and have no factual basis. Please find our official statement regarding the state of our 5/4nm process technologies below.
  • Samsung 5nm process node
- Samsung has already started mass production of its 5nm EUV process in Q2 2020 and plans to ramp up volume production in 2H 2020 with an expanded customer base. The yield rates of 5nm process are being improved as planned.
  • Samsung 4nm process node
- 1st generation process development is on track. Samsung is also accelerating the development of 2nd generation 4nm process technology in support of a diverse set of advanced applications while at the same time strengthening our process portfolio.

- Additionally PPA (Power, Performance, Area) improvements in this 2nd generation of 4nm process, will further expand Samsung’s leadership in advanced process technology offerings.
 

Fred Chen

Moderator
Samsung made a statement yesterday: https://www.samsungfoundry.com/foun...yOut=homepageLayout&menuIndex=0504&blogId=280

Foundry Blog

[Statment] Regarding negative news coverage on our 5/4nm process development

2020-08-03

Recent media coverages on the delay of Samsung Electronics’s 5/4nm process development are inaccurate and have no factual basis. Please find our official statement regarding the state of our 5/4nm process technologies below.
  • Samsung 5nm process node
- Samsung has already started mass production of its 5nm EUV process in Q2 2020 and plans to ramp up volume production in 2H 2020 with an expanded customer base. The yield rates of 5nm process are being improved as planned.
  • Samsung 4nm process node
- 1st generation process development is on track. Samsung is also accelerating the development of 2nd generation 4nm process technology in support of a diverse set of advanced applications while at the same time strengthening our process portfolio.

- Additionally PPA (Power, Performance, Area) improvements in this 2nd generation of 4nm process, will further expand Samsung’s leadership in advanced process technology offerings.
Basically 5nm still needs improvement (even though it has same design rules as 7nm) and 4nm, while not planned to be skipped, is also not yet here.

Samsung's layout style tends to use higher pupil fill, so it will lose more yield from stochastics.
 
Last edited:

Daniel Nenni

Admin
Staff member
Can someone please tell me the difference between "mass production" and "volume production"? And when you say "started" and "plans to ramp up" prior to those statements what does that really mean?

And I will bet if you go back and look at Samsung's previous statements on 10nm and 7nm the difference between what they said in the press to what actually what happened is not equivalent. Ergo my previous statement on being a "Trusted Foundry".


Samsung 5nm process node
- Samsung has already started mass production of its 5nm EUV process in Q2 2020 and plans to ramp up volume production in 2H 2020 with an expanded customer base. The yield rates of 5nm process are being improved as planned.


"being improved as planned" is another one of those wiggle room statements. Very little trust in wiggle room statements.

- Additionally PPA (Power, Performance, Area) improvements in this 2nd generation of 4nm process, will further expand Samsung’s leadership in advanced process technology offerings.

Lot's of wiggle room here!
 
Last edited:

Fred Chen

Moderator
Can someone please tell me the difference between "mass production" and "volume production"? And when you say "started" and "plans to ramp up" prior to those statements what does that really mean?
Almost missed that doublespeak - what does it mean, indeed!

Regarding direct to 3nm, it was reported that the covid-19 delayed some equipment so that it would have to be 2022 instead of 2021, leaving room for 4nm next year:

https://www.digitimes.com/news/a20200406VL201.html:
Samsung unlikely to move 3nm to volume production until 2022: Samsung Foundry, the foundry operations of Samsung Electronics, has set its goal of moving its advanced 3nm process technology to volume production as early as 2021. But the Korean firm will probably have to reschedule it to 2022, as the coronavirus pandemic's impacts on logistics and transportation services are causing delays to deliveries of EUV and other critical production equipment, according to industry sources.
 
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