When sketching out the chapters for our book “Mobile UnLeashed” we sought out the events and technology that empowered the mobile devices that literally changed our world. One of the companies that enabled this change of course is Samsung. Cleverly embedded in chapter 8 “To Seoul, via Austin” is the story of how Samsung got into the foundry business. Once you read this chapter and see how Samsung Foundry got to where they are today you will be in a much better position to understand where they are going tomorrow, absolutely.
To get the most recent update on Samsung Foundry I talked to my friend Kelvin Low. Kelvin started as a process Engineer at Chartered Semiconductor in 1998 and transitioned to GlobalFoundries after the acquisition in 2009 which is where we first met. Disclaimer: I’m a Kelvin fan and was thrilled when he joined Samsung Foundry as Senior Director of Marketing but I digress…
Kelvin shared a nice slide deck that highlighted Samsung’s FinFET leadership and their next generation 14nm LPP (Low Power Plus) process. Remember, Samsung was the first foundry to FinFET with the 14nm LPE based Exynos 7420 SOC which was quickly followed by the Apple A9. LPE stands for “Low Power Early” by the way and it certainly was. 14nm LPP boasts a 14% performance increase through process/device optimization and is in mass production with high volume devices. One of those devices is the S820, Qualcomm’s latest and greatest SoC beast of a chip which is getting impressive reviews thus far. Another is of course the latest SoC from Samsung the Exynos 8890. Both chips will be used in the Samsung Galaxy S7 and benchmarks have already been published with the Exynos winning on multicore Geek Bench 3 and the S820 winning on single core. The Galaxy 7 is scheduled for launch March 11th in the US.
“We are pleased to start production of our industry-leading, 2[SUP]nd[/SUP] generation 14nm FinFET process technology that delivers the highest level of performance and power efficiency,” said Charlie Bae, Executive Vice President of Sales & Marketing, System LSI Business, Samsung Electronics. “Samsung will continue to offer derivative processes of its advanced 14nm FinFET technology to maintain our technology leadership.”
Incorporating three-dimensional (3D) FinFET structure on transistors enables significant performance boost and low power consumption. Samsung’s new 14nm LPP process delivers up to 15 percent higher speed and 15 percent less power consumption over the previous 14nm LPE process through improvements in transistor structure and process optimization. In addition, use of fully-depleted FinFET transistors brings enhanced manufacturing capabilities to overcome scaling limitations.
The big question is of course who will have majority share of the Foundry FinFET market this year and next, Samsung or TSMC?
Most of us Silicon Valley folks already know which foundry the top fabless semiconductor companies are using but I’m not going to spoil it for you. Here is a tip though, take a look at LinkedIn profiles from your favorite fabless company and see if their engineers are designing to 14nm or 16nm (14nm is Samsung and 16nm is TSMC). This is a onetime offer though because the next node is 10nm for all foundries and engineers are not allowed to put foundry names on their profiles.
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