Report: Samsung plans to begin 3nm chip mass production in 2022

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Samsung's Kun-Hee Lee has passed away.

Samsung intends to commence mass-producing 3nm chips by the second half of 2022, Bloomberg reported. Park Jae-hong, the conglomerate’s executive vice president of engineering, revealed its plans during a private conference in October.

Taiwanese Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), another leading electronic component maker, also intends to mass produce 3nm products in two years.

Samsung’s Next-Generation Node Plans

Last month, Park explained one of Samsung Chairman Jay Y. Lee’s long-term goals is making his company the world’s leading contract microchip foundry. In 2019, the conglomerate planned to spend $116 billion over 10 years to execute that strategy. Beginning volume production with its 3nm node relatively soon is a key aspect of its plans.

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Samsung plots to gain an edge over its competitors using a field-effect transistor (FET) manufacturing technique called gate-all-around (GAA).

The forward-looking production process involves stacking alternating nanosheets of silicon and silicon-germanium (SiGe) in a pillar formation. Because of the materials and designs involved, GAA FET technology allows for more controlled current flows than industry-standard FinFET nodes. That means the technique could produce high-performance chips with smaller footprints and less energy consumption than older methodologies.

This year, Samsung achieved record-shattering growth because coronavirus pandemic related demand helped grow its foundry client base by 30 percent. Pushing its advanced component manufacturing capability past its rivals could enable it to expand its business even further.

Samsung could dominate the $250 billion foundry and logic circuit field if its strategy succeeds. However, the plan comes with risks that are as significant as its rewards. If the conglomerate does not secure enough orders to keep its expensive state-of-the-art facilities continually near capacity, they lose money. It also needs to ensure its GAA FET node consistently produces large yields to satisfy its customers.

A Highly Competitive Market

TSMC, currently the world’s largest chipmaker, has dedicated significant time and resources to keeping and growing its market share.

Four years ago, the firm announced it would begin fabricating 3nm FinFit chips in 2022. Last year, it started building a sprawling $19.5 billion, 3,229,173 square foot complex in its home country. Despite encountering headwinds related to COVID-19, it stated its road map is unchanged.

The corporation has also devoted significant resources to developing its 2nm node manufacturing capacity.

This August, the company disclosed it had secured a site in Hsinchu where it will establish the beyond next-generation fab. The following month, its leaders revealed they were considering building a second 2nm foundry in Taiwan if demand warranted it. Earlier this week, the firm reportedly ordered “at least” 13 extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV) machines from vendor ASML.

With that new equipment, TSMC will be able to increase its advanced semiconductor fabrication capacity substantially. However, ASML charges up to $175.75 million for its cutting-edge machines. That means the company could have already burned through $2.284 billion of its $15.1 billion 2021 capital expenditure budget.

At present, it is hard to say which manufacturing will emerge as next year’s top contract chipmaker. Questions about advanced manufacturing process yields and the coronavirus resurgence make long-term visibility all but impossible. But it is highly probable that heightened competition between the industry’s leading providers will develop some game-changing electronic components.

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