Samsung Electronics is one year ahead of TSMC and two to three years ahead of Intel in gate-all-around (GAA) technology, a next-generation non-memory semiconductor manufacturing technology that is regarded as a game changer in the foundry industry, foundry consulting firm IBS announced on May 15.
Samsung has been assessed to be already ahead of TSMC, the world’s largest foundry company, in the FinFET process, which is currently the mainstream non-memory semiconductor manufacturing process.
This means Samsung is ahead of its rivals in both current and next-generation foundry technology.
Samsung announced in the Samsung Foundry Forum 2019, which was held in Santa Clara of the United States on May 14 (local time), that it would complete GAA process development next year and start volume production based on the process in 2021.
The GAA process is expected to change the landscape of the foundry industry. Currently, competition in the foundry industry is based on miniaturization of semiconductors. Yet there is a limit in making semiconductors smaller. Hence, the GAA technology changes the structure of semiconductors to make them more powerful. All chipmakers are now bent on securing this technology.
"Since the start of the 10-nanometer chip era, the FinFET process has been the mainstream technology in the foundry industry. But the FinFET process has its limit in miniaturizing semiconductors. GAA is intended to overcome this limits of the FinFET process,” said an industry insider. “GAA technology can become a secret weapon of Samsung Electronics, which aims to claim the first spot in the non-memory sector in 2030.”
"Samsung has already overtaken TSMC from the 7-nm product era and completed the development of a 5-nm FinFET process," another analyst said. "As Samsung is ahead of the competition in GAA technology, it will be able to take the lead in future competition, although it is currently behind TSMC in market share.”
Last year, Samsung Electronics announced that it would apply GAA technology to its 3-nm process. While accelerating technology development, the company is also active in publicizing its new technology. Samsung Electronics is making good use of the Samsung Foundry Forum 2019, which kicked off at Santa Clara Marriott Hotel, to promote its technological advancement. In this forum, Samsung distributed a 3-nm GAA process design kit to fabless customers such as Qualcomm and Apple.
The process design kit is a data file that helps fabless companies design chips optimized to foundry companies’ manufacturing processes. This allows fabless companies to easily design their products and realize a shorter time-to-market. In particular, Samsung's GAA process can reduce chip sizes and power consumption by 45 percent and 50 percent, respectively, compared with a 7-nm FinFET process.
Meanwhile, Samsung's Foundry Forum will also be held in China in June, in Korea in July, in Japan in September, and in Europe, the Middle East and Africa in October.