Danish Kapoor
Danish Kapoor

TSMC and Samsung have engaged in a relentless war for the best lithography (and the best marketing)

TSMC currently dominates the global semiconductor market with indisputable resoundingness. Its market share is around 54%, and its enviable client portfolio includes Apple, NVIDIA, MediaTek, AMD, Qualcomm and many other large technology companies. This Taiwanese integrated circuit manufacturer has achieved this hegemony thanks to its cutting-edge chip production technologies, but its dominance is about to be threatened.

And Intel and Samsung are determined to take away its leadership. Intel plans to start GAA semiconductor manufacturing (Gate-All-Around) of 2 nm in 2024. These transistors are set to replace FinFET devices in the next generations of cutting-edge integrated circuits. TSMC plans to start production of 2nm GAA chips in 2025, and Samsung, which is already manufacturing semiconductors with this technology, plans to introduce large-scale 2nm GAA production in 2025, and 1.4nm in 2027.

It is evident that this South Korean company is going all out. And he will do everything possible so that Intel does not get in his way. On paper, the integration technology at hand is very competitive. And Samsung assures that its GAA MBCFET technology (Multi-Bridge-Channel FET) on its second generation 3 nm node allows it to manufacture chips with 50% lower consumption than its 5 nm integrated circuits, 30% higher performance and a 35% smaller area.

Competition in 2024 and 2025 will be fiercer than ever

In mid-October, Kye Hyun Kyung, the CEO of Samsung’s semiconductor division, officially announced that his company will adopt 2nm lithography as soon as possible instead of expanding the range of its 3nm nodes. . And just a few days ago Jeong Gi-Tae, vice president of Samsung’s integrated circuit subsidiary, assured that they are going to increase the number of nanosheets (nanoplates or nanosheets) of their chips from three to four when they start semiconductor manufacturing at their 1.4nm node.

Samsung plans to mass manufacture chips with its 3GAP integration technology during the second half of 2024

However, this is not all we know. The Taiwanese consulting firm TrendForce has revealed that TSMC and Samsung intend to start large-scale manufacturing of chips in their nodes. 3nm second generation and 4 nm of the fourth generation during the remainder of 2023 and 2024. In addition, this consultancy emphasizes something important: Samsung plans to mass manufacture chips with its 3GAP integration technology during the second half of 2024. Of course, to achieve this It has to find a way to refine its technology to increase its yield per wafer and make production scaling viable.

The deadlines managed by the three largest chip manufacturers on the planet are very ambitious, and for users it is good news. At the end of the day, competition should ultimately favor us. Even so, it is important that we do not overlook that nanometers no longer faithfully reflect the length of the logic gates or other physical parameters, such as the distance between transistors. Each chip manufacturer handles them very freely, which prevents users from directly comparing the lithographs they try to “sell” us.

Cover image: TSMC

More information: TrendForce

Danish Kapoor