Samsung Introduces Its 7nm EUV Technology – Up to 30% Higher Transistor Performance & 50% Lower Power
During the VLSI Symposia, Samsung talked and gave a detailed look at its 7nm EUV technology. The new lithography is said to introduce a wide range of benefits for the company’s in-house chips, which are expected to be found in the upcoming Galaxy S10, along with advantages present when it comes to the future of manufacturing chips. Samsung could be the first to use EUV technology, which is said to be beneficial in comparison to the earlier lithography tools provided by ASML or Nikon.
Samsung’s 7nm EUV Technology Will Result in Better Pattern Enabling, Resulting in Better Yields, Lowered Costs, and Earlier Application Processor Releases
EUV or extreme ultraviolet lithography is a next-generation technology that utilizes EUV wavelength, which is expected to be at 13.5nm. Currently, the lithography tools being supplied by companies like ASML and Nikon produce UV light at a wavelength of 193nm. The introduction of ASML’s EUV technology at a wavelength of 13.5nm is said to bring in a lot of benefits to the table.
For example, according to ZDNet, it will enable more accurate patterning, which Samsung states that its upcoming 7nm technology features a 27nm fin pitch and a 54nm gate pitch, resulting in the smallest FinFET transistors right now. This is will result in a 40 percent shrink in the manufacturing process when you compare it to the 10nm Snapdragon 845 and Exynos 9810. A smaller shrink in the manufacturing process is not going to be the only benefit as the use of EUV technology will also result in better pattern fidelity and less variability at these dimensions, with Samsung claiming 70 percent better pattern fidelity.
When compared against the 193nm wavelength, Samsung will be able to produce a favorable yield in a short time span while also keeping a check on costs too, so in other words, reduction of overall cycle time and the amount of money that is accompanied with this operation. Using a wavelength of 193nm, Samsung would have to go through multiple steps and exposures for fabrication purposes.
However, using EUV at a wavelength of 13.5nm, the contacts, and metal layers coming together could be achieved in a single step. According to Samsung, the total number of steps required to achieve this will be reduced by 25 percent.
What Are Samsung’s Achievements Using the 7nm Platform?
The Korean giant was able to produce 256Mb high-density SRAM test chips using the 7nm platform and achieved yields of more than 50 percent with a good operation. In addition, a 7nm application processor bearing a quad-core CPU and a six-core GPU that was fully operational was also achieved. That being said, this 7nm EUV technology is said to deliver 20-30 percent higher transistor performance and use 30-50 percent less power. These are a significant improvement over Samsung’s last 7nm EUV tests results during a technology conference that took place last year.
Unfortunately, the transition from risk production (7nm risk production to start later this year from Samsung) to full volume production can take at least 12 months, meaning that Samsung’s in-house silicon such as the Exynos 9820 might not be made on the 7nm EUV technology, even though were reported that the SoC could be manufactured on the aforementioned architecture. This potentially means that the upcoming Galaxy S10 will not feature a 7nm FinFET EUV Exynos 9820, but it could be using Samsung’s 8nm LPP technology instead, which is said to be endorsed by Qualcomm when it officially releases the Snapdragon 730.
In fact, Samsung has also said that a Qualcomm chipset on the 10nm FinFET architecture can be extended to the 8nm process too, so it is highly likely that the U.S.-based chipset manufacturer will be introducing a lot of Snapdragon platforms based on the aforementioned technology.
TSMC’s 7nm Technology Is Much Different – Here’s How
TSMC has a different approach in mind and that is all to get its 7nm technology faster with the current lithography tools that it possesses. Called the CLN7FF, this product is already in volume production and TSMC says it has more than a dozen customers and expects to tapeout more than 50 designs by the end of the year for a variety of chips including mobile application processors, server CPUs, graphics processors, FPGAs, network processors and AI accelerators.
However, TSMC will be sacrificing the shrinking capability in the hopes of getting its 7nm technology as fast as possible, and that is where Samsung will have an edge, thanks to using more advanced lithography tools. However, the drawback is that Samsung might not be able to nab as many customers as TSMC, as these clients will also be rushing to release their goods in record time.
Still, you cannot argue that Samsung’s 7nm EUV technology is sure to simplify the manufacturing process for the company’s future operations.