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Samsung details 14nm FinFET strategy

Posted: 20 Apr 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Samsung? FinFET? 14nm? TSMC? Intel?

Right after the Samsung Galaxy S6 was confirmed to contain an Exynos processor made in Samsung's 14nm FinFET process, a Samsung executive talked about the company's road to 14nm. The Korean company made significant headway when it shipped its first 14nm FinFET chip, beating TSMC to become the second chipmaker after Intel to pave the road for 14nm technology.

"I think competition is healthy, it pushes everyone to achieve their limits, either from a technology angle, execution, or the ability to deliver service levels," said Kelvin Low, senior director of foundry marketing for Samsung Semiconductor.

Low would not comment on production volumes, yields, or the number of devices using Samsung's 14nm process. Instead, he outlined the applications using 14nm and described the foundry's FinFET strategy.

Kelvin Low

There are multiple designs already and some have taped out, Low said. End application segments include "single hand-held mobile computing," consumer applications, graphics and compute/networking. "Because the technology has developed so much, the chip can fit into a lot of applications," he noted.

The common thread between these segments is the need for long battery life and energy efficiency. FinFETs promise lower leakage and lower power, which is important in handsets such as the Galaxy S6 and for data centres that want to increase their GHz/W performance.

Samsung's 14nm chips are in production in Korea and Austin, Texas, though Low would not comment where certain chips are made. EE Times recently published a blog that questioned where the company's Exynos 7420 chips were made, a Global Foundries fab in Albany, NY, was among the possible locations.

"I don't think it really matters externally, I think it matters that this technology is in production. I think where it's produced is kind of secondary," Low said.

Samsung spent several years developing its 14nm technology and debating which process node it would invest in after 28nm. Low expects that 28nm will still be a popular process node for years to come because of its price.

"[Going to 14nm] wasn't an easy decision...the decision was made probably three years back and it wasn't clear whether 20nm or FinFET would be right decision," he said. "What we could offer at 20nm was limited by semiconductor physics. 20nm was probably the last node that planar architecture can still be realised; even though [customers] could accept it, it wasn't ideal."

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