Samsung Electronics is going to introduce its 10-nanometer process at a faster pace than Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), its biggest competitor in the semiconductor foundry market. Recently, the company purchased a costly semiconductor electronic design automation (EDA) tool that is optimized to improve the yield rate of the 10-nm process, pushing to begin mass production early.
According to industry sources on Dec. 3, Samsung Electronics is planning to introduce the 10-nm semiconductor EDA program from Synopsys Inc., one of the world’s largest EDA producers. This product, called the “IC Compiler 2,” was first tested by Samsung Electronics and recently passed Samsung’s qualification test. Synopsys said that the product can make process development 10 times faster.
An EDA tool is used in the overall chip production process beginning with design, which sets every area of the chip, to preprocessing, post-processing and testing. The degree of chip integration rapidly increases after the 10-nm process. Therefore, most companies face difficulties in improving the yield rate. When using the EDA in the process, it is easy to find errors systematically in each step. Accordingly, foundry companies can raise the yield rates at a rapid pace.
Samsung Electronics said that there is no change with its existing plan to mass produce 10-nm semiconductors at the end of 2016. However, the company is expected to catch up with the TSMC, which is planning to mass produce 10-nm chips in the third quarter next year, a quarter earlier than Samsung Electronics. As there is the possibility that Apple will use the 10-nm process in the A10 chip for the iPhone 7, it is also directly related to business performance.
The TSMC, which lost some customers, including Qualcomm, to Samsung Electronics in the 14 and 16-nm FinFet process, is planning to get ahead of Samsung in the 10-nm process again. If the two companies mass produce 10-nm chips in the second half of next year as planned, they will surpass Intel, the number one player in the global semiconductor market, in fine process conversion speed for the first time. Previously, Intel officially announced a plan to release its 10-nm Cannonlake in the second half of 2017.
The reason why Samsung Electronics and the TSMC is striking sparks off of each other in the foundry market is to get Apple’s next-generation chipsets. Apple is the largest customer in the market, and orders 40,000 wafers per month.