Based on a through-silicon via (TSV) technology, Samsung Electronics is stepping up the development of integrated chip solutions that bind memory and logic, or system semiconductor, together. The company is planning to foster chips, which integrate central processing unit (CPU), memory and communication modem, as its next new growth engine.
According to industry sources on Nov. 29, Samsung Electronics is strengthening various integrated chip solutions based on its TSC technology, whose process has been stabilized, package-on-package (PoP) and system semiconductor design technology. This is part of the project that Samsung has been pushing ahead from 2013 to develop its own application processor (AP) in earnest. The company is aiming to capture both performance and energy efficiency by directly connecting memory products, such as high performance DRAM or high bandwidth memory, and NAND flash memory, to an AP.
TSV technology is a technology that enables a vertical electrical connection of chips by making tiny holes in chips. After DDR4 DRAM chips are sliced thinner than half the thickness of paper, they are pierced to contain hundreds of fine holes and vertically connected through electrodes that pass through the holes of the chips, unlike traditional wire bonding methods.
Samsung Electronics now has reportedly secured most of the core technologies to realize single-chip solutions. Generally, TSV, PoP and fan out technologies are used to realize a semiconductor one-chip. Among them, TSV and PoP technologies are technically on the eve of completion. For PoP, the "embedded package on package" (ePoP) memory is the key example that Samsung Electronics has been mass producing for wearable devices from last year. It combines DRAM, NAND flash, and a controller into one chip that could be stacked above an AP.
Samsung’s integrated chip is more extensive than the existing Qualcomm’s chips that combine the AP and the modem. Qualcomm, which has an advantage of a communication modem technology, has been leading the global mobile chipset market with its Snapdragon series that combines an AP, modem chip and GPU into one. However, the company has never tried to integrate them with memory sectors. Intel's 3D cross point memory technology, which was unveiled this year, is also aiming to combine CPU and memory sectors but it is still limited to server and PC only.
An official from the semiconductor industry said, “Currently, there is no company that has secured all AP, memory and modem chip businesses in the mobile market. Also, Samsung is the only company that has stabilized the 3D FinFet manufacturing process, which is the core technology in single-chip solutions. Once the company stabilizes the one-chip solution that combines logic and memory, it will make the second leap forward in the memory market, which entered a slowdown.”