Samsung Electronics of Korea and TSMC of Taiwan are waging a fierce war over a 3-nanometer (nm) foundry process. Both companies are planning to begin volume production of 3-nm products in 2022.
TSMC, the world's No. 1 foundry company, is expected to unveil its 3-nm process technology on April 29 at a technology symposium in North America. TSMC has previously announced its goal to mass-produce 3-nm semiconductors by 2022, but did not disclose a specific technology roadmap. TSMC is expected to begin the construction of a 3-nm plant in Taiwan this year.
In response, Samsung Electronics officially announced earlier this month that it has succeeded in developing the industry’s first 3-nm process technology. Lee Jae-yong, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, was briefed on the technology breakthrough during his visit to the Semiconductor Research Center at Hwaseong Plant on Jan. 2.
Industry experts believe that Samsung Electronics is slightly ahead of TSMC in 3-nm process development. “We have already made a 3-nm semiconductor sample and verified that it worked nicely,” a Samsung Electronics official said. “We also provided development tools to semiconductor design companies.”
“A chipmaker that starts volume production of 3-nm products first is more likely to win orders for the latest chips from semiconductor design companies,” said Kang Sang-ku, a researcher at the KDB Future Strategic Research Institute
The narrower semiconductor circuit lines are, the less power semiconductors consume and the better they perform. Compared to 5-nm products, 3-nm semiconductors can reduce chip sizes and power consumption by 35 percent and 50 percent, respectively, and increase performance by 30 percent.
Samsung Electronics and TSMC will also stage a fierce battle this year to become the first to start volume production of 5-nm chips. Samsung Electronics has completed the development of a 5-nm process and is planning to begin volume production of 5-nm products from this year. TSMC is also aiming to start mass production of 5-nm products this year.
In the fourth quarter of 2019, TSMC recorded a 52.7 percent share of the global foundry market, while Samsung Electronics accounted for 17.8 percent. Samsung Electronics has set the goal of becoming the No. 1 system semiconductor maker by 2030.