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Samsung targets 2-nano mobile chips production in 2025

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Samsung Electronics President Choi Si-young talks at the Samsung Foundry Forum 2023 on Tuesday in Silicon Valley. [SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS]
Samsung Electronics President Choi Si-young talks at the Samsung Foundry Forum 2023 on Tuesday in Silicon Valley. [SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS]

Samsung Electronics will start manufacturing 2-nanometer mobile chips in 2025, according to a roadmap announced during a forum on Tuesday, aiming to start the same year as market leader TSMC.

The Korean chipmaker said it will begin the mass production of 2-nanometer chips for mobile applications from 2025, followed by those for high-performance computing from 2026 and automotives from 2027.

The mass production of 1.4-nanometer chips will commence in 2027 as previously announced.

TSMC said earlier this year it will mass produce 2-nanometer chips from 2025 but did not specify the timeline for each product category.

Intel forecasts its production will begin in 2024, although the performance of the chips made by the U.S. chipmaker remains to be seen due to its failure to fabricate chips based on the 7-nanometer manufacturing process.

The nanometer size refers to the distance between the transistors on a chip and the smaller the size, the more advanced and energy-efficient the chip gets.

The 2-nanometer chips are expected to have a performance upgrade of 12 percent, an energy efficiency increase of 25 percent, and an area reduction of 5 percent compared to the previous 3-nanometer ones, according to the Korean chipmaker.

“A lot of our clients are actively developing AI-optimized chips for their own services and products,” said Choi Si-young, president of Samsung Electronics’ semiconductor business, at the Samsung Foundry Forum 2023 on Tuesday in Silicon Valley.

“Samsung Electronics will continue to innovate the GAA [Gate All Around] transistor technology which is most optimized for AI chips. We are going to lead the paradigm shift in AI technology.”

The GAA technique is designed to enhance the transistor density of the chips and thus improve energy efficiency. It allows for more expanded and flexible current flows across channels at transistor gates compared to more widely used technology such as FinFET.

Samsung Electronics also unveiled a number of new strategies to attract more clients in the chip manufacturing business.

It said it will initiate the contract manufacturing of power semiconductors, based on an 8-inch gallium nitride (GaN) wafer, in 2025. GaN power semiconductors are known to enable faster switching speed with lesser energy, compared to silicon-based chips.

The world’s largest memory chipmaker also pledged to preemptively build cleanrooms at its manufacturing plants in Pyeongtaek and in Texas.

Cleanrooms prevent fine dust from entering the manufacturing facilities. Samsung said it would expand the size of its cleanroom by 7.3 times by 2027 compared to 2021.

The Pyeongtaek plant’s Line 3 will start mass production by the end of this year. Texas’ Line 1 will be constructed by the end of this year and begin operation by the end of next year.

Samsung Electronics is trailing behind TSMC in the chip contract manufacturing business, also known as foundry. TSMC continues to enlarge its market share while latecomer Intel is determined to catch up with Samsung, backed by the U.S. government.

TSMC had a 59 percent market share in the foundry segment in the first quarter of this year, according to market tracker Counterpoint Research. Samsung Electronics followed with a 13 percent share.

BY JIN EUN-SOO [jin.eunsoo@joongang.co.kr]