Intel, Samsung, and Taiwan Semiconductor moving to 10 nanometer process in 2016

Samsung announced its next-generation process technology, a 10nm FinFET node, at a company event. The process node will be in full production by the end of 2016, about the same time as its rival TSMC. The Samsung 10nm process offers “significant power, area, and performance advantages” and targets a broad range of markets, said foundry senior vice president Hong Hao.

In April, it was confirmed the Samsung Galaxy S6 uses an Exynos processor made in Samsung’s 14nm FinFET process. Samsung beat rival TSMC to become the second chip maker after Intel to ship a 14nm FinFET chip.

Apple will play a large role in determining the 10nm leader because of its massive wafer volumes, Jones said. The company orders 40,000 wafers per month, which would significantly help fill a fab but also require $8 billion in capital expenditures from a chip maker.

Samsung is expected to make Apple’s iPhone 7 SoC in its 14nm process, in large part because it beat TSMC to market by several months. Jones said Samsung has a high probability of getting Apple’s 2016 and 2017 business in 10nm, which will be followed by business from second-largest volume purchaser Qualcomm.

In April, TSMC, the world’s largest foundry, said it will ramp its 16nm FinFET process this fall and start qualifying 10nm chips by the end of the year. It expects to have the leading market share in the 14/16nm node sometime next year and to ramp 10nm production by the end of 2016.

The higher cost of 14nm (International Business Strategies expects the cost per gate for 10nm to be $0.24 less than that of 14nm processes) could cause 16nm/14nm to “be a relatively short technology node, but we think 10 will be relatively long.”

The first chips based on Intel’s new 10nm process are expected in late 2016 to early 2017.

The 7 nanometer chips will use III-V semiconductors.

Extreme UV (EUV) lithography will not be used by Intel for the 10 nanometer chips and will not be used for the 7 nanometer chips.

Intel indicates that 10 nm chips will come with innovation, and getting down to 7 nm will require new materials and processes which Intel wants to promote as a progressive integration between process development and the product design teams. New materials and device structures are key elements on that list, and while III-V materials were discussed in the ISSCC preview, no exact details were given.

SOURCES – ISSCC, Anandtech, Intel, EEtimes