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Intel At Least 5 Years Behind TSMC and May Never Catch Up: Analyst

Intel's in-house sub-10 nanometer silicon fabrication dreams seem more distant by the day. Raymond James analyst Chris Caso, in an interview with CNBC stated that Intel's 10 nm process development could set the company back by at least 5 years behind TSMC. In its most recent financial results call, Intel revised its 10 nm outlook to reflect that the first 10 nm processors could only come out by the end of 2019. "Intel's biggest strategic problem is their delay on 10nm production - we don't expect a 10nm server chip from Intel for two years," analyst Chris Caso said in a note to clients Tuesday. "10nm delays create a window for competitors, and the window may never again close."

By that time, Intel will have missed several competitive milestones behind TSMC, which is in final stages of quantitatively rolling out its 7 nm process. Caso predicts that by the time Intel goes sub-10 nm (7 nm or something in that nanoscopic ballpark), TSMC and Samsung could each be readying their 5 nm or 3 nm process roll-outs. A Rosenblatt Securities report that came out late-August was even more gloomy about the situation at Intel foundry. It predicted that foundry delays could set the company back "5, 6, or even 7" years behind rivals. Intel is already beginning offload some of its 14 nm manufacturing to TSMC. Meanwhile, AMD is reportedly planning to entirely rely on TSMC to make its future generations of "Zen" processors.

Samsung Announces Comprehensive Process Roadmap Down to 4 nm

Samsung stands as a technology giant in the industry, with tendrils stretching out towards almost every conceivable area of consumer, prosumer, and professional markets. It is also one of the companies which can actually bring up the fight to Intel when it comes to semiconductor manufacturing, with some analysts predicting the South Korean will dethrone Intel as the top chipmaker in Q2 of this year. Samsung scales from hyper-scale data centers to the internet-of-things, and is set to lead the industry with 8nm, 7nm, 6nm, 5nm, 4nm and 18nm FD-SOI in its newest process technology roadmap. The new Samsung roadmap shows how committed the company is (and the industry with it) towards enabling the highest performance possible from the depleting potential of the silicon medium. The 4 nm "post FinFET" structure process is set to be in risk production by 2020.

This announcement also marks Samsung's reiteration on the usage of EUV (Extreme Ultra Violet) tech towards wafer manufacturing, a technology that has long been hailed as the savior of denser processes, but has been ultimately pushed out of market adoption due to its complexity. Kelvin Low, senior director of foundry marketing at Samsung, said that the "magic number" for productivity (as in, with a sustainable investment/return ratio) with EUV is 1,500 wafers per day. Samsung has already exceeded 1,000 wafers per day and has a high degree of confidence that 1,500 wafers per day is achievable.
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