There aren't that many companies making chips to begin with these days, and you can count the number of firms on the forefront of semiconductor manufacturing on one hand. Samsung is one of those, and it seems the company intends to maintain contention for the top spot. The largest of the chaebols just announced that it has a new "11-nm" manufacturing process called 11LPP in the works. Looking further ahead, Samsung also announced that its work with EUV lithography is on track for production readiness.
For the crowd focused on the latest and greatest, the company says its 7-nm process with extreme ultraviolet (EUV) is on schedule for the second half of 2018. The company claims it's produced "close to 200,000 wafers" using EUV since 2014. As another example of its preparations for EUV insertion, Samsung says it has been able to push yields up to 80% on 256Mb SRAM modules using EUV. While SRAM is certainly a simple circuit compared to a massive microprocessor, that step could be an important one on the way to achieving production-readiness for 7-nm LPP with EUV. The company doesn't actually say whether those numbers are from the 7nm process, though—only that the chips have been fabbed using EUV.
There's not much question that EUV lithography is the way forward—every major microprocessor manufacturer is invested in the technology. Samsung has a strategic partnership of sorts with GlobalFoundries, and Samsung's estimation of when its EUV-based process will be ready falls right in line with Globalfoundries' own estimation from earlier this year. Samsung says it will have more details on the new technology on September 15, so stay tuned.
7-nm LPP with EUV may power the highest-performance chips of the future, but companies may not need the performance of that process all of the time. To that end, Samsung is also introducing a new process node called 11-nm Low Power Plus, or 11LPP. The company says 11LPP will improve the value proposition for products that don't merit a microprocessor produced using its current and bleeding-edge 10-nm technology. Specifically, Samsung says that the new process will offer "15% higher performance and 10% chip-area reduction with the same power consumption" compared to its 14LPP process. That's probably not going to bring chips manufactured on 11LPP within range of the company's 10-nm offerings (despite the numerical similarity), but it should offer a nice boost to midrange devices' performance and battery life when chips built on it actually arrive. Samsung says 11LPP will achieve production-readiness in the first half of next year.
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