Samsung announces aggressive 7-nm EUV foundry expansion plans

Samsung announced today that it's going to be pouring $6 billion into a new semiconductor fabrication facility in Hwaseong, South Korea. The new facility is going to focus on extreme-ultraviolet (EUV) lithography for "single-digit nanometer" process technologies like Samsung's upcoming 7-nm LPP process.

Samsung's Hwaseong facility

The Korean company says the Hwaseong facility will be "the center of [its] semiconductor cluster," and that the new factory will "play a pivotal role" in Samsung's fabrication business in the future. Certainly, the foundry will offer a massive boost to production capacity if nothing else. That'll be handy in light of the announcement that Samsung made yesterday: Qualcomm will be having the company fabricate its next-generation Snapdragon 5G products on the aforementioned 7-nm LPP process.

That's no surprise, as Samsung's been making Qualcomm's chips for a decade now. It'll be interesting to see what Qualcomm comes up with on the new process, though. Samsung claims its 7-nm LPP process will offer a 40% increase in areal density compared to chips fabricated on its 10-nm process. Customers can further tune their designs for a 35% reduction in power consumption or a 10% performance increase at the same power level. Taken at face value, numbers like that would mean a big boost to Qualcomm's SoCs (depending on what parameters the company chooses to optimize for).

Samsung says it expects the Hwaseong facility to be completed in the latter half of 2019, and to start production in 2020. Of course, we might see 7-nm EUV chips before then—Samsung announced last September that it expects to have 7-nm products on the market in the second half of this year. Notably, GlobalFoundries beat Samsung to the punch with its own 7-nm node announcement, although GloFo's 7-nm process will begin as an extension of its 193-nm immersion lithography know-how rather than using EUV insertion from the get-go. Samsung may achieve EUV insertion first. Either way, this news heralds exciting times for the semiconductor industry.

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