Chips in phones, cars and laptops are getting smaller and faster with Samsung Tech

Samsung has a new horse in the endless race to make computer processors smaller, faster and less power-hungry. In 2024, the Korean tech giant plans to start making processors with another version of the technology, which its main rivals have yet to offer as a first-generation approach.

The technology, called all-around gate or GAA, is an improvement to a processor’s core elements, the tiny on-off switches called transistors. Chip manufacturers change transistor designs every year, but the GAA is an overhaul.

– Advertising –

Samsung’s second-generation GAA technology will reduce transistor size by about 20 percent compared to the first generation, which the company began using in June, said Moonsoo Kang, executive vice president in charge of chip manufacturing.

Improved chip circuits are critical to supporting advances in computing, whether it’s making smartwatches that don’t need to be charged as often, speeding up graphics on gaming PCs, or creating new artificial intelligence accelerators in smartwatches and data centers. But in recent years, that development has slowed down. The costs per transistor is now rising for companies looking to take advantage of the latest chip manufacturing technology.

“We are investing heavily in GAA technology,” Kang said Monday during a press conference at the Samsung Foundry Forum event in San Jose, California. Samsung makes chips for phones, laptops, cars, cameras, data centers and other markets.

The first generation, called SF3E, proved that Samsung could mass-produce GAA technology, and the second generation, called SF3, will miniaturize it. “By doing this, we also improve performance and power,” Kang said.

GAA offers improvements that should keep the chip industry going for a few more years. “It’s an important technology and it’s been a while coming,” said Technalysis research analyst Bob O’Donnell.

The redesign was not easy. When Samsung announced GAA transistor technology in 2019it said manufacturing would begin in 2021. But Samsung has postponed the first GAA chips until 2022.

Samsung’s electronics division designs its own chips for smartphones, data centers, cars and other markets. But a separate division, Samsung Foundry, builds processors for the company and rivals like Qualcomm.

The foundry business has boomed during the COVID pandemic as computing device makers struggled to meet new demand for gadgets such as phones, tablets and PCs. One of the biggest beneficiaries has been Samsung Foundry’s biggest rival, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Samsung expects revenue from its foundry business to triple from 2019 to 2027.

The semiconductor industry, named for the silicon-based materials fundamental to turning transistors on and off, has seen a tear, but intense spending may be falling. “Global semiconductor sales growth has stagnated in recent months,” John Neuffer, executive director of the Semiconductor Industry Association, said in a statement Monday.

Samsung Foundry’s plans to improve processor production now extend to 2027.

Samsung foundry

GAA is an essential basis for processor progression, but it is not the only one. Intel, which lost the chipmaking leadership to Samsung and TSMC years ago, hopes to regain its leadership in 2024 and overtake those rivals in 2025. Intel’s first port around transistors is expected to debut in 2024 with a manufacturing process called Intel 20A.

Intel has another trick up its sleeve with 20A, however, called PowerVia. This is a technology called backside power supply, which divides the tasks of driving transistors and communicating with them on opposite sides of a chip. Today, both tasks are crammed to one side, but providing power from the back should improve chip performance.

Samsung plans to integrate rear power supply into its 2026 manufacturing process, Kang said. This will come with an improvement on second-generation GAA technology, a manufacturing process called SF2P.

Samsung Foundry also added a new “node” to its manufacturing plans on Monday, a 2027 process called SF1.4. The company hasn’t released details on what changes this will bring, but sharing long-term plans can reassure customers that Moore’s Law, while slower, will continue to evolve.

Leave a Comment