TSMC plans to convert its 3-nm process R&D into a 1.4-nm process in June and thus reclaim sub-2-nm leadership from Samsung Foundry.
Here comes a new ripple in the process node wars among the mega-fab rivals TSMC and Samsung Foundry. The industry reports about TSMC converting its 3-nm process R&D into a 1.4-nm process in June is likely to spark another round of process node duel between Taiwan’s leading pure-play fab and Samsung. However, it’s still not clear how this ambitious conversion to 1.4-nm process geometry will actually work.
Figure 1 TSMC has maintained its leadership in nanometer fabrication over the years.
The two foundry players have been tied into a race to develop sub-10-nm fabrication processes during the past few years. So far, the announcement to develop the smallest node has come from Samsung, which unveiled the plan to produce chips on a 2-nm process in 2025.
The Korean mega-fab is currently busy mass-producing chips on its new 3-nm process node based on the next-generation transistor structure called gate all-around (GAA). The GAA manufacturing technology integrates a large number of MOS transistors in a much smaller chip. Samsung calls it multi-bridge channel field-effect transistors (MBCFETs).
Figure 2 Samsung entered the foundry business in 2017.
Here, it’s worth mentioning Intel, the distant third in the fab race for sub-10-nm process nodes. While Intel is currently struggling on smaller process nodes, it plans to catch up in the sub-2-nm process node realm by mass-producing 1.8-nm chips in the second half of 2024.
It’s also worth noting that while TSMC and Samsung are considered the main players in the mega-fab game because of their role in creating the sub-10-nm process nodes, TSMC stands tall in terms of actual market share. According to TrendForce, a market research firm in Taiwan, TSMC’s market share reached 52.1% in the third quarter of 2021, far ahead of 18.3% captured by Samsung.
Still, too much is at stake as the semiconductor industry migrates to smaller process nodes, and TSMC managers know that.
Majeed Ahmad, editor-in-chief of EDN and Planet Analog, has covered the electronics design industry for more than two decades.