Samsung is planning to wrap up quality evaluation for its 3-nanometer (nm) gate-all-around (GAA) process within the first half of 2022.
However, despite these efforts by the Korean tech giant to move on to this next advanced semiconductor process node, the company was falling behind in building an intellectual property (IP) library around 3nm GAA, sources said.
Samsung Foundry, the contract chip-making business unit of Samsung, was currently working on quality testing with its customers for product design and mass production, the sources said.
The business unit’s aim is to beat rival TSMC to get the “world’s first” title in 3nm and GAA, the sources said. The Taiwanese chip giant is aiming to launch its own 3nm during the second half of 2022.
However, it remains to be seen whether Samsung can meet the performance and yield in 3nm required by its customers.
Samsung’s perceived lack of 3nm IP library is troubling as foundry companies need to secure a large number of IPs to win orders from fabless chip companies.
This is because fabless companies want to shorten the time of the development process, which can be achieved if the foundry has many pre-existing IPs.
Samsung’s lack of 3nm IP library stems from its lack of customers compared to its competitor, the sources said.
It has Apple, Qualcomm and Samsung System LSI as customers, but Samsung Foundry needs to secure IPs outside of sectors relevant to these customers to stay competitive, the sources said.
TSMC on the other hand had been very active in building an IP ecosystem with fabless chip and finished product companies, they added, and already has a substantial amount of IPs that are registered to optimize its foundry process for various customers.
According to Yuanta Securities Korea, as of 2020, TSMC had secured around 35,000 to 37,000 IPs, more than ten times the amount it had ten years ago. By comparison, Samsung Foundry likely has around 7,000 to 10,000 IPs, the analyst firm said.