Oh Canada, you and your plastic semiconductors

Subject: General Tech | April 25, 2018 - 01:47 PM |
Tagged: Semiconductor, polymer, plastic, conjugated polymer

Researchers at the University of Waterloo are working on a way to mass produce conjugated polymers, which conduct electricity and can be coaxed into being a semiconductor.  The process sounds quite simple from The Inquirer's description, the polymers are created by dehydrating plastics which results in the poly(hetero)arenes currently used in products such as solar cells and LED displays.  As the byproduct of this process is water, any device created using this technique would have a significantly lower environmental impact than traditional techniques though it is unclear what plastics could be dehydrated.  There is a bit of the history of this process along with links to this specific research right here.

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"Professor Derek Schipper and his team said it could soon be possible to mass produce semiconductors made from conjugated polymer, which is a type of plastic that can conduct electricity in a similar way to metals."

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Source: The Inquirer

Samsung Completes Development of 7nm Process Technology

Subject: General Tech | April 5, 2018 - 04:06 PM |
Tagged: snapdragon 855, Semiconductor, Samsung, qualcomm, process tech, lithography, euv, 7nm, 5nm

According to an article on sedaily.com (translated) Samsung is almost six months ahead of schedule with its 7nm EUV process technology and has managed to complete the development phase as well as secure its first customer in Qualcomm. Samsung is pushing hard and fast with its process technology as it competes with TSMC and other semiconductor foundries and has invested $6 billion in a dedicated EUV line at its foundry in Hwaseong, Korea that is slated for completion in the second half of next year with production ramp-up in 2020.

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Reportedly, Samsung's first 7nm product will be a 7nm LPP (low power plus) node achieved using Extreme Ultraviolet Lithography or EUV. Samsung has set up production conditions and finalized the development of the 7nm EUV process on its Hwaseong S3 line which is located near the future site of the dedicated EUV line mentioned above. The engineers and designers that developed the 7nm process and production line have reportedly shared the design database and methodologies necessary to begin sample production for customers and have moved onto to developing Samsung's 5nm process (which is still in the early stages). Getting the EUV process up and running is an impressive feat and the expertise that Samsung is gaining will be a major breakthrough in the barrier to entry of single-digit nanometer processes.

Samsung has managed to build out 10 extreme ultraviolet lithography units and is allegedly on track to produce the Snapdragon 855 for Qualcomm towards the end of this year or early next year on its new low power 7nm process node. Note that previous reports suggested TSMC would be producing the Snapdragon 855 with SDX50 5G modem so we may have to wait to see how TSMC responds in readying production this year for confirmation on who ultimately wins Qualcomm's orders. As the node number are a bit of marketing speak (they can pick the features they want to measure for the marketing to an extent heh), Samsung notes that its 7nm process can produce dies about 40% smaller than its 10nm process. Further, the smaller process can offer 10% more performance or up to 35% more power efficiency at the same level of performance which will be a huge boost to mobile processors and products! Thanks to the smaller process node, smartphone and tablet manufacturers could produce devices with similar dimensions but larger batteries or thinner devices with the same amount of portable power (I'd vote the former, smartphones are already very thin).

Samsung hopes to press on and complete the development of its 5nm process next year and once the dedicated EUV line in Hwaseong is fully up and running in 2020 the company plans to start mass producing products for its customers on 7nm, 6nm, and 5nm processes!

In all, this is very good news for Samsung and the wider market in general as it will add competition and encourage TSMC, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, and even Intel (with its semi-custom stuff) to continue advancing what is possible and developing and refining the EUV and other even more exotic process technology methods that will be necessary for the extremely complicated and difficult problems they will face in moving beyond 5nm into 3nm and smaller nodes! We are definitely getting to a point where we will within the next decade have to figure out the once-impossible or reinvent the way we process information (e.g. quantum computing) to get things to go any faster. I am very excited and interested to see where the semiconductor industy and global computing as a whole will go from here!

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Source: SE Daily

GlobalFoundries Will Allegedly Skip 10nm and Jump to Developing 7nm Process Technology In House (Updated)

Subject: Processors | August 20, 2016 - 03:06 PM |
Tagged: Semiconductor, lithography, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, global foundries, euv, 7nm, 10nm

UPDATE (August 22nd, 11:11pm ET): I reached out to GlobalFoundries over the weekend for a comment and the company had this to say:

"We would like to confirm that GF is transitioning directly from 14nm to 7nm. We consider 10nm as more a half node in scaling, due to its limited performance adder over 14nm for most applications. For most customers in most of the markets, 7nm appears to be a more favorable financial equation. It offers a much larger economic benefit, as well as performance and power advantages, that in most cases balances the design cost a customer would have to spend to move to the next node.

As you stated in your article, we will be leveraging our presence at SUNY Polytechnic in Albany, the talent and know-how gained from the acquisition of IBM Microelectronics, and the world-class R&D pipeline from the IBM Research Alliance—which last year produced the industry’s first 7nm test chip with working transistors."

An unexpected bit of news popped up today via TPU that alleges GlobalFoundries is not only developing 7nm technology (expected), but that the company will skip production of the 10nm node altogether in favor of jumping straight from the 14nm FinFET technology (which it licensed from Samsung) to 7nm manufacturing based on its own in house design process.

Reportedly, the move to 7nm would offer 60% smaller chips at three times the design cost of 14nm which is to say that this would be both an expensive and impressive endeavor. Aided by Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) lithography, GlobalFoundries expects to be able to hit 7nm production sometime in 2020 with prototyping and small usage of EUV in the year or so leading up to it. The in house process tech is likely thanks to the research being done at the APPC (Advanced Patterning and Productivity Center) in Albany New York along with the expertise of engineers and design patents and technology (e.g. ASML NXE 3300 and 3300B EUV) purchased from IBM when it acquired IBM Microelectronics. The APPC is reportedly working simultaneously on research and development of manufacturing methods (especially EUV where extremely small wavelengths of ultraviolet light (14nm and smaller) are used to etch patterns into silicon) and supporting production of chips at GlobalFoundries' "Malta" fab in New York.

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Advanced Patterning and Productivity Center in Albany, NY where Global Foundries, SUNY Poly, IBM Engineers, and other partners are forging a path to 7nm and beyond semiconductor manufacturing. Photo by Lori Van Buren for Times Union.

Intel's Custom Foundry Group will start pumping out ARM chips in early 2017 followed by Intel's own 10nm Cannon Lake processors in 2018 and Samsung will be offering up its own 10nm node as soon as next year. Meanwhile, TSMC has reportedly already tapped out 10nm wafers and will being prodction in late 2016/early 2017 and claims that it will hit 5nm by 2020. With its rivals all expecting production of 10nm chips as soon as Q1 2017, GlobalFoundries will be at a distinct disadvantage for a few years and will have only its 14nm FinFET (from Samsung) and possibly its own 14nm tech to offer until it gets the 7nm production up and running (hopefully!).

Previously, GlobalFoundries has stated that:

“GLOBALFOUNDRIES is committed to an aggressive research roadmap that continually pushes the limits of semiconductor technology. With the recent acquisition of IBM Microelectronics, GLOBALFOUNDRIES has gained direct access to IBM’s continued investment in world-class semiconductor research and has significantly enhanced its ability to develop leading-edge technologies,” said Dr. Gary Patton, CTO and Senior Vice President of R&D at GLOBALFOUNDRIES. “Together with SUNY Poly, the new center will improve our capabilities and position us to advance our process geometries at 7nm and beyond.” 

If this news turns out to be correct, this is an interesting move and it is certainly a gamble. However, I think that it is a gamble that GlobalFoundries needs to take to be competitive. I am curious how this will affect AMD though. While I had expected AMD to stick with 14nm for awhile, especially for Zen/CPUs, will this mean that AMD will have to go to TSMC for its future GPUs  or will contract limitations (if any? I think they have a minimum amount they need to order from GlobalFoundries) mean that GPUs will remain at 14nm until GlobalFoundries can offer its own 7nm? I would guess that Vega will still be 14nm, but Navi in 2018/2019? I guess we will just have to wait and see!

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Source: TechPowerUp

SEC Filing Reveals NVIDIA Now Using Samsung for Some Manufacturing

Subject: General Tech | March 21, 2015 - 12:09 AM |
Tagged: TSMC, SoC, Semiconductor, Samsung, process node, nvidia, gpu, fab

Want to liven up your weekend? Forget college basketball, we all know that few things are more exciting than SEC filings - and oh boy do we have a great read for you! (OK, this one is actually interesting!)

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Ah, legal documents...

NVIDIA has disclosed in their latest 10-K filing that none other than Samsung is manufacturing some of the company’s chips. TSMC has been the source of GPUs for both AMD and NVIDIA for some time, but this filing (the full document is available from the SEC website) has a very interesting mention of the suppliers of their silicon under the “Manufacturing” section:

"We utilize industry-leading suppliers, such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Limited and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd, to produce our semiconductor wafers."

Back in December NVIDIA commented on its lawsuit against Samsung for alleged IP theft, which only makes this partnership seem more unlikely. However even Apple (which has their own famous legal history with Samsung, of course) has relied on Samsung for some of the production of their A-series SoCs, including the current crop of A8 chips.  Business is business, and Samsung Foundry has been a reliable source of silicon for multiple manufacturers - particularly during times when TSMC has struggled to meet demand at smaller process nodes.

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Samsung's Current Semiconductor Offering

It is unclear at this point whether the wafers produced by Samsung Semiconductor are for NVIDIA’s mobile parts exclusively, or if any of the desktop GPUs were produced there rather than at TSMC. The partnership could also be attributed simply to scale, just as Apple has augmented A8 SoC supply with their rival’s fab while primarily relying on TSMC. It will be interesting to see just how pervasive the chips produced by Samsung are within the NVIDIA lineup, and what future products might be manufactured with their newest 14nm FinFET process technology.

Source: SEC