Samsung Foundry touts new U.S. fab, chips on 3nm in ‘22 and 2nm in ‘25

chip worker
Along with a plan to build a fab in the U.S., Samsung Foundry said it will have production of its first chip on the 3 nanometer process underway in early 2022 and on the 2 nm process in 2025. (Getty Images)

Buried inside a new Samsung Foundry slide presentation to analysts and reporters  was a quick mention of a “new fab in US” along with other chip production schedules for its 3 nm process in early 2022  and its  2 nm process in 2025.

However, the slide doesn’t list when a new U.S. fab would be built, or where or at what cost.

The lack of detail baffled some U.S.-based  reporters and when asked to clarify, Samsung officials were equally vague. There is “no decision on timing and capacity for the U.S. at the moment,” a Samsung official said in a Zoom call on Tuesday from South Korea. “We’ll be ramping up capacity this year and next.”

Anandtech reported in February that Samsung Foundry was planning an Austin, Texas, fab in late 2023 at a cost of $17 billion. 

Aside from the tantalizing mention of a U.S. fab, the company said it is still very aware of the global chip shortage and estimated another six to nine months when demand will outstrip supplies across the industry.

Asked when the chip shortage will end, Shawn Han, head of the Samsung Foundry marketing team responded, “Good question…we are wondering about the same questions…We have been talking to the market and customers and from our view it will be another six to nine months, although we are investing and other foundries are increasing capacity. We are monitoring closely to see any changes.”

The briefing was held as a preview to the fifth annual Samsung Foundry Forum kicking off Wednesday. Samsung said it is on a continuous migration to 3- and 2- nanometer chip process technology based on its Gate-All-Around (GAA) transistor structure.   

“We will increase our overall production capacity and lead the most advanced technologies while taking silicon scaling a step further and continuing technology innovation by application,” said Dr. Siyoung Choi, president and head of the foundry business at Samsung Electronics in a statement. “Amid further digitization prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, our customers and partners will discover the limitless potential of silicon implementation for delivering the right technology at the right time.”

Samsung has one of the world’s largest foundry operations globally including its S1, S3 and S4 fabs in South Korea and its S2 fab in Austin, Texas.  Samsung’s slide presentation indicated it will provide new fabs, plural, in global locations under a “proactive capacity expansion” that mentions an S5 fab in South Korea and a “new fab in U.S.” 

Samsung is expected to start producing its first 3 nm-based chip design (3GAE)  in the first half of 2022, while its second generation of 3nm (3GAP)  is expected in 2023. Also, a new addition to its roadmap calls for a 2 nm process node (2GAP) in early stages of development with mass production in 2025.

The company said its first 3nm GAA process node that uses MBCFET (Multi-Bridge-Channel Field Effect Transistor) will provide a 35% drop in area with a 30% improvement in performance or 50% lower power consumption when compared to the 5 nm process. Also, 3 nm’s logic yield is “approaching” a similar level to the 4 nm process, now in mass production.

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