Samsung Foundry’s Business Strategy

A look at manufacturing changes and advanced technology updates.

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Wow! 2016 is off to a fast start. While visiting headquarters in Korea recently, I sat down with four members of Samsung Foundry’s global leadership team to discuss several key initiatives this year. Below are key excerpts from those conversations.

Samsung Foundry’s Business Strategy
Q: Can you expand on some of the macro business trends affecting the fabless/foundry industry?

Jong Shik Yoon, Executive Vice President, Samsung Foundry Business: We are seeing silicon technologies becoming more pervasive and affecting our lifestyle in many ways. New use cases and user experiences are emerging—for example, self-driving cars, IoT end devices, and associated data centers and servers to manage the data generated by these billions of devices. Here, the critical enablers for our market are the fabless, EDA and foundry communities. In the leading edge technology space, the number of foundry players is decreasing dramatically. We used to see more than 20 companies with fabs back in 130nm days, and now at the 16/14nm node we are left only with 4 major players. With the continuous escalation of both process development as well as fab investment costs, this trend of reduced players is expected to continue as we migrate down past 14nm. Samsung Foundry is well-positioned to be one of the remaining foundry players with our huge capacity and capex plus our deep technology innovation pipeline.

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Q: Taking a closer look at Samsung’s foundry business specifically, what can we expect in 2016?

Yoon: 2016 will be a very exciting year for us on all fronts. We have made excellent progress in our production ramp activities and expect to be in mass production by end this year. 14nm ramp continues with additional design wins both for existing customers as well as for new customers in various market segments. We are also actively expanding our collaboration with our foundry design ecosystem partners in the areas of EDA, IP, design services and ASIC services. Summing all of these activities — we definitely have lots to do this year, and I’m looking forward to more progress in our foundry business.

Manufacturing Excellence and Process Roadmap Updates
Q: How does Samsung ensure that it can meet customer expectations on manufacturing excellence?

Ben Suh, Senior Vice President, Foundry Marketing: An important aspect for this is the technology definition philosophy that we have embedded in our teams. We emphasize manufacturability early on in the leading-edge node definition, where both lower complexity and costs are key parameters that we optimized. Our customers demand that we meet their most stringent time-to-market requirements, as well as having sufficient capacity to handle their production needs. Our multi-site fab locations (in Korea and the United States) are designed for concurrent ramp. Our fab operation teams are also tuned with a yield excellence mindset. As a result, we have shipped more than 500,000 wafers for our 14nm finFET since its introduction, with an excellent defect density of sub-0.2 defect/cm2 (Poisson).

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Q: What specific updates has Samsung Foundry made to its current process technology roadmap?

Suh: We announced key updates to our process technology roadmap in 2016:

  • 28nm: Addition of RF and eNVM technology to our 28FDS baseline. RF will be available this year and eNVM will be rolled out in phases in 2017 and 2018.
  • 14nm: Third-generation 14LPC offering, which provides a lower cost option, without design rule changes or performance sacrifice. To enable connectivity features, we are also introducing an RF add-on to 14LPC this year. We also have expanded solutions on our 14nm finFET to cover product applications in the networking/server and automotive segments.
  • 10nm: Second-generation 10nm with higher performance over 10LPE will be introduced. We call this 10LPP. 10LPP will come with 10% speed boost, maintaining design results with 10LPE.
  • 7nm: We already have begun work on our cost optimized 7LPP node, which comes with very competitive PPA scaling.
  • 8” mature node: Keeping in mind there are still ample new designs and applications that can take advantage of 8-inch technology, we are opening up our differentiated 8-inch technologies ranging from 180nm to 65nm, covering eflash, power devices, image sensors and high-voltage processes.

Q: Will EUV be ready at 7nm?

Suh: We are reviewing the possibility of EUV adoption very carefully and readiness for mass production will be determined accordingly.

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Design Ecosystem and Advanced Packaging Solutions
Q: Manufacturing next-generation SoCs on behalf of our customers doesn’t happen without a strong partner ecosystem. Where are the new advances in design enablement and/or IP at 10 and 14nm?

Jaehong Park, Senior Vice President, Foundry Design Services: This is very true. Understanding the need to have the design building blocks ready for designers, we have put together a suite of foundation, basic and complex IPs around our 14nm and 10nm node offering. Here, we look at the IP solutions tuned by each market applications by working closely with various ecosystem partners. For example, we have a 28G high speed SerDes IP available for the networking/server customers. For mobile/consumer customers, we have prepared many interface IPs like USB, HDMI, LPDDR4, and more. Additionally, as part of our commitment to serve our Foundry customers, we are making our internal Samsung-designed IPs available. Many of these IPs have been validated at the product level, hence removing risks prior to the next design adoption.

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Q: Innovative chip packaging solutions offers a way for designers to pack more into their newest SoC chip designs. Can you give some insight into Samsung Foundry’s efforts in this regard?

SaYoon Kang, Senior Vice President, Package Development Team: Samsung has been in the advanced packaging field for over 30 years. We have been leading in areas like PoP (package on package) and TSV (through-silicon via) technologies. We are making our advanced packaging solutions available to our foundry customers. This encompasses package design planning and simulations, solution guidelines to necessary tests and optimizations. On our packaging roadmap, we are offering the following solutions:

  • High density: Latest offering includes 2.5D interposer and future cost down options.
  • Thin and small form factor: Cost-sensitive options suitable for mobile and wearable products

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As we move through the year, I’ll keep you updated on key milestones that will substantiate the key points made here.