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Samsung Scales 10nm FinFET Mountain, Products To Ship In 2017

Samsung announced that it is the first company in mass production of a system on a chip (SoC) built on a 10nm FinFET process. Samsung's 10nm process will have at least two iterations, with the 10LPE process serving as the lead vehicle.

The move to 10nm FinFET marks a more conventional approach to scaling, whereas GlobalFoundries is skipping 10nm in favor of the 7nm process. AMD is beholden to the GlobalFoundries roadmap, so it will obviously skip 10nm, but Intel plans to plow forward with its 10nm tri-gate in 2017. TSMC also has its own unique 10nm process that it plans to ramp later this year. Samsung has the distinction of being the first company in mass 10nm FinFET production, and it already has an aggressive plan to ramp to a more refined 10nm process.

Samsung indicated that the 10nm FinFET 10LPE process offers a "30% increase in area efficiency with 27% higher performance or 40% lower power consumption (emphasis added)." The word "or" is important, as it might indicate that you cannot have higher performance and lower power consumption at the same time. The company employs triple-patterning to allow bi-directional routing, which allows it to retain design and routing flexibility from prior nodes. The company also plans to build a healthy 10nm ecosystem that includes reference flow verification, IPs, and libraries. The company expects the leading edge 10LPE products to land in digital devices early next year, and (of course) availability will become more widespread as the year progresses.

“The industry’s first mass production of 10nm FinFET technology demonstrates our leadership in advanced process technology,” said Jong Shik Yoon, Executive Vice President, Head of Foundry Business at Samsung Electronics. “We will continue our efforts to innovate scaling technologies and provide differentiated total solutions to our customers.”

Not content to rest on its 10LPE laurels, the company also announced that it would produce a second-generation 10LPP process in mid-2017. The company narrowly described the newer process as providing the obligatory performance boost, but we expect more detail in the months to come.

Samsung already enjoys a considerable advantage over its rivals in 3D NAND production, largely due to its early start with the 3D architecture. Now the company has a leading position on 10nm FinFET as well, which might prove to be an advantage in the years to come. Of course, competition is pitched, and much of its success will depend on how quickly its competitors can ramp up production.

Samsung noted that production-level process design kits (PDK) and IP design kits are available now, so it's clearly off to the races with 10nm FinFET 10LPE.

Paul Alcorn

Paul Alcorn is the Deputy Managing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He writes news and reviews on CPUs, storage and enterprise hardware.