At the start of 2020, it was reported that Samsung had succeeded in building its first 3nm prototypes (opens in new tab) with mass production scheduled to start in 2021. Now, it seems like Samsung is being forced to delay manufacturing launch of the new process node to 2022, according to a report from DigiTimes (opens in new tab) today.
The delays are said to be due to the coronavirus (opens in new tab), which has hampered Samsung's ability to fulfill the scheduled installation of equipment for the new production lines.
Samsung has the goal of becoming the world's top silicon manufacturer by 2030, and wants to beat TSMC in the race to 3nm. Given that Taiwan has been handling the outbreak quite well, this race might just have gotten a little more exciting. TSMC's 3nm volume production (opens in new tab) is still scheduled to commence in 2022 as well.
The work Samsung is doing in the 3nm space is based on GAAFET technology (opens in new tab) rather than FinFET. The new design involves gates all around the channel, leading to reduced power leakage and, thus, better control over the channel. This design change is what enabled Samsung to succeed this early with its 3nm prototypes, possibly making it the first silicon manufacturer to hit this tiny process node if TSMC doesn't beat the vendor to it.
Of course, a delay into 2022 could potentially just mean a delay of a few months or so, if they were intending to start production near the end of the year.