Who needs 10-nanometer chips when you can go all the way down to 7nm? Samsung announced that it has begun the production of its 7nm Low Power Plus (LPP) process, which is the industry’s first process to use extreme ultraviolet lithography.
First EUV-Based Process
Samsung said that it has completed all process technology development and has started wafer production of the EUV-based 7LPP process in the company’s S3 Fab in Hwaseong, Korea. It noted that the process can be used by its customers to build next-generation 5G, artificial intelligence, datacenter, IoT, automotive, and networking chips.
Unlike the rest of the industry, which for now will be stuck with conventional argon fluoride (ArF) immersion technologies that use 193nm wavelengths and require expensive multi-patterning mask sets, Samsung’s EUV-based 7PP process uses a 13.5nm wavelength to expose silicon. Intel may actually be one of the last companies to adopt EUV lithography in its processes, as the company is expected to adopt the technology only after 2021.
Samsung has been researching EUV lithography since early 2000’s. The fact that it’s taken almost two decades to become practical is why many were skeptical that it would ever become reality.
Benefits of the 7nm EUV Process
According to Samsung, the EUV lithography enables the use of a single mask whereas ArF may need up to four masks. On average, Samsung’s 7LPP process should reduce the total number of masks by 20 percent compared to non-EUV processes. This will save Samsung’s customers both money and time.
Beyond lower complexity and better yields, Samsung also promises that its 7nm EUV process will deliver a 40 percent increase in area efficiency with 20 percent higher performance or up to 50 percent lower power consumption compared to its 10nm FinFET process. This seems like a significant improvement in an era when Moore’s Law is already considered dead (or dying).
Peter Jenkins, vice president of corporate marketing at ASML, the largest supplier in the world of photolithography systems for the semiconductor industry, said:
"Commercialization of EUV technology is a revolution for the semiconductor industry and will have a huge impact on our everyday lives. It is our great pleasure to collaborate with Samsung and other leading chip makers on this fundamental shift in semiconductor process manufacturing.”
Samsung said its ecosystems partner (such as Ansys, Arm, Cadence, Mentor, SEMCO, Synopsys and VeriSilicon) will provide Foundation and Advanced IP, Advanced Packaging, and Services to fully enable the company’s customers to develop their products on this new platform.