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Samsung Showcases 10nm Wafer At Open House

Samsung Semiconductor Inc. (SSI) opened its doors to an open house at the Bentley Reserve in San Francisco last week to offer an overview of the subsidiary's activities past, present and future, replete with demos and cutting edge 10nm wafers.

The chip-making side of the Korean giant said it had posted revenue of $196 billion in 2014 and employs over 307,000 people.

Indeed, such is the subsidiary's growth that it's building a new 1.1 million square foot R&D and sales headquarters in San Jose, CA, with the architectural design looking rather chip-like in and of itself.

The R&D expansion in Silicon Valley, which includes labs dedicated to memory, display, semiconductor, advanced image research and modems, will help keep SSI closer to its customers, said the firm.

SSI told press it was committed to developing "innovative open system architectures" and pushing performance on all of its memory products in SSDs, IoT devices and data centers, while simultaneously undertaking advanced research into materials and device technologies for ever more advanced wafer processes. On the display side, the firm is working on next-generation LCD and OLED displays, while on the imaging side, SSI is still grinding away at building out advanced CMOS sensors and machine learning-based algorithms for visual recognition.

Bob Brennan, senior vice president of memory solutions at SSI, noted that his team was actively looking two to five years ahead and putting big bets on tiered memory, while Mike Williams, vice president of memory product planning at the company, said his team was focused on the transitions from LP3 to LP4 technology happening in this year's flagship phones and the transition of LP2 to LP3 for mainstream phones. Williams also cited the ever increasing importance of Universal Flash (UFS) as a game changer in mobile storage. Both DRAM and NAND would continue to scale for a "long time," said the company executives.

On the foundry side of the equation, SSI seemed especially bullish and even showcased a 10nm wafer, while offering demos of products already on the market boasting the current 14nm SoCs. Hong Hao, SSI's SVP of Foundry, said the company was already in mass production on its 14nm chips, with the Galaxy 6 phone already sporting 14nm silicon. Two of Samsung's own fabs are already in full production, with SSI partner GlobalFoundries also helping to take on some of the load.

SSI said its 14nm SoCs had "clear differentiation" from other firms' offerings, noting a marked increase in power efficiency and accelerated performance levels. Hao also cited vastly improved Power/Performance/Area (PPA) capabilities and time to market advantages, calling each "a game changer."

The next generation 10nm would also have a "very significant impact on the foundry industry" and would be the firm's third generation of FinFET transistors, said Hao.

Meanwhile, Brent Kirby, SSI's director of System LSI, talked up his division's product as "one of the best image sensors on the market today." And Curtis Sasaki, VP of Ecosystem Development, proudly showed off the ARTIK developer platform, which he said would likely have impact on many things including the drone and autonomous driving space.

"This is not vaporware," he emphasized. "We already have developers hacking away at it."

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