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Samsung adds Nvidia, Qualcomm and IBM to its 3 nm customer list, despite abysmal yields

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To improve the 3 nm yields that are barely reaching 20%, Samsung started working with US-based company Silicon Frontline Technology that specializes in electrostatic discharge prevention methods. Samsung is also developing a second generation 3 nm node, but it is unclear which stepping will be utilized by Nvidia, IBM and Qualcomm.

Samsung is making substantial investments in order to overtake TSMC and eventually become the world’s largest foundry by 2030. An important part of this plan has already been set in motion as the South Korean giant managed to launch production for its 3 nm nodes quite some time ahead of TSMC’s N3 nodes, yet the situation is far from being all rosy for Smasung. A recent report published by Naver suggests that Samsung’s 3 nm nodes currently suffer from very low yields that do not exceed 20%, prompting the tech giant to explore production output improvement solutions through US-based company Silicon Frontline Technology. These problems, however, did not stop Samsung from signing 3 nm production contracts with large companies like Nvidia, Qualcomm and IBM, as reported by Korea Economic Daily.

The escalating geopolitical tensions in Taiwan are forcing TSMC’s largest clients to explore other chip production venues in order to secure the needed supply for future products. Samsung seems the obvious alternative here since it is currently the only foundry to offer gate-all-around (GAA) semiconductors. The problem, though, is that this GAA technology seems to be rather premature with yields that barely hit 20%. According to Naver, Samsung partnered with Silicon Frontline Technology to alleviate these issues through electrostatic discharge prevention methods and advanced ways to provide ultrapure water for wafer cleaning. Industry insiders are citing satisfactory results following these production improvement steps, but the exact yield is not mentioned.

On the other hand, the initial 3 nm production line is expected to get an upgrade, with sources close to Korea Economic Daily reporting that Samsung is already hard at work on a second generation 3 nm process. Rather than utilizing the first gen nodes with yield problems, Samsung is most likley to offer the improved stepping to produce Nvidia’s upcoming GPUs along with IBM’s advanced CPUs, Qualcomm’s smartphone / mobile PC SoCs and Baidu’s AI accelerators for cloud data centers. Nevertheless, this second gen 3 nm node from Samsung might not go online sooner than TSMC’s reworked N3E node. Knowing that TSMC usually provides better yields, Samsung's new 3 nm contracts could be terminated abruptly if its big customers jump ship.


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> Expert Reviews and News on Laptops, Smartphones and Tech Innovations > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2022 11 > Samsung adds Nvidia, Qualcomm and IBM to its 3 nm customer list, despite abysmal yields
Bogdan Solca, 2022-11-25 (Update: 2022-11-26)