Samsung adds Nvidia, Qualcomm and IBM to its list of 3nm customers, despite abysmal returns

Samsung adds Nvidia, Qualcomm and IBM to its list of 3nm customers, despite abysmal returns

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To improve 3nm yields to just 20%, Samsung has started working with US-based Silicon Frontline Technology, which specializes in ESD prevention methods. Samsung is also developing a second-generation 3nm node, but it’s unclear which pitch will be used by Nvidia, IBM and Qualcomm.

Samsung is making substantial investments in order to overtake TSMC and eventually become the largest foundry in the world by 2030. A significant part of this plan has already been set in motion as the South Korean giant has successfully launched production of its 3nm knots long enough in advance. TSMC’s N3 nodes, yet the situation is far from rosy for Smasung. A recent report by Naver suggests that Samsung’s 3nm nodes are currently suffering from very low yields that do not exceed 20%, prompting the tech giant to explore production enhancement solutions through the US company. Silicon Frontline Technology. These problems, however, have not stopped Samsung from signing 3nm production contracts with major companies such as Nvidia, Qualcomm and IBM, as reported by the Korea Economic Daily.

Escalating geopolitical tensions in Taiwan are forcing TSMC’s biggest customers to explore other chip production sites to secure the supply needed 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, however, is that this GAA technology seems rather premature with yields that barely reach 20%. According to Naver, Samsung has partnered with Silicon Frontline Technology to mitigate these issues through ESD prevention methods and advanced means of providing ultra-pure water for wafer cleaning. Industry insiders cite satisfactory results from these production-enhancing steps, but the exact yield is not mentioned.

It looks like the initial 3nm production line needs to be upgraded, as sources close to Korea Economic Daily report that Samsung is already working on a second-generation 3nm process. Rather than using first-gen nodes with performance issues, Samsung is most likely to offer the upgraded stage to produce Nvidia’s next GPUs with IBM’s advanced processors, smartphone/mobile PC SoCs from Qualcomm and Baidu’s AI accelerators for cloud data centers. Still, this second generation 3nm node from Samsung might not go live sooner than TSMC’s reworked N3E node. Knowing that TSMC generally offers better returns, Samsung might not be able to take advantage of all the new 3nm contracts if its big customers jump ship.

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