Samsung Electronics on Thursday revealed it has begun mass producing chips with advanced 3-nanometre technology, which it says is a world first.

The South Korean electronics giant announced that the “optimised 3nm process achieves 45 percent reduced power usage, 23 percent improved performance and 16 percent smaller surface area compared to 5nm process.”

Samsung is hoping the move will attract more customers as it seeks to challenge contract chip manufacturing market leader TSMC.

The leaders of Samsung Foundry Business and Semiconductor R&D Center are holding up three fingers as a symbol of 3nm celebrating the company’s first ever production of 3nm process with GAA architecture.

Smaller, more powerful

Samsung said that with the start of initial production of its 3-nanometer (nm) process node, it has applied Gate-All-Around (GAA) transistor architecture.

The firms claims that its multi-bridge-channel FET (MBCFET) improves power efficiency by reducing the supply voltage level, while also enhancing performance by increasing drive current capability.

Samsung said it is starting the first application of the nanosheet transistor with semiconductor chips for high performance, low power computing application, but that it plans to expand to mobile processors.

“Samsung has grown rapidly as we continue to demonstrate leadership in applying next-generation technologies to manufacturing, such as foundry industry’s first High-K Metal Gate, FinFET, as well as EUV,” said Dr. Siyoung Choi, president and head of foundry business at Samsung.

(From left) Michael Jeong, Corporate Vice President; Ja-Hum Ku, Corporate Executive Vice President; and Sang Bom Kang, Corporate Vice President at Samsung Foundry Business are holding up 3nm wafers at the production line of Samsung Electronics Hwaseong Campus.

“We seek to continue this leadership with the world’s first 3nm process with the MBCFET,” said Dr Choi. “We will continue active innovation in competitive technology development and build processes that help expedite achieving maturity of technology.”

Samsung said that its proprietary technology utilises nanosheets with wider channels, which allow higher performance and greater energy efficiency compared to GAA technologies using nanowires with narrower channels.

Utilising the 3nm GAA technology, allows Samsung to adjust the channel width of the nanosheet in order to optimise power usage and performance to meet various customer needs.

The South Korean firm did not name clients for its latest foundry technology, which supplies made-to-order chips like mobile processors and high-performance computing chips.

TSMC challenge

Samsung is the world’s biggest memory chipmaker and second-largest contract chip manufacturer.

But it want to challenge Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), which is the world’s most largest foundry chipmaker and controls about 54 percent of the global market for contract production of chips, Reuters reported.

Samsung meanwhile is a distant second with a 16.3 percent market share, according to TrendForce.

But Samsung may have its work cut out, as despite it being the first to production with 3-nanometre chip production, TSMC is planning 2-nanometre volume production in 2025.

In May this year Samsung announced its plan to invest 450 trillion won ($356 billion) through 2026 in its business, as well as create 80,000 new jobs. It is reported that 171 trillion won ($132 billion) will be invested to overtake TSMC as the world’s top logic chipmaker by 2030.

And there is a reason why such heavy investments are being made. In 2021 Samsung warned twice about chip shortages, saying there was an “serious imbalance” in the semiconductor industry.

Then in November 2021 Samsung confirmed that it would build a new $17bn (£12.7bn) semiconductor manufacturing factory in Taylor, Texas, after considering four US locations.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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