The AI semiconductor market is growing rapidly, leading to an increased demand for the 3-nanometer process. Samsung Electronics and TSMC are expected to face intense competition in the global foundry market as they compete for orders for the transition to 3-nanometer process.
Recent reports suggest that AI semiconductor fabless companies have shown less interest in the 4-nanometer process, possibly because Samsung Electronics has successfully stabilized its yields for this process. As a result, there has been a noticeable rise in requests for transition to 3-nanometer process orders in the AI semiconductor sector, which may lead to fabless companies considering different foundry partners.
Transition to 3-nanometer process
In the coming year, major semiconductor companies like Qualcomm and Nvidia have announced their intentions to launch new chips that incorporate advanced AI features. Qualcomm plans to use TSMC’s 4-nanometer process for its third-generation mobile AP chip, known as Snapdragon 8 series.
It’s transition to 3-nanometer for its fourth-generation chip, expected to be released next year. Furthermore, Qualcomm has also made a shift in its mobile chip design to incorporate on-device AI capabilities, allowing devices to perform AI tasks autonomously.
NVIDIA, the leading player in the global AI semiconductor market, is expected to release ‘B100’, a state-of-the-art graphics processing unit (GPU) designed for data centers, in the first half of the upcoming year. B100 will be manufactured using the latest 3-nano process.
Similarly, Apple has already introduced its own chip, the Bionic A17 Pro, which utilizes TSMC’s 3-nano process earlier this year, integrated into the iPhone 15 Pro lineup. It is widely speculated in the industry that Apple’s upcoming Bionic A18 Pro, set to be released next year, will also incorporate the second-generation 3-nano process.
Samsung Electronics overtook TSMC in the field of 3-nano commercialization. The company successfully initiated mass production of 3-nano semiconductors in the first half of the last year. While TSMC followed suit six months later.
While both Samsung Electronics and TSMC utilized the FinFET structure for up to 4nm, Samsung Electronics made a strategic shift to a novel structure known as Gate All Around (GAA) for the 3nm technology. Recognizing the urgency to catch up with its competitors in terms of technological advancement, Samsung Electronics placed its bet on the 3-nanometer milestone.
Both Samsung Electronics and TSMC are reportedly encountering challenges in obtaining satisfactory 3-nano yields. It is estimated by industry experts that the yield for both companies falls within the range of 50%. While Qualcomm requires a yield of 70% at 3nm process.