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Smaller, smaller still: ultra-fine semiconductor processes

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The semiconductor is a critical component that makes Quaternary Industrial Revolution technologies including smart devices, artificial intelligence, 5G, the Internet of Things (IoT), and self-driving automobiles possible. Today semiconductors are found not only in palm-size mobile devices but also in smaller wearable devices, making reducing semiconductor size even more important. We’ll be exploring how semiconductors are shrinking in size together with the next generation of devices, and how ultra-fine semiconductor processes are keeping up. Smaller and finer semiconductors
Semiconductor image shining on circuit
Semiconductor image shining on circuit

Semiconductors have evolved continuously to become lighter, thinner, shorter, and smaller than ever before. This is because volume was a major limiting factor in getting semiconductors to fit into ever-smaller and ever more complex electronic devices as we entered the mobile age. Another important factor is how many semiconductor chips can be made from a single wafer, which substantially impacts semiconductor price. The competition to reduce semiconductor size was about cramming as many elements as possible into limited space, and as a result today we live in an age of ultra-highly-integrated semiconductors where billions of elements occupy a space no larger than a fingernail at nanometer-scale line widths. The significance of ultra-fine semiconductor processes
The significance of ultra-fine semiconductor processes
The significance of ultra-fine semiconductor processes

▲ Comparison between technologies for drawing intricate patterns onto wafers: argon fluoride (ArF) based ‘multipatterning’ and EUV. Semiconductor performance and yield can be improved by reduced number of repeated circuit-inscribing multipatterning steps.

Securing advanced photolithography process technologies for drawing microscopic circuits onto semiconductor wafers is one way a semiconductor manufacturer can edge out the competition. With semiconductor logic processes recently shrinking beneath the 10nm mark, conventional photolithography processes using argon fluoride (ArF) as a light source have reached their limit. EUV (Extreme Ultra Violet) is a new light source that takes the place of argon fluoride, with just 1/14 the wavelength of ArF. This makes EUV perfect for creating ultra-fine semiconductor circuit patterns. EUV technology helps simply the task of drawing circuits onto wafers. This in turn simplifies the semiconductor chip design process, and also drastically reduces the number of masks needed to draw a circuit. EUV is taking semiconductors into the age of single-digit nano-scale processes. But the transition is more significant than a simple down-scaling of processes. Smaller individual chips means more semiconductor chips on a wafer of a given size, providing the benefits of better semiconductor productivity as well as performance and power efficiency gains. And smaller semiconductors have a better chance of finding their way into a variety of upcoming devices. Samsung Electronics’ progress on ultra-fine processes
Samsung Electronics Hwaseong Campus EUV Line View
Samsung Electronics Hwaseong Campus EUV Line View

▲ Bird’s eye view of the EUV line at Samsung Electronics’ Hwaseong Campus

So just how far along are Samsung Electronics’ ultra-fine process technologies? Samsung announce the launch of 7nm foundry products and development of 5nm processes in April. The company has also distributed design kits for 3nm GAA (Gate-All-Around) processes to fabless customers, taking market leadership in ultra-fine circuit technology development. That wraps up today’s update on the latest ultra-fine semiconductor process trends. Keep your eyes on Samsung Electronics as we expand our ultra-fine process portfolio for semiconductors that will usher in the Quaternary Industrial Revolution.

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