[EXCLUSIVE] Samsung Electronics yield problems reported in 3-nm chips
Samsung Electronics may fall behind schedule in the production of 3-nanometer chips and may have abandoned a new mobile-memory product due to persistent yield problems.
"Mass production of 3-nanometer chips and a planned mobile DRAM product won't likely go as scheduled because Samsung Electronics has had trouble meeting its targeted yield rate," said a source with knowledge of the matter.
Companies supplying parts and equipment to Samsung Electronics have been notified of the postponement.
The yield rate is the amount of a silicon wafer that is successfully made into dies, which are themselves packaged to become semiconductors. With lower yields, fewer chips are produced from a given amount of raw materials.
Three-nanometer chips are considered key to the custom-chip — or foundry — market as clients seek to move from current 5- or 4-nanometer products. Samsung Electronics set an ambitious goal of producing 3-nanometer chips in the first half — earlier than TSMC, the market leader.
Local media have reported that Samsung Electronics is achieving yields in the 10-percent range for 3-nanometer chips, far too low for the production to be commercially viable.
In terms of memory products, the company's "1b" mobile DRAM, which has 12- and 13-nanometer nodes, was canceled following test production, according to reports.
Samsung Electronics has had some production problems and will address the issues related to its manufacturing and product roadmap during a conference call set for Thursday, a source from the company said.
"It is true that Samsung Electronics has had trouble ramping up the production of new chips," the source said, "Executives will share details about the challenges and roadmap updates during the conference call."
Reports of trouble in the 3-nanometer range come as the company faces challenges on other fronts.
The Exynos 2200, a system chip developed by Samsung Electronics using 4-nanometer technology, was installed in Galaxy S22 devices sold in Europe.
In benchmark tests, the S22's average data processing speed was on par with that of the S21, its predecessor, which came equipped with the Snapdragon 888 and the Exynos 2100.
The manufacturer's Game Optimizing Services slowed performance in some new phone models, resulting in complaints from users.
In foundry, Qualcomm has picked TSMC over Samsung Foundry to manufacture the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 Plus — the next version of the 8 Gen 1 series — which will be rated at 3 nanometers, according to multiple media reports. Nvidia tapped TSMC for the fabrication of a graphics processing units based on 4-nanometer technology.
"With lower production yields for Samsung Foundry's 4-nanometer manufacturing, the departures of major clients to the competitor came into the spotlight," said Greg Roh, an analyst at HMC Investment Securities.
"If Samsung Electronics fails to establish a sufficient client base for 7-nanometer or more advanced fabrication processes, there will be growing concerns for profitability," the analyst said.
BY PARK EUN-JEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]