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Samsung Reaches Milestone For 14nm Technology 123

Posted by timothy
from the ensmallening dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Samsung announced a milestone on its development of 14nm manufacturing semiconductors, claiming that it offers major advantages to system-on-chip devices using in consumer electronic products (especially lower power). They recently taped out a Cortex-A7 processor with this technology, calling it a significant milestone for the fabless ecosystem."
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Samsung Reaches Milestone For 14nm Technology

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  • by Janek Kozicki (722688) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @05:25PM (#42377517) Journal
    What is fabless ecosystem?
    • by sharkey (16670) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @05:28PM (#42377545)
      Something Austin Powers wouldn't go near or attempt to save, I expect.
    • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @05:44PM (#42377657)
      It's like being homeless, only in the IC industry.
      • by knarf (34928)

        Homeless? No, not really. In social terms I'd compare a fabless ecosystem with a bachelor - wherever I lay my head, that's my home.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I guess it means they're selling fab capacity to companies who cannot manufacture their own chips. AMD and Nvidia would be an example of such companies, but so would a lot of others.

    • by mikael (484) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @05:57PM (#42377727)

      With mobile devices, the CPU as well as many other logic components (GPU, accelerometers, compass, GPS, video decompression) are provided as licensed silicon designs. These designs are combined together by a separate vendor to form a complete system, thus System-On-A-Chip. These companies don't make boards, connectors, chips, or even silicon dies, they just license designs and device drivers. MEMS alone allows sensors like accelerometers, compasses to be implemented using standard silicon manufacturing processes with no additional hardware required. Other companies may provide profiling and debugging tools. So a complete ecosystem forms.

      With Samsung being able to get down to 14nm, that means every company benefits. There is now space for more transistors, so everyone can add more features, more cache memory, more cores.

      Just like Linux. One group does kernel work, another group does compilers and debuggers, someone else does GUI, X-windows, and others maintain web browsers, device drivers and command line applications. These are all combined to form a Linux distribution ISO file.

      • by icebike (68054) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @07:22PM (#42378225)

        With Samsung being able to get down to 14nm, that means every company benefits.

        You put too much polish on the apple.

        Fabless means you are someone else's Bitch. You have to buy from someone else because you don't have a fabrication facility to make your own processors.

          Like Apple, currently shopping around for another chip manufacturer after Samsung raised prices, (to earn back billion dollar fine which will most likely be overturned on appeal). Even if Apple finds another fab to make their processors and related chips, they will still be a generation behind Samsung.

        With the power savings available at 14nm, Samsung will be able to ask premium prices. All the smaller manufactures will end up buying from Samsung.

        • Sounds like the market working as it should to me.

        • i don't know why you're modded troll, but I'm replying just to cancel my "overrated" mis-click mod. I meant to hit "underrated". Damn my old eyes.

        • by rolfwind (528248)

          Like Apple, currently shopping around for another chip manufacturer after Samsung raised prices, (to earn back billion dollar fine which will most likely be overturned on appeal).

          That reported story, sourced from a single Korean newspaper article, has been denied:
          http://www.zdnet.com/samsung-wont-increase-the-price-of-apple-processors-report-7000007412/ [zdnet.com]

          As they are in contract, I find it hard to believe that a supplier could arbitrarily raise prices.

        • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

          Maybe it wasn't just to earn the fine back, maybe they were deliberately trying to get rid of Apple. So far Apple has been able to make fairly competitive CPUs, but the jump to 14nm could put them behind and Samsung probably doesn't want to help them keep up.

        • by ecki (115356)

          Like Apple, currently shopping around for another chip manufacturer after Samsung raised prices, (to earn back billion dollar fine which will most likely be overturned on appeal).

          Nice story, but not true. [thestreet.com]

    • It's Koren for fabulous ecosystem.

    • Companies like Nvidia, Apple, google that want custom chips built but don't want to own chip-making factories. 14nm is catching up with Intel. IBM and AMD are maybe one step behind at least for production. But they are a big shep ahead of TMSC who is the BIG player in the space... Namely, who Apple is moving to.

      Of course it's a douvle whammy for Apple as its Apple's upfront money that allows Samsung manufacturing to get ahead... While the consumer sales division knifes Apple in the back... So Apple's gotta

      • IBM, GlobalFoundries (formerly AMD and Chartered), Samsung have an agreement to share semiconductor manufacturing R&D. So their manufacturing processes are supposed to be similar.
  • prior art! (Score:5, Funny)

    by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @05:29PM (#42377549) Homepage

    Apple should sue them for "method and apparatus" to make something smaller.

    • on Apple's patents on "making something", "thinking about making something", and "dropping acid to free your mind to think about making something"?
    • Apple would have loved to pay Aamsung for this tech... In fact basically Apple IS paying, right now, for it as EVERY iPod, iPad, and iPhone processor sold so far is from Samsung... Samsung's management can't grasp not to fuck over its own biggest customer so Apple is moving elsewhere.. Like has been said, to get another supplier that won't screw them over by directly MARKETING products against them.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Apple can't seem to grasp not to piss off the number 1 manufacturer and leader in many of the techs apple Needs. The only loser here is apple. If they hadn't acted like arseholes they would have probably been at the front of the queue to take advantage of this,

      • Considering that Samsung was selling cellphones before Apple I think it is rather disingenuous to assume they would stop doing so just because Apple is paying them a pittance to manufacture chips and other components. Apple just screwed themselves for the next 2 years because they can't accept having any competition at all.
  • They recently taped out a Cortex-A7 processor with this technology, calling it a significant milestone for the fabless ecosystem."

    I'm very good at the English language but I have no idea what this means. How do you 'tape out' a processor? What's a 'fabless ecosystem'? (The rainforests are rather wonderful, I hear.)

    • by CrankyFool (680025) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @05:50PM (#42377687)

      "Tape out" is a term of art of the processor industry. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tape-out [wikipedia.org] where the first sentence will tell you "In electronics design, tape-out or tapeout is the final result of the design cycle for integrated circuits or printed circuit boards, the point at which the artwork for the photomask of a circuit is sent for manufacture."

      "Fabless ecosystem" is another term of art of the processor industry. Wikipedia is similarly helpful here at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fabless_manufacturing [wikipedia.org] -- where the first sentence will read "Fabless manufacturing is the design and sale of hardware devices and semiconductor chips while outsourcing the fabrication or "fab" of the devices to a specialized manufacturer called a semiconductor foundry."

      STFW FTW.

      • hmm TSMC has a rather large profit margin for 1-5b to even open it.

        9.53B in complete profit in 2010 so within 1 year not only could said foundry pay its self off, it could also pay off all employees and leave 9.5 BILLION in liquid assets per year.

        Revenue $13.982 billion (2010)
        Operating income $4.444 billion (2009)
        cost to open a foundry is also found on wikipedia between 1-4 billion dollars, which given yearly profit margins...is one insane investment...someone is living a very nice lif

    • by vlm (69642) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @05:52PM (#42377697)

      "Tape out" is in my dad's generation they used the same tech for photolithography for both PCBs and ICs. In other words a "Draftsman" (which is kind of like a CAD operator, but manual, done by hand) using what looks like black electrical tape stripes on clear mylar sheets. Then a projector blasts UV light thru the marked up sheet onto a photosensitive copper circuit board, or silicon slice, and where the UV hits the plastic polymerizes and is "permanent" and where it doesn't, it washes away. Sorta like a photo negative enlarger but more of a shrinker than an enlarger... which is another mostly dead technology. You'll meet people who rewrite history for laughs who claim the "tape" is magnetic tape of cad drafting or maybe Verilog/VHDL. In the "biz" it means the dev team has ended work and the responsibility is now entirely on the production team (assuming it achieves production level success on the first try, without any design issues ruining yield, LOL)

      "Fabless ecosystem" is fru fru talk for you outsource your manufacturing to a company (usually a competitor) you trust to give you reliable access to their best processes, while trusting them not to "pirate" your IP which is your companies only resource. Its a great idea for weird stuff where you can corner the market or R+D or teaching. Strikes me as an idiotic business model for competitive "mainstream" processors or generic commodity chips.

      • by iggymanz (596061)

        I did some "taping out" in the 70s, the black tape was for things on both sides of the PCB (e.g. holes and edge connectors), while blue and red tape were used for top and bottom traces.

    • by SeaFox (739806)

      They recently taped out a Cortex-A7 processor with this technology, calling it a significant milestone for the fabless ecosystem."

      I'm very good at the English language but I have no idea what this means. How do you 'tape out' a processor? What's a 'fabless ecosystem'? (The rainforests are rather wonderful, I hear.)

      "Taping out" [wikipedia.org] is the process of laying out the actual lines that will become the paths of the circuit. This used to be done with actual tape and photographed and reduced in size. Somehow I doubt they actually used that method with this and more likely the work was all done on a computer.

      I can only assume a "fabless ecosystem" is a fancy way of saying "the industry of making something when you don't make anything" or chip design/IP creation.

    • by geoskd (321194)

      I'm very good at the English language but I have no idea what this means. How do you 'tape out' a processor? What's a 'fabless ecosystem'? (The rainforests are rather wonderful, I hear.)

      Tape out [wikipedia.org] is an expression that ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Circuit) designers use. It means to finalize a version and send it out to be manufactured. There is some disagreement where it came from, but it most likely referred to the fact that magnetic tapes were used to transfer the (largish) electronic design descriptions to the manufacturers site. These tapes were used because they were the only medium at the time that could store the entire files on one volume instead of having to split the dat

      • No, it had zilch to do with magnetic tapes. Back in the 70s/80s state-of-the-art was to design your IC circuits on a drafting table by hand using opaque tape (opaque to the light frequency that you were using during the manufacturing step). You would then coat your silicon in a special film, and shoot light through your design, through a reducer lens and onto the silicon. Follow up with an acid bath to wash away anything that wasn't shadowed and you had your circuit.

        There was also "tape" used to create
    • by Anonymous Coward

      A processor is designed using a programming language like Verilog [wikipedia.org] or VHDL [wikipedia.org]. These languages provide standard logic cell libraries that support floating-point, integer arithmetic and multiplication.

      Whatever you can implement in C/C++ software, you can implement in hardware, with various optimizations like parallel processing, pipelining.
      At the same time as the processor is being designed, verification tests are written to test every logic block. Tape-out is that special time at the end of the project when the

    • They recently taped out a Cortex-A7 processor with this technology, calling it a significant milestone for the fabless ecosystem."

      I'm very good at the English language but I have no idea what this means. How do you 'tape out' a processor? What's a 'fabless ecosystem'? (The rainforests are rather wonderful, I hear.)

      There are many steps in the design of any modern digital device. Transferring information from step to step was often accomplished with a digital tape(s) full of files. When one step finishes they send a tape out to the next step. Thus "tape out".

      The first steps are often logical and classic designs were done on yellow pads of paper by hand. S. Cray was famous for this. This is where the data bus details are set down. Think of it as the primary.h file for the hardware.

      Other steps are silicon t

  • by brindafella (702231) <brindafella@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Sunday December 23, 2012 @05:55PM (#42377717) Homepage

    One could think that this announcement of 14nm development is Samsung one-upping their competition.

    Another interpretation is that companies need to exercise "continuous disclosure" in order to be taken seriously in the share markets and not fall foul of the market regulators which insist that companies reveal important information as soon as is practicable so that investors and possible investors get a true picture of the company's market worth. In most cases, a good-news story is a great way to have the market clamouring to invest, and so assists the company to raise the capital needed to get its developments to market.

    It also does not hurt to rub the nose of the opposition.

  • Then our SSDs will survive a whole SEVEN program/erase cycles.

    • But it will have one bajillion cells, so you'd have plenty of backup cells to replace those. They'll be just like worm drives, but with a few erase cycles in them, like CD-RW.
  • In last news [slashdot.org] we had on the topic, Intel was at 22 nm.
    • That was for SOC.
      CPU's began earlier.

      From (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivy_Bridge_%28microarchitecture%29) and (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/22_nanometer)
      "On October 19, 2011, Intel CEO Paul Otellini confirmed that Ivy Bridge 22 nm processor volume production has already begun"

    • Pretty big difference:

      Intel is selling millions of processors made with a 22nm process right now.

      Samsung just finished designing a processor that will enter prototyping soon/is being tested. Their process may have horrible yields, be too costly or have any number of problems. This "milestone" is akin to having the tech drawings of a car ready - it's hype until we see results.

      Last I checked, most Samsung silicon was at 28nm, I think, with NAND flash at 23/22nm.

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