Samsung and TSMC both encounter difficulties with 3nm process yield

Currently, both Samsung and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) have achieved mass production on the 3nm process node. Samsung announced in June 2022 the commencement of mass production for the world’s first 3nm process, while TSMC followed suit in December of the same year, initiating large-scale production of their 3nm process. The A17 Pro chip, employed in Apple’s recently launched iPhone 15 Pro series, harnesses this technology.

As reported by ChosunBiz, despite both companies achieving mass production of the 3nm process, they have encountered challenges related to the yield rate, and are strenuously striving to enhance both the yield and overall production volume. Samsung has incorporated the next-generation GAA (Gate-All-Around) transistor technology in their 3nm process, whereas TSMC continues to utilize the established FinFET transistor technology. Regardless of the technological choices and trade-offs, neither company seems to have circumvented the central issue: neither has attained the anticipated yield rate for this new process node.

According to TSMC’s roadmap, there will be at least five distinct variations of the 3nm process. Of these, two are primed for production, with the subsequent variants being labeled as N3P, N3X, and N3AE. In contrast, Samsung’s planned processes are more concise, numbering only three. Only one, currently known as 3GAE, is in production. The upcoming versions are labeled as 3GAP and 3GAP+.

Current insights suggest that Samsung and TSMC have yield rates of 60% and 50% respectively for their 3nm processes, which evidently falls short of the desired 70% threshold. On paper, Samsung appears to have a superior yield rate. However, these figures are predicated on a specialized chip used exclusively for a particular cryptocurrency, thus diminishing their credibility. Some industry insiders posit that Samsung’s actual yield rate may be below 50% and must surpass 70% to attract major clientele.