Samsung’s 3nm Issues Force Qualcomm to Shift to TSMC

Previous reports indicated that Qualcomm, due to concerns over the limited production capacity of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) for 3nm chips, might adopt a dual foundry strategy for its future Snapdragon 8 platform, utilizing both TSMC and Samsung’s 3nm processes. Qualcomm initially planned to implement this strategy in 2024, using TSMC’s N3E process for the fourth generation Snapdragon 8 on one hand, and Samsung’s 3GAP (SF3) process for the versions supplied to the Galaxy series smartphones on the other.

Qualcomm financial third quarter 2023

According to TrendForce, Qualcomm has officially abandoned its plan to use Samsung as a contract manufacturer for the fourth generation Snapdragon 8, due to Samsung’s conservative approach to expanding its 3nm capacity next year and the instability of yield rates. Consequently, the dual foundry strategy will be postponed to 2025, with Qualcomm relying entirely on TSMC for the coming year.

In June last year, Samsung initiated mass production of its SF3E (3nm GAA) process, marking its first introduction of the novel Gate-All-Around (GAA) transistor technology. This breakthrough overcame the performance limitations of the traditional FinFET design by reducing operating voltage levels to enhance the energy efficiency ratio while increasing the drive current to boost chip performance. Next year, Samsung plans to introduce SF3 (3GAP), its second-generation 3nm process technology, featuring the “second-generation Multi-Bridge Channel Field-Effect Transistor (MBCFET)”. This further optimization of the existing SF3E was intended to position Qualcomm as one of the first adopters of this new process.

Currently, TSMC’s monthly production capacity for 3nm chips is approximately 60,000 to 70,000 wafers, with expectations to increase to 100,000 wafers per month by the end of next year. This expansion is anticipated to double its contribution to revenue, from 5% to 10%.