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Always Be Curious #172: Foundry wars, $25K per wafer, and LED light magic
This week in ABC: The foundry wars between TSMC and Samsung are heating up, TSMC's 2 nanometer wafers might cost a whopping $25,000, and an artist paints with LED lights.
The top articles in this week’s chip section are all about the immense rivalry between TSMC and Samsung. 🤜🤛 This “foundry war” is heating up and will likely be decided over the next few years. So who might win? 🇹🇼🤷♂️🇰🇷 One thing that differentiates the Taiwanese company from the Koreans is the appetite for risk. ⚖️ The Taiwanese build fabs first and trust that customers will come later. Perhaps that’s a mentality that has been stimulated by being the top dog for some time, but it certainly has played its part in how TSMC got to be the top dog. 📈 The Koreans are a little different. They tend to want customer commitment first, then build the fabs to do it. The outcome of the foundry wars will hinge on how many big customers Samsung can clinch for its foundry business over the next two years, which would steal market share away from TSMC as we move into the 2 nanometer (2025) and 1.4 nanometer (2027) nodes. And that can only happen if Samsung’s most advanced chip technologies will truly rival TSMC’s in terms of yield and performance. So grab your popcorn, sit back and enjoy the show. May the most innovative player win. 💪🔥
Have a good week, stay safe and sound,
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👨💻The round-up in sci-tech💡
Like the microscope and the telescope did centuries ago, new technologies to capture and analyze sound are leading to startling discoveries about what the eyes cannot see. So can AI help us understand animals?
Fears that artificial intelligence might wipe us out have fueled the rise of groups like Pause AI. Their warnings aren’t that far-fetched, experts say.
To supply outposts sunk in the lunar night, solar power must come from the south pole regions. Where it’s always sunny!
“In 2026, when the first LunaGrid node lands near the south pole of the moon, a mobile power station will emerge from the Astrobotic lander, descend to the surface, and drive up to 2 km away, spooling out a power-transmission cable as it goes. Then the station will unroll its vertical solar array, forming LunaGrid’s second node.”
A team of researchers verified a key measurement from a study earlier this year that had faced doubts from other scientists.
Christof Koch wagered David Chalmers 25 years ago that researchers would learn how the brain achieves consciousness by now. But the quest continues.
✝️ John B. Goodenough, 100, dies; Nobel-winning creator of the lithium-ion battery (The New York Times)
An unassuming professor who remained active into his 90s, he is credited with the breakthrough that gave rise to the batteries powering today’s electronic devices.
“At M.I.T.’s Lincoln Laboratory in the 1950s and ’60s, he was a member of teams that helped lay the groundwork for random access memory (RAM) in computers and developed plans for the nation’s first air defense system. In 1976, as federal funding for his M.I.T. work ended, he moved to Oxford to teach and manage a chemistry lab, where he began his research on batteries.”
🤓This week in chips⚠
Samsung’s chip foundry business is adding production capacity and more advanced manufacturing techniques, aiming to make gains on market leader TSMC.
Samsung's 2-nanometer or “SF2” process technology will be available in 2025, around the same time as TSMC's N2 process technology (2 nm-class) and about a year or more after Intel's 20A process. Samsung’s 2-nm offers a 25% higher power efficiency, a 12% increase in performance, and a 5% decrease in area when compared to its 3-nm node. The node will be followed by “SF2P” optimized for high-performance computing (HPC) in 2026, and then by “SF2A”, which will be aimed at automotive applications, in 2027. Around the same year the company intends to start mass production using its SF1.4 (1.4 nm-class) fabrication process.
💰 Samsung Foundry obtains orders from Cisco and Google for their next-generation semiconductor chips (ETNews)
Samsung is set to manufacture semiconductor chips for Cisco and Google.
Sam Naffziger was an early evangelist for breaking up silicon chips.
Belgian research lab imec has signed a key deal with ASML for the latest lithography equipment for a sub-1nm pilot line. Read all about it in my LinkedIn post!
The Dutch government on Friday announced new restrictions on exports of some semiconductor equipment, boosting a U.S.-led drive to curb supplies of high-tech components to China but drawing an angry response from Beijing.
GDDR7 is getting closer, says Micron. This DRAM evolution will be the next generation memory that will be used for some of the best graphics cards as well as other devices that require high bandwidth memory.
Nvidia, the world’s most valuable chipmaker, is “extremely likely” to invest in Europe, CEO Jensen Huang said.
🇮🇳 Lam Research announces chipmaking simulation platform, to train 60k engineers in India in 10 years (TechCircle)
Semiconductor manufacturing equipment supplier, Lam Research, is planning to train 60,000 engineers in India within the next 10 years. The training will be facilitated by the company's virtual nanofabrication environment platform, Semiverse Solutions.
State-backed fund’s buyout of semiconductor equipment maker gives the government more grip on industry.
📈By the numbers📉
These chips are not going to be cheap.
The 10 hottest semiconductor startups of 2023 so far, including Dutch star from Eindhoven: Axelera! Axelera AI wants to trounce Nvidia with the “world’s most powerful and advanced” chip-based offerings for running AI applications on edge devices. The startup announced in May that it had raised an “oversubscribed” Series A funding round that brought its total funding to $50 million.
Micron gave an upbeat forecast for the current period, indicating that an industry glut is easing even as the chipmaker continues to face challenges in China.
📉 Worldwide semiconductor foundry market grew 27.9% year-on-year in 2022, projected to decrease by 6.5% in 2023 due to inventory adjustments (IDC)
The correction is a hefty one, but the rebound will come.
❤️For the love of tech❤️
“Light painting magician” Darren Pearson creates artworks with LED lights and time. 😎 So awesome! 📸
Always Be Curious is the personal newsletter of Sander Hofman, Senior Creative Content Strategist at ASML. Opinions expressed in this curated newsletter are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer.