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Density and nanometers: is marketing polluting technology?

Density and nanometers: is marketing polluting technology?

Density and nanometers: from technology to marketing

For some years now, the fineness of the engraving expressed in nanometers has become an argument that allows to boast about the technological advance of some. Companies with their own manufacturing capacities are constantly communicating on the evolution of their processes. Samsung, TSMC and IBM have been in a chase for some time, while Intel has often triggered irony with the endless variation of its 14nm and its “+++” derivatives. However, many people have put this race to engraving finesse into perspective. For them, if the fineness of the process is obviously a technological advance, it does not guarantee better performance. Intel has long put forward this argument and has been accused of bad faith. However, if we leave the CPU world, we can see that AMD, despite its 7nm process, did not have all the weapons against Nvidia. Density and nanometers do not evolve in a certain symmetry.

densité wafer

What is the most relevant data?

Digitimes has published an updated research report that analyzes the density of the semiconductor manufacturing process from TSMC, Intel, Samsung and IBM. The study sets out to compare 10nm, 7nm, 5nm, 3nm and 2nm manufacturing processes to see what the real difference is between these companies. And the first thing that strikes you if you follow this study is that Intel’s 10nm SuperFin is denser (106 million transistors per mm2) than the 7nm of TSMC or Samsung. Intel thinks that its future 7nm will also be superior on this point to the 5nm of TSMC or Samsung.

intel_amd densité

Scanning electron microscope analysis of each processor sample revealed that Intel’s 14nm was very close in density to the 7nm TSMC used by AMD

Then we enter the speculation because we must analyze not the facts but the data transmitted by these companies. Following this logic, the 5nm of Intel would be more than twice as dense as the same 5nm process of Samsung and almost double compared to those of TSMC. Let’s go further, Intel’s 5nm is almost as dense as IBM’s 2nm (300 vs 333 million per mm2). We must not forget that only density is taken into account here. Power consumption, costs, etc. are not taken into account, but this analysis allows us to form a different opinion. The engraving fineness cannot be the only key to understand the complexity and the technicality of a chip, or its power. By analyzing the data according to this prism, we can see that Samsung, which communicates a lot about its process finesse evolutions, has in fact serious difficulties to follow TSMC and Intel. If you want to go further, take the time to watch the video of Der8auer and his use of the electron microscope (image above).

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Edited by Calliers

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