GlobalFoundries partners with Samsung to produce next-generation chips for smartphones

The production process utilises a three-dimensional design and results in chips that are 20 per cent faster, 35 per cent more efficient and 15 per cent smaller than those produced with the current industry standard.

Engineers working in one of the clean rooms at GlobalFoundries' facility in Dresden Germany. Jeff Topping / The National

An Abu Dhabi-owned chip maker will produce the fastest, most energy efficient, semiconductors, that will enable the next generation of mobile devices, after a deal with Samsung.

GlobalFoundries, wholly owned by Mubadala’s Advanced Technology Investment Company, and the Korean smartphone and TV manufacturer yesterday announced a partnership to mass produce the chips by the end of year.

The process, developed by Samsung and licensed to GlobalFoundries, utilises a three-dimensional design and results in chips that are 20 per cent faster, 35 per cent more efficient and 15 per cent smaller than those produced with the current industry standard "20nm planar" platform.

Media reports last year said that Samsung would provide the processor for Apple's iPhone 7 due in 2015 using 14 nanometer technology.

Rival Intel had seemingly been ahead in the development of this technology but the gap has narrowed after Samsung invested billions in both R&D and facilities development over the last two years.

“The industry’s most advanced 14nm FinFET technology will be available … with volume production at Samsung’s fabs in Hwaseong, Korea and Austin, Texas, as well as GlobalFoundries fab in Saratoga, New York,” a joint statement from the companies said. A human hair is 75,000nm in width.

According to the Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, the number of transistors that can be placed on a chip at the same cost will double about every two years. This is known as Moore’s Law and so far this has roughly been the case in the decades since the idea was proposed.

“The work that GlobalFoundries and Samsung are doing together will help AMD deliver our next generation of groundbreaking products with new levels of processing and graphics capabilities to devices ranging from low-power mobile devices, to next-generation dense servers to high-performance embedded solutions,” said Lisa Su, senior vice president and general manager of Global Business Units at AMD, for which GlobalFoundries produces chips.

GlobalFoundries is the world’s second largest foundry after Taiwan’s TSMC.

“Today’s announcement is further proof of the importance of collaboration to enable continued innovation in semiconductor manufacturing,” said GlobalFoundries chief executive Sanjay Jha. “With this industry-first alignment of 14nm FinFET production capabilities, we can offer greater choice and flexibility to the world’s leading fabless semiconductor companies, while helping the fabless industry to maintain its leadership in the mobile device market.”

The company began life as the manufacturing arm of chipmaker AMD, before being spun off as a separate entity in 2009. AMD fully exited the venture in 2012, leaving Atic as the sole shareholder.

Samsung employs 286,000 people across 80 countries and has annual sales of more than $200 billion.

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