Samsung has pushed forward with another industry-first, applying a 3D stacking to a 7nm EUV system chips. Dubbed X-Cube, the concept is at once complex and straightforward. In effect, Samsung has taken system semiconductor components and stacked them with SRAM in a more cube-like orientation. But the simplicity of that statement, as noted by numerous reports, belies what that means on a deeper level.
Summarily, Samsung has taken the parts of a standard 7nm EUV system semiconductor. That includes CPU, GPU, NPU, and other logic components. It has stacked those, post-process, and added SRAM over top. For clarity, SRAM is utilized as a non-RAM cache memory for the other components. SRAM stores frequently performed tasks and actions, stopping the components from needing to work through DRAM for everything.
By doing that, Samsung says it has, first, reduced overall chip area. But it also says that it’s stacking allows the use of a high-capacity memory solution, improving design freedom for its chip business customers.
So what does 3D stacking do for Samsung chips?
The new application of the technology makes use of “silicon through-electrode technology” as well. That increases the data processing speed and also impacts power efficiency positively, the company claims.
The improvement comes down to how the chips are connected. An electrode is used, with a small hole being placed in the chip itself. That’s as opposed to using a wire to connect the two. And the result is a reduction in power consumption and an increase in speed, in terms of chip communication.
That has a knock-on effect too. The channels of communication between upper and lower chips can be expanded while signal paths can also be minimized. And that further increases processing speeds. The versatility has the added effect, Samsung says, of allowing customers to design their chips more freely for different use cases.
So the technology makes Samsung’s solutions more versatile and powerful than they would otherwise be. All while reducing the footprint significantly.
How will companies use this technology?
Samsung indicates that its new application of 3D stacking technology will be demonstrated at 'Hot Chips 2020'. The high-performance semiconductor event is being held online from August 16 to 18.
But, more pertinently, it says that fabless customers globally can start using the new X-Cube design methodology and flow immediately. That’s for both EUV-based 5nm and 7nm process chips.
The technology has a wide range of use cases too, the company says. It can be used as a core feature for chips in smartphones, wearables, 5G, AI, supercomputers, AR, and VR. In effect, this technology could be applied just about everywhere. So it’s really going to be up to Samsung’s partners to decide where this appears in the real-world.