Samsung Electronics said Monday it has started mass producing the world’s first 14-nanometer mobile application processor. It hopes the latest chip technology will give the Korean tech giant a competitive edge over rivals such as U.S.-based Qualcomm. According to the company, Samsung’s new Exynos 7 Octa has 20 percent more processing power and spends 35 percent less electricity than 20-nanometer processors that have thus far been widely used in the mobile chip market. The latest chip technology also features a three-dimensional transistor design, known as the FinFET, unlike the conventional flat chip design, it added.
“Samsung’s advanced 14nm FinFET process technology is undoubtedly the most advanced logic process technology in the industry,” said Han Gab-soo, executive vice president of Samsung’s system LSI business in a press release. “We expect the production of our 14nm mobile AP to positively impact the growth of the mobile industry by enabling further performance improvements for cutting-edge smartphones.”
A senior executive at Samsung Electronics said Wednesday that it plans to mass-produce chips to be used in various healthcare devices within the next three years. “Samsung is in the process of developing chips to be used in wearable devices. We aim to mass-produce such chips in the next two or three years,” said E.S. Jung, executive vice president of the firm’s semiconductor research center. He made the remarks in a keynote speech at the SEMICON Korea conference in the COEX Convention Center, southern Seoul.He said memory chips will play critical role in the Internet of Things (IoT) as every single product from leading manufacturers will be connected.
Samsung Electronics has said that all its appliances will be connected by 2020.
“Samsung is looking toward wearable memory chips,” Jung said. The company is betting on healthcare, and is collaborating with IBM, Microsoft and SAP to put their health platforms on Samsung devices. Jung said semiconductors are the basis of its healthcare products.
The government will provide loans of 100 trillion won ($92.3 billion) for the development of the Internet of Things (IoT) and other software projects to foster new growth engines. In a joint briefing Wednesday, the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning and four other ministries said the state financing scheme will benefit fifth-generation mobile networks, bio medicine, solar and fuel cells, bio energy and nano semiconductor and sensor technologies.
“We will help finance hydrogen cars, zero-energy towns and the Internet of Things (IoT) in 17 regional Creative Economy Innovation Centers,” said Science, ICT and Future Planning Minister Choi Yang-hee. These centers will also involve Hyundai Motor, Hyundai Heavy Industries, LG, Doosan, Lotte, Hanwha, CJ, GS, Hanjin, KT, Naver and Daum Kakao. The innovation centers are a pet project of President Park Geun-hye — Daegu, Daejeon, Gumi in North Gyeongsang Province and Jeonju in North Jeolla Province are currently home to such centers.
Korea’s exports of information and communications technology (ICT) products and services reached a record high of $170 billion last year, the government reported Thursday. According to data released by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy and the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, ICT products accounted for almost 30 percent of the nation’s $573 billion in exports, contributing to a 2014 trade surplus of $86.3 billion.
Semiconductors were the top ICT export category, thanks to DRAM and 3-D NAND flash memory chips. In 2014, memory chips became the nation’s first export product to surpass $60 billion, increasing 9.6 percent year-on-year to reach $62.7 billion. Semiconductor exports surged 33.2 percent last year to a record $34 billion, while shipments of system semiconductors slumped 9.8 percent to $22.5 billion. Exports of display panels slipped 3.2 percent, as demand dropped in China, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. Chinese producers of cheaper panels also dragged down prices for LCD televisions.
Samsung Electronics, the world’s leading memory chip producer, plans to invest 13.5 trillion won ($12 billion) in semiconductor facilities next year, up from the 13 trillion won spent this year. “Samsung doesn’t expect a drastic change in the overall level of spending on chip facilities,” said a source Monday. He said the small increase in chips is because its strategy is all about maintaining market equilibrium and price stabilization.
The global memory chip industry is being controlled by “top-three” players including Samsung, SK hynix and Micron Technologies of the United States. They produce more than 93 percent of global chips, according to research firms. Samsung invested 12.6 trillion on chip plants in 2013, 13.85 trillion won in 2012 and 13.03 trillion won in 2011. Samsung plans to build a new NAND flash type memory chip line in Xian, China, where Samsung already operates its massive facilities.
The semiconductor business is now Korea’s top export earner. Through November, the nation’s major semiconductor makers including Samsung and SK pulled in about $56.8 billion in revenues, the largest ever and about 10.9 percent of the nation’s total exports for the period. There are more than two weeks remaining in 2014, but since oil products are the second-largest export item with total sales of $48.1 billion through November, semiconductors will be the nation’s No.1 export business for the second consecutive year. Industry insiders say total exports for the business will exceed $60 billion by the end of the year.
The semiconductor business, which began in the early 1980s, earned Korea foreign exchanges that were used as seed money to develop advanced electronics industries, including smartphones and wireless communication devices. It was the No. 1 export business for 16 years, from 1992 to 2007, but started fluctuating in 2008 due to the global finance crisis. In 2008, Korea only pulled in $32.8 billion, just 7.8 percent of the nation’s total exports, and chips ranked sixth in export earnings. Shipbuilding was the best export that year ($43.1 billion), followed by oil products, machinery, wireless communication devices, cars and semiconductors.
SK Hynix announced yesterday it has started to mass produce an enhanced version of the world’s thinnest NAND flash memory chip. The company developed the 16-nanometer, 64GB multilevel cell NAND flash chip in the first half of the year.
The new version, which is 10 percent thinner, went into production last month, the company said yesterday, adding that production of the initial version of the chip began in June. It is the first company in the world to mass produce the 16-nanometer 64G MLC NAND flash chip. Micron Semiconductor of the United States said it developed the chip in June.
The Korean company, which is the world’s second-largest company in the overall computer memory chip market, also said yesterday it has developed a 128GB MLC chip, the highest capacity so far. The company plans to start producing the chip next year.
Samsung Electronics, the world’s top supplier of memory chips, plans to cut its investment in components by as much as 30 percent next year. The company doesn’t plan to build any more plants to make memory chips because the industry is undergoing rapid structural change.
Industry officials at Samsung’s local primary parts suppliers say that aggressive investment does not guarantee high returns anymore due to industry consolidation as well as rising uncertainty surrounding technology and sluggish demand.
“Investment in chips will be cut by 30 percent next year, at least, because we believe Samsung doesn’t have plans to build new fabrication facilities. Total investment in components will remain under 10 trillion won throughout 2014,” said a senior executive at one of the company’s suppliers by telephone. “It is unlikely that the industry will see cash-burning business projects in chips next year as complexity is increasing because the market is approaching scaling limits.”
Samsung Electronics Co. and SK hynix Co. — the world’s two largest computer memory chipmakers — said Wednesday that they have reached an agreement to share patents for chipmaking technologies, wrapping up three-year long negotiations. Details about the agreement, including the contract’s duration and royalty fees, were not revealed, but both of the companies reportedly agreed on a comprehensive cross-licensing deal.
Samsung has 102,995 chipmaking patents, with the comparable figure for SK hynix being 21,422. Samsung also signed a similar deal with Micron Technology Inc. of the U.S. in 2010, while SK hynix forged a cross-licensing deal with Toshiba Corp. of Japan in 2007.
South Korea’s electronics behemoth Samsung Electronics will create a 1.2 trillion won ($1.1 billion) corporate venture fund in Silicon Valley, the US in a bid to spur technology innovation and explore new growth engines.
Samsung Electronics will make investment in diverse innovation-related projects by forming a Samsung Catalyst Fund worth $100 million, said Young Sohn, chief strategy officer of device solutions at Samsung Electronics during a press conference held at a hotel in California, the US Monday (local time).
Under the new initiative, Samsung will seek M&A (merger & acquisitions) deals with global venture companies by using the existing $1 billion Samsung Ventures America Fund. Its target areas involve cloud computing, the internet of things, mobile security, mobile health and technology with emotional factors. Samsung expects the latest move will put itself in the position of creating new business ecosystem centering on semiconductors and electronic parts.