Samsung Tapes Out Its First 3nm Smartphone SoC, Gets A Boost From Synopsys AI-Enabled Tools

This week Samsung Electronics and Synopsys announced that Samsung has taped out its first mobile system-on-chip on Samsung Foundry’s 3nm gate-all-around (GAA) process technology. The announcement, coming from electronic design automation Synopsys, further notes that Samsung used the EDA suite to place-n-route the layout and verify design of the SoC, which in turn enabled higher performance.

Samsung’s unnamed high-performance mobile SoC relies on ‘flagship’ general-purpose CPU and GPU architectures as well as various IP blocks from Synopsys. SoC designers used EDA software, including the Synopsys to fine-tune design and maximize yields as well as Synopsys Fusion Compiler RTL-to-GDSII solution to achieve higher performance, lower power, and optimize area (PPA).

And while the news that Samsung has developed a high-performance SoC using the suite is important, there is another, even more important dimension to this announcement: this means that Samsung has finally taped out an advanced smartphone application processor on its cutting-edge 3nm GAAFET process.

Although Samsung Foundry has been producing chips on its GAA-equipped SF3E (3 nm-class, ‘early’ node) process for almost two years now, Samsung Electronics has never used this technology for its own system-on-chips for smartphones or other complex devices. To date, SF3E has been used mainly for cryptocurrency mining chips, presumably due to the inevitable early teething and yield issues that come with being the industry’s first commercial GAAFET process.

For now, Samsung isn’t disclosing what specific process node is being used for the SoC; the official Samsung/Synposys announcement only notes that it’s for a GAA process node. Along with their first-generation 3nm-class SF3E, Samsung Foundry has a considerably more sophisticated SF3 manufacturing technology that offers numerous improvements over SF3E, and is due to be used for mass production in the coming quarters. Given the timing of the announcement, the reasonable bet is that they’re using SF3.

As for Samsung’s tooling partnership with Synopsys, the latter’s tools are being credited for delivering some significant performance improvements to the chip’s design. In particular, the two firms are crediting those tools for improving the chip’s peak clockspeed by 300MHz while cutting down on dynamic power usage by 10%. To accomplish that, Samsung Electronics’ SoC developers used design partitioning optimization, multi-source clock tree synthesis (MSCTS), and smart wire optimization to reduce signal interference, along with a simpler hierarchical approach. And by using Synopsys Fusion Compiler, they did all this while being able to skip weeks of ‘manual’ design work, according to the joint press release.

“Our longstanding collaboration has delivered leading-edge SoC designs,” said Kijoon Hong, vice president of SLSI at Samsung Electronics. “This is a remarkable milestone to successfully achieve the highest performance, power and area on the most advanced mobile CPU cores and SoC designs in collaboration with Synopsys. Not only have we demonstrated that AI-driven solutions can help us achieve PPA targets for even the most advanced GAA process technologies, but through our partnership we have established an ultra-high-productivity design system that is consistently delivering impressive results.”

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