UPDATED 15:39 EDT / MARCH 15 2024


Samsung expected to win $6B+ in CHIPS Act funding

Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. is reportedly poised to receive more than $6 billion from the federal government to expand its chip manufacturing infrastructure in the U.S.

Bloomberg reported the development late Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter. The sources detailed that several of Samsung’s top rivals in the chip market are also set to win federal financing over the coming weeks. Those grants, they detailed, could be worth more than $15 billion.

Samsung operates a fab in Austin, Texas, and began building a second chip plant nearby about three years ago. The company originally earmarked $17 billion for the project. Last March, Reuters reported that Samsung had already spent about half of that sum and now estimates the new fab will cost more than $25 billion to build.

More recent rumors suggest that the plant is poised to start mass producing chips in 2025. The facility will reportedly make chips based on Samsung’s four-nanometer manufacturing process, which it introduced in 2021. The process uses extreme ultraviolet lithography to etch transistors into silicon wafers.

Samsung offers five different versions of its four-nanometer technology. Most are geared towards making handset processors, while a version called SF4X targets data center systems. Compared with Samsung’s other four-nanometer nodes, SF4X offers faster on-chip interconnects that allow data to travel more quickly between a processor’s transistors.

The more than $6 billion in federal funding the company is expected to receive would be provided under the CHIPS and Science Act, Bloomberg’s sources detailed. The 2022 legislation sets aside $39 billion in direct grants for the chip second along with an additional $75 billion worth of loans and loan guarantees. According to Bloomberg, Samsung has indicated it “isn’t interested” in loans.

With the help of the new financing, the company reportedly plans to expand its investment in the U.S. beyond the new Texas fab. It’s unclear what the investment, which is described as significant, will buy. One possibility is that Samsung may seek to open another fab: Rivals Intel Corp. and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. are both building multiple new chip plants in the U.S.

According to this week’s report, the latter two companies could also win CHIPS Act financing in the near future.

Officials are expected to announce a $10 billion package of grants and loans for Intel as early as next week. Moreover, the company is reportedly the frontrunner to receive $3.5 billion in grants for the production of military chips. TSMC, meanwhile, is reportedly set to secure more than $5 billion worth of federal financing in the coming weeks.

Samsung is the world’s second-largest contract chip manufacturer after TSMC. The two companies are currently the only fab operators in the world with the ability to mass produce three-nanometer chips. Intel, meanwhile, expects to start making such processors this year. 

Samsung’s three-nanometer process is based on a transistor architecture known as a gate-all-around design. The design implements the transistor channel, a component responsible for transporting electricity, as a series of nanosheets placed one above the other. The width of those nanosheets influences a processor’s power usage and performance to a significant degree.

In 2022, Samsung detailed that its gate-all-around design makes it possible to adjust the transistor channel width based on project requirements. That allows the company to more closely align the chips it makes with customer requirements. A mobile processor that prioritizes power efficiency, for example, can be produced with different channel width than a performance-optimized server chip. 

Photo: Samsung

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