VLSI 2018: Samsung’s 2nd Gen 7nm, EUV Goes HVM

Going EUV

Samsung’s 7nm is an EUV-based process that takes full advantage of EUV lithography for their design rules. Samsung’s decision to go with EUV is a result of many factors including EUV readiness, cost, multi-patterning complexity, fidelity, and pitch scaling.


At least for their 7nm, the pitches are just within the single-patterning limit. This allows them to eliminate much of the design complexity associated with patterning (such as many of the coloring steps, a particular area that has been giving some manufacturers a very hard time).

(ISSCC 2018, Samsung)

Pattern Fidelity

One of the many limitations with conventional multi-patterning techniques is pattern fidelity. What you see is often not what you get.

(VLSI 2018, Samsung)

For their 7nm, Samsung is reporting EUV 2D fidelity to be 70% better than ArF multi-patterning.

Samsung 7nm Fidelity Comparison (VLSI 2018, Samsung)

Design Flexibility

Since Samsung chose their design rules to allow for bi-directional metal routing under EUV. This provides them with some nice additional flexibility as far as VIAs go. For many recent process technologies, designers were limited, under MPT ArF, to uni-directional designs. This means that to get from one wire to the next we’d have to climb up to next layer and go back down to the next wire. In the cartoon example shown below, to connect A to B, we’d have to connect A-via-C-via-B.

1D Stack Example (WikiChip)

By moving to EUV, routing gets simplified. In many cases, Samsung can eliminate the vias entirely such as in the example above which can become,

2D Simplified Routing (WikiChip)

Conversely, more VIAs can be added when desired. This extra flexibility shows up in their power routing, providing additional VIAs with less IR-drop where wanted.

The 2D flexibility allows for additional VIAs with less IR-drop (ISSCC 2018, Samsung)

If we zoom in a little into that circuit, you can get a better idea of the resistance involved. For the conventional multi-patterning ArF uni-directional design, each cell gains an additional V1 resistance in series with the V0. Once they moved to a 2D design, this can be eliminated.

Resistance in the path (ISSCC 2018, Samsung)

For their 7nm, Samsung says that the bi-directionality of the wires provides them with sufficient VIAs inside standard cells, this is in contrast to uni-directional designs which would be further limited by additional VIAs outside of the cell. To that end, Samsung reports up to 16% frequency improvement which gets directly impacted by the IR-drop of power-mesh over cell array. Note that this is for the best case of a simultaneous swing in a single power-rail.

Frequency impact of VIAs due to 1D vs 2D design (ISSCC 2018, Samsung)

Tighter CD distribution

Shifting to EUV means a significant improvement in BEOL uniformity. Compared to ArF, EUV delivers a much tighten critical dimension (CD) distribution. Jeong reported space CD distribution improvement of 1.6x over SADP. The improvement in ADI CD distribution was even greater at over 2x improvement compared to ArF.

Space CD distribution (VLSI 2018, Samsung)

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Fred ChenTerry Recent comment authors
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Thanks for the updates! I also love the fact 8nm is pretty close!

Fred Chen
Fred Chen

If Samsung used EUV for fin patterning, it seems it should be highlighted by Samsung as a first-time achievement. But it seems only BEOL and MOL were specifically highlighted, just based on the paper.