The Gate-All-Around (GAA) Revolution in Chip Design
This research report analyzes the upcoming transition from FinFET to gate-all-around (GAA) transistor architecture and the significant implications for semiconductor manufacturing equipment and processes. Key findings include:
– GAA represents the biggest change in logic chip design since the introduction of 3D FinFET transistors in 2010.
– GAA transistors overcome limitations of FinFETs by providing gate control from all four sides of the channel, enabling continued scaling.
– GAA is the first truly 3D chip architecture defined by vertical rather than planar dimensions.
– The 3D nature of GAA will drive major changes in manufacturing equipment and processes related to deposition, etching, and metrology/inspection.
– Leading chipmakers Intel, Samsung, and TSMC are transitioning to GAA technology at 3nm/2nm nodes over the next 12-18 months.
– GAA ramp-up has potential to drive increased logic/foundry spending starting in 2025, benefiting semiconductor capital equipment suppliers.
For decades, the semiconductor industry has relied on scaling transistor dimensions to drive gains in chip performance and density. However, as dimensions approach atomic scale, fundamental limitations of conventional planar and FinFET architectures arise. Gate-all-around (GAA) transistors overcome these limitations by transitioning to truly 3D structures. This report analyzes the manufacturing changes this transition will necessitate.
GAA Transistor Architecture
GAA transistors have horizontal nanosheet channels wrapped by gates on four sides. This structure provides full gate control from all directions, minimizing leakage while allowing dimensional scaling to continue. GAA also enables tuning of channel width, optimizing power and performance.
Transition from Planar to 3D Architecture
Planar transistors defined features using 2D lithographic patterning. FinFETs added vertical fins but still depended on etching. GAA is the first architecture where critical dimensions are defined by selective deposition and etching. The move from 2D to 3D architectures will drive significant manufacturing changes.
Implications for Semiconductor Equipment
The 3D nature of GAA will significantly impact major process areas:
– Atomic layer deposition tools needed to coat complex nanosheet shapes
– Selective epitaxy critical for superlattice channel formation
– Highly selective etch processes to remove sacrificial layers
– Advanced metrology/inspection to control 3D geometries
Leading Chipmakers Adopting GAA
Intel, Samsung, and TSMC plan to introduce GAA technology at the 3nm/2nm nodes over the next 12-18 months. This transition has potential to increase capital spending for leading-edge logic manufacturing versus prior nodes.
The GAA transistor revolution will enable the semiconductor industry to overcome the limitations of FinFETs and continue advancing Moore’s Law. The architectural shift to true 3D devices will drive major changes in manufacturing processes and equipment over the next decade.