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Semiconductors

Legendary chip architect Jim Keller may team up with Samsung Electronics

His attendance at Samsung’s foundry forum raises expectations that he could help Samsung develop future chips

By Nov 18, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

Samsung's SAFE Forum 2021
Samsung's SAFE Forum 2021

Samsung Electronics Co. on Thursday hosted its third annual foundry forum, a gathering of its partners around the world, where legendary chip architect Jim Keller delivered a speech, raising expectations that he may join hands with the tech giant in developing the company’s future chips.

At the Samsung Advanced Foundry Ecosystem (SAFE) Forum 2021, the South Korean company discussed with its clients various ways to cooperate in areas of gate-all-around (GAA) transistor architecture, artificial intelligence and 2.5D semiconductor chip packaging technology.

“In the rapidly changing data-centric era, Samsung and its foundry partners have made great strides responding to increasing customer demand and to support their success by providing powerful solutions,” said Ryan Lee, Samsung’s senior vice president and head of foundry design platform development.

British fabless chip design firm ARM Ltd., US chip design company Synopsis, Germany’s Siemens, Google Cloud and Netherlands-based extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography machine maker ASML are among the members of Samsung’s SAFE Forum.

Samsung said six global companies newly joined the forum this year and notably, Jim Keller gave a keynote speech at the annual gathering.

A prominent computing chip architect who left Intel Corp. last year, Keller currently works at Tenstorrent Inc, a Toronto-based startup developing artificial intelligence chips, as its president and chief technology officer.

Jim Keller (Photo courtesy of The Verge)
Jim Keller (Photo courtesy of The Verge)

Keller, also an AMD veteran, has been a key player in chip advances at multiple companies. He worked on some of Apple Inc.’s early proprietary processors.

In 2016, he moved to Tesla Inc. to help the electric vehicle giant design a chip at the heart of its autonomous driving computing system.

AI CHIP FOR AUTONOMOUS DRIVING

Industry watchers say he may also join hands with Samsung to develop an AI-related chip, given that the forum is a gathering of Samsung partners.

Samsung has been redoubling its efforts to take on bigger foundry rival Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) at the leading edge of chip processing.

Samsung said in October it will be able to commercialize a 2-nanometer transistor process technology by 2025, using its proprietary gate-all-around (GAA) transistor architecture.

Samsung's SAFE Forum 2021
Samsung's SAFE Forum 2021

The GAA architecture, a next-generation foundry microfabrication process, is a key technology that improves electrostatic properties that translate into increased performance, reduced power and optimal chip designs.

Samsung is also said to be preparing to make Tesla’s next-generation hardware 4 (HW 4.0) chip for the top US electric carmaker’s fully autonomous driving technology.

Tesla and Samsung’s foundry division have been working on the design and samples of the chip from the start of this year, and Tesla may soon announce its decision to outsource the HW 4.0 self-driving chip to Samsung, industry sources said in September.

Write to Su-Bin Lee at lsb@hankyung.com

In-Soo Nam edited this article.

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