The largest contract foundry in the world is the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, or TSMC for short. The company takes chip designs from companies like Apple (its largest customer), Qualcomm, MediaTek and others and turns them into components for use in products such as smartphones, tablets and other devices. Last year TSMC began shipping chips made with the smallest mass produced process node, 5nm.
The 3-nm process node from TSMC is said to deliver up to 15% more power or save up to 30% of power consumption
The process node is determined by the number of transistors that fit in one square millimeter (known as transistor density). The higher the number, the lower the process node and the more powerful and energy-efficient a chip is. Last month, IBM announced that It was the first company in the world that could make a 2nm chip, although it is several years away from making this technology available.
TSMC says 4nm production will start a quarter earlier than planned
Apple’s A13 Bionic chipset, used in the 2019 iPhone 11 line, was manufactured using the 7 nm process, has a transistor density of 89.97 million transistors per square millimeter and a total transistor count of 8.5 billion. The 2020 Apple A14 Bionic chipset has a transistor density of 134.09 million per mm2 and each chip carries 11.8 billion transistors. The next big change is expected with the serial production of the 3nm chips from the second half of 2022.
Apple’s M1 chip, also made with the 5nm node, was originally designed to replace Intel processors on the Mac. With a transistor count of 16 billion, the ARM-based component will also be used to power the new iPad Pro (2021) models. TSMC has reportedly started production of the M2 even though the chip’s specifications have not yet been released.
The N3 (3 nm) node is expected to provide up to 15% faster performance or use up to 30% less power than the N5 (5 nm) node. At the foundry’s annual symposium, which reviews the company’s performance over the past year, TSMC announced that it is actually a quarter ahead of schedule for production of its 4nm chips. The 4nm chips use the same design as the 5nm components, but offer improved performance, power consumption, and transistor density. Risk production is set for the third quarter of this year (which is actually the next quarter).
Dr. CC Wei, CEO of TSMC, said, “Digitization is changing society faster than ever as people use technology to break the barriers created by the global pandemic to connect, collaborate and solve problems.” This digital transformation has a new world full of opportunities for the semiconductor industry. Our global technology symposium highlights many of the ways we are improving and expanding our technology portfolio to unleash our customers’ innovations. “
During the annual conference, TSMC also announced that it had begun construction of its $ 12 billion factory in Arizona. The facility is expected to begin producing 5nm chips in 2024, putting the factory’s production one to two process nodes behind what will be rolled out from the foundry’s main factories in Taiwan during the same period.
During the symposium, held online for the second year in a row because of the pandemic, TSMC unveiled the N6RF process, which uses the foundry’s advanced 6nm process for 5G radio frequency (RF) and WiFi 6 / 6e components. This solution offers an improvement of 16% and more over the previous generation of 16nm RF technology.
The symposium also unveiled TSMC’s InFO_B solution, which the Foundry says is “designed to pack a high-performance mobile processor into a slim, compact package with improved performance and energy efficiency, and DRAM stacking for mobile device manufacturers on the housing support. “
TSMC continues its remarkable growth story despite the chip scarcity that resulted in lead times (the time that elapses between ordering semiconductors and actually receiving a shipment) to 17 weeks in mid-May. Susquehanna Financial analysts say it puts consumer electronics companies and automakers “into the danger zone.”