Report: TSMC to enter risk production for 3nm chips in 2021

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Report: TSMC ready to start volume production of Apple A13 chip.
Image: TSMC

Taiwanese Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) will begin risk production on 3nm chips in 2021, reports Apple Insider. The chipmaker previously outlined a  development roadmap that included 3nm node mass production in 2022.

Given its recently expanded supply relationship with Apple, the firm’s technological advancement should have a big impact on the global microelectronics industry.

TSMC’s Road to 3nm

Although TSMC only began selling 5nm nodes this year, the company announced plans to mass-produce its successor technology back in 2016. That year, the firm revealed it would build a new facility capable of mass-producing next-generation chips by 2022. In 2019, the semiconductor brand officially commenced building a $19.5 billion, 30-hectare 3nm complex in its home country.

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According to Apple Insider, TSMC is on track to execute the production schedule it outlined four years ago.

Despite its vast financial resources and design capability, the company’s 3nm plans seemed in doubt just last month. OptoCrypto reported rumors surfaced. The firm’s technological advancement would be delayed by the coronavirus pandemic and rising international trade tensions. However, the brand publicly affirmed it made no changes to its existing roadmap.

Barring any unforeseen complications, TSMC will likely be the first chipmaker to mass produce 3nm wafers.

In early 2019, Samsung said it would roll out 3nm chips in 2021, which it still could. However, the global health crisis disrupted the firm’s planned Q2 2020 deployment of 5nm processors, and presumably, its 3nm R&D. In addition, Intel, the only other manufacturer with the appropriate level of technological resources, does not plan to release 3nm components until 2025.

The Implications of TSMC Entering 3nm Production

TSMC is likely going hammer and tongs on its next-generation node development because of its supply contract with Apple.

For years now, the Taiwanese manufacturer has produced the electronics maker’s A-series mobile device processors. In April, the Cupertino, California-based firm announced it would design its Mac CPUs in-house going forward and tasked TSMC handling production. Apple reportedly made the change because it wanted a chip supplier that could provide it with significant iterative performance improvements.

TSMC’s current 5nm processors will allow Apple to offer consumers major upgrades with its 5G-enabled iPhones and next-generation PCs. The chipmakers new 3nm nodes will provide a 10 to 15 percent performance increase and a 20 to 25 percent energy consumption boost over their predecessors. As such, the manufacturer has a big incentive to fire up its $19.5 billion foundry as soon as possible.

The TSMC-Apple pact will also put pressure on other microelectronics makers to bring their advanced CPU processes to market. Consumers will not be willing to pay top dollar for smartphones, wearables, and computers that are multiple generations less powerful than the newest iPhone, Apple Watch, and Mac.

Consequently, semiconductor companies will likely be ramping up their capital expenditures and collaborations considerably this year to remain competitive.

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