TSMC dispatches 1,000 staffers to 5nm factory, ramps up production

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

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) is reportedly dispatching 1,000 engineering staffers to its 5nm factory in Tainan, Taiwan to increase its output. The foundry’s cutting-edge component fabrication process is of great interest to its various chip-making clients, including Apple, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), Qualcomm, and MediaTek.

The corporation used its newest node to make A14 bionic processors for the iPhone 12 series of smartphones. It also used its advanced production methodology to fabricate the M1 SoCs that power the 2020 model Macintosh computers.

In addition, TSMC utilized its 5nm process to manufacture Huawei’s Kirin 9000 chipsets, a project that could be their final collaboration.

TSMC Sends 1,000 Engineers to Support 5nm Fab

TSMC is increasing the headcount at its  Taiwan-based Fab 8 facility to meet demand for its advanced chipset production methodology. At present, the complex makes 60,000 to 70,000 silicon wafers per month. The corporation hopes adding 1,000 engineers to the factory’s staff will bring its 30-day output to 120,000 wafers.

The pure-play foundry wants to hit its 5nm component production quota to continue the hot streak it began last year.

In 2020, TSMC made an astounding $45.2 billion, a 25.2 percent increase from its prior-year income. Its full-year earnings got a big boost from its Q4 sales, which totaled $12.67 billion thanks to Apple’s orders. The Big Tech giant, the foundry’s biggest customer, purchased 53 percent of the 5nm chips it made last year. Given that the node is more expensive than its older technologies, the iPhone maker’s product refreshes significantly expanded its business.

As a result, TSMC has an incentive to keep supplying Apple with all the A13 and M1 processors it wants.

Simultaneously, the corporation needs to keep its other clients happy or risk losing market share. Samsung, the only other provider capable of producing 5nm components, is interested in greatly increasing its foundry revenue. With such a serious rival in the mix, the East Asian company cannot afford any delays in its current generation semiconductor manufacturing work.

TSMC’s desire to retain its market-leading position also motivated its plans to spend up to $28 billion this year to enhance its production capacity.

The End of an Era

Last year, the U.S. Department of Commerce issued new export controls regarding the sale of semiconductor technology to firms on its Entity List. The agency’s new rules stated it would penalize corporations found providing vendors like Huawei with advanced components or chip-making tools. TSMC complied with the regulations and ended its business relationship with the telecom in mid-September 2020.

That means Huawei’s newly debuted Mate XS smartphone might be the last device to feature a processor made by TSMC.

Before Washington’s new sanctions came into effect, the Chinese conglomerate ordered 15 million Kirin 9000 chipsets. But the firm only received 8.8 million units and used them to launch its Mate 40 Pro handset last year. Back then, Yu Chengdong, Huawei’s head of consumer business, indicated the Mate 40 could be the last device to feature its flagship SoC.

However, the corporation revealed its Mate XS foldable smartphone comes equipped with a Kirin 9000 processor on Monday. That said, the flexible gadget’s starting price is $2,780, and it is only launching in China. With those caveats and Huawei’s dwindling component supplies, the handset is unlikely to set any sales records.

Although, as the conglomerate intends to reduce its mobile device output by around 60 percent this year, the Mate XS could become a collector’s item.

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