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TSMC to speed up development of 10nm process technology

In a bid to retain its leadership position on the market of contract semiconductor manufacturing, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. is reportedly accelerating development of its 10nm FinFET process technology.

At present TSMC is the leading contract maker of chips produced using 28nm process technology. It is believed that the company makes considerably more chips using the 28nm fabrication process than all of its rivals combined and the firm will largely maintain its lead with the 20nm fabrication process.

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Seeing that it was impossible to beat TSMC with 28nm and 20nm process technologies in terms of quality and volume, GlobalFoundries and Samsung Semiconductor focused on their 14nm FinFET fabrication processes in order to make sure that the quality and volume are there by the time technologies are needed. Earlier this year GF and Samsung even agreed to jointly produce chips using the same 14nm FinFET fabrication process. The two foundries decided to synchronize actual production facilities and will use a coordinated copy-smart approach involving materials, process recipes, integration and tools. As a result, GlobalFoundries and Samsung will give their customers the ability to produce a single design at multiple manufacturing facilities.

To make things even more complicated for TSMC, Intel Corp. started to offer foundry services involving its 14nm process technology to various customers. So far the company has only six clients officially, but that number will grow over time.

As a result, TSMC is going to face much more competition from 14nm process technologies from Intel, GlobalFoundries and Samsung with its 16nm FinFET and 16nm FinFET+ technologies than it did with the 28nm and the 20nm nodes. Since TSMC’s 16nm fabrication processes have already been developed and the company cannot dramatically improve its competitive positions here, it plans to “accelerate the development of the 10nm technology in order to maintain its lead,” reports DigiTimes web-site.

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Back in April TSMC said that the risk production using the 10nm FinFET process technology was on-track to start in Q4 2015. Volume production typically begins a year after risk production, hence, TSMC’s official plan is to start mass production using 10nm node in late 2016. It remains to be seen whether the company will be able to significantly put 16nm volume production forward.

Based on TSMC’s predictions, its 10nm FinFET will offer over 25 per cent clock-rate improvement over the 16nm FinFET+ at the same power; it is also expected to be 45 per cent more energy efficient and it is predicted to provide 2.2 times higher density over 16nm FinFET+.

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KitGuru Says: It should be noted that TSMC’s 10nm schedule is already very aggressive. Even Intel is expected to start production of Airlake/Cannonlake processors using 10nm process technology in late-2016 if everything goes as planned. Leaving Intel behind in terms of new process technology is a very ambitious plan. It is also noteworthy that increased investments into 10nm may translate into higher manufacturing costs for TSMC’s clients.

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