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nVidia not satisfied with 12″ – Jen Hsun wants more

When all nVidia did was graphic chips for graphic cards, there was always a decent amount of production capacity available in the world. Now that it’s busy pioneering in the phone sector – the numbers have caught Jen Hsun’s gang out. They need more and they’re gasping for it. KitGuru has a look under the sheets to see what’s required for total satisfaction.

There has been a lot of talk recently about processes, confidence, shrinkage and capacity.

TSMC is one of the biggest and more advanced manufacturing operations in the world. For many years, it was the weapon supplier to both nVidia and ATI/AMD for the GeForce/Radeon processors that gamers across the world desired for fast-action gaming. Now that the market (for nVidia, at least) is moving toward mobile phone chips – can TSMC keep up with demand?

The gap in numbers between graphic cards and phones is huge. In the UK alone, 2012 will see the sale of millions of smartphones – while the total market for graphic cards (in stores as well as pre-installed in locally built PCs), is highly unlikely to touch 600,000.

One of the solutions to this gap in demand/supply, is to make chips faster and faster.

TSMC is doing its bit here, by building bigger and better FABrication plants as fast as its builders will allow. But that might not be enough.

Word into KitGuru from Rick Merritt at EETimes is that when nVidia CEO Jen Hsun Huang discusses solutions to the problems of tomorrow with smart cookies like Sameer Halepete, VP for VLSI engineering at Nvidia, then he’s demanding something much bigger in the silicon department.

Halepete has ben quoted as saying, “The industry needs to move to 450mm wafers to deal with the increasing number of masks and process steps required to make chips. The larger wafers would spread the costs out among more chips and reduce the processing time per chip”.
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For our European readers, the present FABs tend to run with 300mm wafers (approx 12″), but the industry is starting to look at availability on 450mm (which is closer to 18″).
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But the move at TSMC might not come quick enough. Halapete believes that TSMC may not get to 450mm wafers until after the introduction of 14nm processes.
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If TSMC starts to practice with 450mm in 2014/15, then we could expect mass production around 2 years later.
Samsung has been playing with 450mm wafers for a while - initially to supply Captain America with shields

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KitGuru says: With Samsung and IBM pushing money into fabrication the way a phat Guru of the Kit pushes marshmallows into his waiting mouth, what does the future of mobile chip production hold for nVidia and TSMC? Can Samsung make its ‘total supply and production chain control’ stick?

Comment below or in the KitGuru forums.

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