Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. is on-track to start volume production of chips in the first quarter of 2015, according to a media report. The first client to order 16nm chips from TSMC is expected to be Apple, which is a little bit surprising.
TSMC has been making test chips using 16nm FinFET process technology for a while now, the company said multiple times this year. According to a report from Chinese-language Economic Daily News (EDN, which was partly translated by DigiTimes, TSMC is on-track to process up to 50 thousand 300mm wafers with chips using 16nm FinFET manufacturing process per month in the first quarter of 2015. The first customer to get 16nm processors from TSMC is claimed to be Apple.
Traditionally Apple launches new products in the second half of the year. Therefore, it does not need to stockpile its new A9 chips beginning in Q1 in order to get the right amount of application processors for new iPhones, iPads and other products for launch in Q3 or Q4.
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. Perhaps, TSMC wants to speed up volume production of chips made using 16nm FinFET and 16nm FinFET+ processes in order to maintain market share and ensure orders from companies like Apple or Qualcomm who can use multiple foundries.
Apple and TSMC did not comment on the news-story.
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KitGuru Says: It is interesting to note that earlier this year TSMC said that many of its customers preferred to make their chips using more energy-efficient 16nm FinFET+ fabrication process that is set to become available later in 2015. Therefore, it is completely unclear why Apple decided to choose TSMC’s 16nm FinFET.