At its 2021 Online Technology Symposium, TSMC unveils its progress at advanced process nodes, advanced packaging and capacity expansion.
7nm family – wider applications, especially for 5G
It is revealed that the 7nm process has come to represent 35% of TSMC’s Q1 revenue in 2021, surpassing the 14% revenue share of the 5nm process. TSMC’s second generation of 7nm process (N7+) entered risk production in 2018, in which TSMC became the first foundry employing the EUV lithography for commercial production.
The 6nm process, a member of the 7nm family, entered production in 2020, thus allowing the 7nm family to encompass a wide range of products from high-end applications, such as high-performance computing (HPC), to mid to low-end applications like mobile phones, consumer electronics and 5G infrastructure.
The company predicts that its advanced manufacturing process will see two categories of application by 2023. The first category contains high-end applications like flagship phones, servers and AI accelerators.
The second category includes the mainstream, mid to low-end products mentioned before. They will use the 6nm process, especially when these products move down from the current 16/12 nodes.
For example, at the Symposium, TSMC also debuts its radio frequency (RF) solutions at 6nm. The N6RF process, a speciality technology, is intended for 5G and WiFi 6/6e applications. Compared to the RF technology at 16nm, N6RF transistors achieve 16% higher performance.
For 5G RF transceivers intended for sub-6 GHz and mmWave bands, TSMC claims the N6RF process will support significant power and area reduction without compromising performance. It will address a growing challenge as 5G chips, with more functionalities integrated, have been growing in size, thus coming into competition with batteries for the limited space within smartphones.
5nm and 4nm: expanding into Arizona, booked by Apple
Meanwhile, TSMC also introduces the newest member of the 5nm family: N5A. The new process will be intended for intensive automobile applications such as Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS).
TSMC has already produced a total of 500,000 chips at 5nm, and its defect density is improving faster than the 7nm generation. Fab 18, in southern Taiwan, has been mainly responsible for TSMC’s 5nm process. The company announces that Fab 18 will expand further, and by 2023 TSMC’s 5nm capacity will quadruple compared to its capacity in 2020. The company already aimed to increase its 5nm capacity to 150,000 wafer per month by the end of this year.
Also under the spotlight is Fab 21, the 5nm plant in Arizona. TSMC confirms that construction has been underway, with volume production scheduled in 2024.
Since its announcement at the Technology Symposium last year, the development of 4nm has been smooth, according to TSMC. Risk production will start earlier than expected in Q3 this year, instead of the previously announced Q4. The upcoming 4nm capacity has already been fully booked by Apple. TSMC estimated that 4nm would be the main process node for mainstream, mid to low-end products after 2023.
3nm and beyond: leading the world
Expected to enter volume production in the second half of 2022, the 3nm node is expected to be the world’s most advanced manufacturing node. It will be the last process node using the FinFet transistor architecture, and it will offer a 70% logic density gain and 15% speed gain compared to 5nm, with 30% less power consumption.
At the Symposium, TSMC also announces breakthrough in low dimensional material and device. The company’s R&D team has been working on 2D and 1D materials, such as carbon nanotubes and nanosheets, to potentially extend transistor scaling.
Following AMD’s Computex announcement regarding its advanced packaging cooperation with TSMC, TSMC also reports on its progress in this field. For HPC applications, TSMC will offer larger reticle-size for its 2.5D packaging solutions, InFO-oS (Integrated Fan-Out on Substrate) and CoWoS (Chip on Wafer on Substrate).
Moreover, the chip-on-wafer version of TSMC’s SoIC (System on Integrated Chips) will complete its trial on the N7-on-N7 this year, and enter production in 2022 in a fully-automated factory.