Since a January report claimed that Intel would outsource its mid to high-end processors to TSMC’s 3nm process and enter volume production in the second half of 2022, it has been once again revealed that Intel intends to use TSMC’s 3nm node for its server and PC processors.
If the deal is confirmed, it will not only make Intel the largest consumer of TSMC’s 3nm process alongside Apple, it will also mark an important step as Intel seeks to regain its lost market share, especially when it chronically lags behind on 7nm, giving its arch rival AMD a chance to catch up in the PC market through TSMC’s 7nm node. When Apple decided to make its own chips, it dealt another blow to Intel in the PC processor market.
As of the Q1 of 2021, AMD respectively holds 19.3% and 18% of the x86-based desktop and notebook markets, and it has been targeting the server market as well, accounting for 8.9% of the x-86 based server market.
Meanwhile, TSMC’s 3nm process will arrive sooner than expected. It has already entered risk production in March, and it is scheduled for volume production in the first half of 2022. According to TSMC, it’s 3nm process monthly output will be 55,000 wafers per month on the outset. By 2023, the production capacity can reach 105,000 wafers per month.
In comparison, last week Samsung has just successfully taped out its 3nm chip, with volume production date unspecified. An unnamed official within Qualcomm, a major customer of Samsung, once estimated that Samsung’s 3nm products would enter volume production as quickly as in 2023, but the most likely date would be four years from now. Coincidentally, Samsung is also seeking to build a 3nm-fab in the US, with completion estimated in 2023. It remains to be seen how it plans to achieve the goal on time.
Previously, according to TrendForce, Intel has already outsourced 15-20% of its non-CPU products, such as FPGA chips, to TSMC and UMC. Owing to its own constraints, however, Intel has gradually outsourced some of its processors to TSMC.
Its Core i3 CPUs, for example, will be manufactured at TSMC’s 5nm node in the second half this this year. In a similar development, Intel’s DG2 graphics card will be produced on TSMC’s 6nm node, an advanced version of its 7nm process, and enter production at the end of the year.