Apple supplier expects volume production of 3nm chips to begin by 2022


This year, TSMC debuted the chips using its 5nm process node. Were the first smartphones released with 5nm chip Apple iPhone 12 series featuring A14 bionic chipset. Apple also has this chip powering IPad Air (2020). The 5nm A14 bionic has a transistor density of 134 million transistors per square mm compared to 89.97 million transistors per square meter on the 7nm A13 bionic. The transistor count for the A14 bionic is 11.8 billion compared to the 8.5 billion transistor for the A13 bionic. The additional transistors found in the A14 Bionic make it a more powerful performer and more energy efficient than the A13 Bionic.

A16 may be the first chip built on a bionic 3nm process node

Android phone manufacturers will have their own 5nm chips to use with the Snapdragon 888 or Exynos 2100. Not only are both produced using a 5nm node, they are produced by both Samsung Foundry. Just announced The Samsung Galaxy S21 series uses both chips depending on the region where the device is purchased. During this, Digitimes reported today that TSMC will begin risk production of its 3nm chips this year with the introduction of volume production during the second half of next year. During Foundry’s quarterly earnings report announced on Thursday, TSMC CEO CC Wei said, “Our N3 technology is progressing well. We are seeing more customer engagement for both HPC and smartphone applications on the N3 compared to the N3 Are. And N7 in a similar state. ”

If TSMC follows this road map, we should see the iPhone 14 line becoming the first handset manufactured by Apple to employ chips manufactured with 3G process nodes. The first such chip will be the A16 Bionic. Last November, TSMC completed the plant structure for its 3nm fab at the Southern Taiwan Science Park (STSP). TSMC originally planned to start 3nm trial production in late 2020. But the global epidemic forced TSMC to bring it back for a year.

According to analysts, instead of spending $ 20 billion – $ 28 billion this year on capital expenditure, TSMC says the limit would be more than $ 25 billion – $ 28 billion. The complexity of the technology required to make 3nm chips is one of the reasons for the high expenditure. TSMC is also cashing in as it purchases EUV lithography equipment. Extreme ultraviolet lithography uses t0 etch extremely thin lines on a wafer. These are the patterns that determine the placement of transistors inside a chip. Given that billions of transistors are used in each chip, these lines should be as thin as possible and this is where the EUV litography machine comes into practice.

TSMC will use FinFET transistors for its 3nm chips while Samsung will switch from FinFET to GAA (Get-All-Around). For 2nm, TSMC will use a GAA design. Samsung reportedly spent around $ 116 billion to develop its 3nm integrated circuit. We can see mass production of 2nm chips starting in 2024 at the earliest.

The observation made by Intel co-founder Gorgon Moore, known as Moore’s law, for transistor density every other year and doubling over the last few years, has given the industry this law. Has not completely followed. And now, as the 2nm is in range, the question is whether Moore’s law will be able to continue. The foundries are working on the use of alternative materials that may be able to improve chip performance and energy consumption beyond 2nm. Just as EUV helped legalize Moore’s law after the 10nm process node, something new can be found to keep Moore’s law alive.

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