TSMC on Track to Begin Volume Production of 3nm Chips in 2022
TSMC, Apple's main chip supplier, is on track to begin risk production of a 3-nanometer fabrication process in the second half of this year, when the foundry will be capable of processing 30,000 wafers built using the more advanced technology, according to a new report today (via DigiTimes).
TSMC reportedly plans to expand its 3nm process capacity to 55,000 units monthly in 2022, thanks to Apple's order commitment, and will further scale up the output to 105,000 units in 2023. The 3nm process yields 30 percent and 15 percent power consumption and performance improvements over the 5nm process.
A previous report suggested TSMC will be ready to move into volume production in the second half of next year, suggesting the 3nm production roadmap is unchanged.
Meanwhile, TSMC plans to scale up its 5nm process manufacturing capacity throughout the year to meet increasing demands from its major customers. According to today's report, TSMC will upscale to 105,000 wafers monthly in the first half of 2021, up from 90,000 units in fourth-quarter 2020, with plans to further expand the process capacity to 120,000 units in the second half of this year.
TSMC's 5nm process capacity will reach 160,000 wafers monthly by 2024, the sources indicated. In addition to Apple, other major customers using TSMC's 5nm process manufacturing include AMD, MediaTek, Xilinx, Marvell, Broadcom and Qualcomm, the sources said.
The report's sources claim that the additional 5nm processing capacity is one of the main reasons for a recent drop in capacity utilization rates for the process. TSMC gives Apple priority over other clients, which is why a seasonal slowdown in iPhone chip orders is said to be another possible factor.
That said, overall 5nm chip orders placed by Apple reportedly remain stable, thanks to new orders for Apple's Arm-based M1 processor and continued brisk demand for the iPad Air, powered by Apple's A14 Bionic chip.
Apple will allegedly use a 5nm+ A15 chip in its forthcoming iPhone 13 series. 5nm+, or N5P, is said to be a "performance-enhanced version" of the 5nm chip used in the iPhone 12 that will deliver additional power efficiency and performance improvements.
TrendForce believes it is highly likely that the A16 chip in 2022 iPhones will be manufactured based on TSMC's future 4nm process, suggesting the new 3nm technology will likely be used for a potential A17 chip and potentially other future Apple silicon Macs if the company follows previous years.