TSMC on Track to Start 3nm Chip Production in Second Half of This Year

Apple chipmaking partner TSMC says it will be ready to move its 3nm chip process to volume production in the second half of this year, putting it on track to supply Apple with the next-generation technology in 2023 (via DigiTimes).

3nm apple silicon feature

"We expect the ramp of N3 to be driven by both HPC [high performance computing] and smartphone applications," said Wei during an April 14 earnings conference call. "We continue to see a high level of customer engagement at N3 and expect more new tape-outs for N3 for the first year as compared with N5 and N7."

TSMC is expected to initially process 30,000-35,000 wafers manufactured using 3nm process technology monthly, according to industry sources cited by DigiTimes.

A July 2021 report from Nikkei Asia claimed Apple will launch an iPad this year featuring a processor based on TSMC's 3nm process. The report from DigiTimes today also claims the process will first be used by Apple in iPads, although it doesn't say which model or when it would launch.

If true, it would be the second time in recent years that Apple has debuted new chip technology in an ‌iPad‌ before using it in its flagship smartphones. Apple first debuted the A14 Bionic chip, based on 5nm technology, in 2020's fourth-generation iPad Air.

Whether or not it goes down the same adoption route, Apple is expected to release the majority of its devices with 3nm chips fabricated by TSMC in 2023, including Macs with M3 chips and iPhone 15 models with A17 chips.

The move to a more advanced process typically results in improved performance and power efficiency, enabling faster speeds and longer battery life on future Macs and iPhones. According to TSMC, 3nm technology can increase processing performance by 10% to 15% compared to 5nm tech, while reducing power consumption by 25% to 30%.

Some M3 chips are said to have up to four dies, potentially allowing up to a 40-core CPU. In comparison, Apple's M1 chip has an 8-core CPU and the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips have 10-core CPUs.

TSMC said it is also on track to move N3E, an enhanced version of N3, to volume production in the second half of 2022. Wei said TSMC's N3E process would "further extend our N3 family with enhanced performance, power, and yield."

Looking ahead, TSMC said its next-generation N2 (2nm) process development was also on track, and the foundry expects to get ready for risk production at the end of 2024 followed by volume production in 2025.

Related Roundup: iPhone 15

Top Rated Comments

GubbyMan Avatar
11 weeks ago

So what happens after 1nm is reached? We get into sub-zero nm? Oh my
Intel is going to name their processes 20A and 18A (equivalent to 2nm and 1.8nm). A stands for Ångström ('https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angstrom'). It's also worth to mention that 5nm doesn't stand for anything in particular and transistors are much bigger than that so expect node shrinks to continue for a while longer.

Also going below 1nm is not the same as going sub-zero nm. :p
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
kropop Avatar
11 weeks ago
Can you imagine? The distance of 3nm is only 15 Atoms of Silicium...
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
adamw Avatar
11 weeks ago
This is exceedingly awesome news for Apple, and for all of us who appreciate and own Apple products! We should be looking forward to seeing how Apple can maximize the 3nm Apple Silicon process to reduce the size, heat, and power draw of future chips, while increasing the performance and features of future Apple Silicon chips!
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Zdigital2015 Avatar
11 weeks ago

TSMC is expecting products using its 2nm process to hit the market in 2026. Intel is claiming that its 20A and 18A (2nm and 1.8nm) nodes will enter volume production in 2024 (probably some 18A products will launch in 2025).

If intel does in fact stick to its schedule without delays (unlike the 14nm->10nm debacle), might Intel actually have node superiority in 2024-25?

TSMC seems to be slowing down. Moving to a 3 year cadence vs 2 years during 7->5->3.
2nm on their own fabs? Yeah, I don’t see that happening and, historically, Intel has always overhyped when they would bring new nodes online. After they’ve appeased shareholders and gotten the hype train going, they come out six months later saying and announce that they are delaying rollout. And the analysts give them a pass. I’m not sure why anyone still believes anything Intel says.

And because technology isn’t static, I’m not sure why “node superiority” is important to anyone, other than to spec chasers. Perhaps it’s important to boosters after all the complete debacle that “10nm” has been for Intel. If Intel hits their targets, great for them. I don’t miss them one bit though.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Random_Matt Avatar
11 weeks ago
M3 2023, nope.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
falkon-engine Avatar
11 weeks ago
TSMC is expecting products using its 2nm process to hit the market in 2026. Intel is claiming that its 20A and 18A (2nm and 1.8nm) nodes will enter volume production in 2024 (probably some 18A products will launch in 2025).

If intel does in fact stick to its schedule without delays (unlike the 14nm->10nm debacle), might Intel actually have node superiority in 2024-25?

TSMC seems to be slowing down. Moving to a 3 year cadence vs 2 years during 7->5->3.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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