Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Firm (TSMC) is on observe to launch the much-awaited 3-nm course of node in September, in accordance with media studies in Taiwan, and Apple will likely be its first 3-nm buyer, incorporating its TSMC-manufactured M2 Professional processor in Mac machines to be unveiled later this 12 months. In line with studies printed in DigiTimes, different semiconductor suppliers committing to fabricate their chips at TSMC’s 3-nm node embody AMD, Broadcom, Intel, MediaTek, Nvidia, and Qualcomm.

That exhibits a powerful edge over Samsung Foundry, which got here into the limelight earlier this 12 months when it claimed to mass produce 3-nm processors. Nevertheless, Samsung foundry’s solely notable buyer in addition to its personal Exynos processors is thought to be Qualcomm’s Snapdragon smartphone processor, which is competing instantly with Samsung’s Exynos smartphone processor.

Furthermore, in contrast to Samsung transferring to the brand new gate-all-along (GAA) expertise for its 3-nm node, TSMC determined to stick with the FinFET expertise on the 3-nm fabrication course of and as an alternative transfer to GAA for its upcoming 2-nm course of. The GAA fabrication expertise bolsters chip efficiency with its excessive electrical conductivity.

There have additionally been speculations in commerce media concerning the imminent delay within the arrival of the 3-nm fabrication course of, which TSMC claimed could be prepared by September 2022. There was some media chatter that TSMC’s 3-nm plans may very well be delayed on account of Intel’s design adjustments in a few of its upcoming processors. Ultimately, Taiwan’s main semiconductor contract producer was in a position to keep on with its authentic plan and meet its purpose of beginning 3-nm manufacturing within the second half of 2022.

Determine 1 TSMC’s 3-nm course of node relies on FinFlex expertise, which offers chip designers the pliability and management over their chip design when it comes to boosting efficiency, energy, or die space. Supply: TSMC

The FinFlex expertise

TSMC’s 3-nm course of node, dubbed N3, employs the FinFlex expertise, which permits chip designers to combine and match totally different varieties of ordinary cells inside one block to precisely optimize efficiency, energy consumption and space (PPA). This new characteristic is especially useful in manufacturing complicated chip designs like CPUs and GPUs that includes a number of cores.

In contrast with TSMC’s 5-nm node, generally referred to as N5, the preliminary model of the N3 node is projected to supply a 10% to 15% efficiency enchancment, cut back energy consumption by 25% to 30%, and enhance logic density by round 1.6 occasions. Nevertheless, it’s more likely to ship a lower-than-expected yield for some chip designs. TSMC plans to launch the N3E node with an improved course of, which encompasses a barely decrease transistor density however will bolster high-volume manufacturing (HVM).

Determine 2 In an N3E course of, 2-1 Fin lowers energy consumption and leakage, whereas 2-2 Fin bolsters efficiency. The two-Three Fin boosts clock frequencies for better computing calls for. Supply: TSMC

Ultimately, TSMC will add N3P, N3S, and N3X variations to its 3-nm household of nodes. Right here, it’s essential to notice that the Hsinchu, Taiwan-based semiconductor fab has beforehand supplied totally different variations of the identical node. This time, nevertheless, it’s primarily based on the brand new FinFlex expertise, which permits chip suppliers to customise their designs to boost efficiency in numerous areas of a 3-nm chip. In different phrases, the 3-nm fabrication course of will provide totally different variations when it comes to the variety of fins per transistor.

Whereas 3-nm course of expertise and the unique node kick off subsequent month, these variants will come on-line in 2023 and 2024.

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