TSMC ‘on track’ for 10nm and beyond; sets 2016 spend at more than $9billion

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Development of 10nm process technology development is ‘on track’, according to TSMC’s co CEO Mark Liu. Addressing the company’s latest financial meeting, he said :”We are currently in intensive yield learning mode in our technology development and our 256Mbit SRAM is yielding well. We expect to complete process and product qualification and to begin customer product tape-outs this quarter.”

Liu told analysts that progress with 7nm technology is also on schedule and is set to offer ‘a substantial density improvement, performance improvement and power reduction from 10nm’.

TSMC expects to see what it calls ‘major advancement’ in three product sectors in the next two years. “The first sector is high end smartphones,” said Liu. “Between now and 2017, we expect transmission speed to increase by more than 1.5 times and greater than 2.2 times visual experience in high end smartphones. Data sensing will move towards context awareness sensing and these advances will be supported by TSMC’s 10nm and 7nm technologies.”

In the high performance computing sector, TSMC forecasts a doubling in the number of CPU cores in a processor unit. The third sector is emerging applications, including virtual reality, gaming and automotive. For the latter sector, Liu believes advanced driver assistance systems will typically need 20 times the computing power available from current processors.

A ‘sizeable’ R&D team has been working on 5nm for more than a year and Liu said the team had demonstrated ‘innovative features and capabilities on transistor, contact and interconnect'. “Our 5nm technology is planned for about two years after 7nm.”

Part of the 5nm R&D effort has been to ready EUV technology for production use, or process simplification and cost effective density scaling, according to Liu. Currently, TSMC is installing third generation EUV tools in its fabs.

CC Wei, TSMC’s other co CEO, noted: “We have successfully completed integrated fan out (Info) process installation at the Longtan site and are in product qualification. We are on track to start volume production in Q2 2016 but, because of the custom nature of our current InFO technology, we do not expect adoption by a large number of customers. However, we do expect a few very large volume customers.”

InFO – a multi die assembly and packaging technology aimed at space constrained mobile and IoT applications – is said to enable packages to be created that are less than 1mm thick.

* Meanwhile, TSMC has allocated ‘between’ $9billion and $10bn for capital expenditure in 2016. According to chief financial officer Laura Ho, about 70% of the budget will be used to build capacity for 10nm production.