Taiwanese semiconductor giant TSMC has announced that it will be putting its 7nm process into mass production earlier than planned in order to meet demand from clients. Processor makers like MediaTek, Huawei’s HiSilicon, NVIDIA and Qualcomm are all moving into 7nm design and production, and TSMC wants to be able to continue providing them with the silicon they need to get their products up and running. In order to do this, TSMC will speed ahead of the likes of Samsung and Intel, and work to make its 7nm product available to clients as soon as possible.
A large number of clients recently announced their intentions to cooperate with TSMC in order to produce 7nm mobile processors and related products in the near future, meaning the ball is firmly in TSMC’s court and the pressure is on. A number of IC design companies have announced products specifically designed to aid their clients, semiconductor manufacturers, in designing and rolling out 7nm products. The 7nm line, called N7, is expected to make up 20-percent of sales for the second quarter, and ten-percent overall for the year. The firm’s previous 10nm product, meanwhile, experienced growth of 19-percent in the first quarter of the year, but is expected to wind down to only 10-percent over the second quarter, according to TSMC CFO Lora Ho.
Looking to the future, TSMC wants to roll out a new 7nm product with extreme ultraviolet lithography, which should allow for a larger number of smaller and easier-to-use chips to be made at a lower cost. The new line, dubbed N7 Plus, is slated to come out in 2019. It is worth noting that EUV lithography technology is already available, and some manufacturers are planning on rolling it out even sooner. While TSMC may have beaten Samsung to the punch on getting 7nm products into mass production, for example, the South Korean giant is only biding its time because it plans to hit the ground running by rolling out EUV for its first-generation 7nm product, which is slated to come out later this year if all goes well. This essentially means that TSMC has only a quarter or two to make the most of its first-generation 7nm fab before other players in the market begin rolling out their EUV 7nm options, essentially making N7 obsolete.