28nm Powers TSMC Forward

The shift to advanced nodes is accelerating, but not everyone sees finFETs as the next big thing.

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By Barry Pangrle
TSMC’s financial results for Q4 of 2012 and for the full year were announced just a few weeks agom with TSMC stating it had achieved record sales and profits. Basically, TSMC currently owns the 28nm foundry market. Chairman Morris Chang was clear to distinguish 28nm from 32nm. TSMC substantially moved to the 40nm “half-node” from 45nm, and then skipped 32nm and went to 28nm. Plans according to TSMC are to have 20nm as its next technology node in production in 2014. TSMC said that 28nm production was up 30-fold from 2011 and its wafer production at 28nm is projected to be up another 3x in 2013 from 2012.

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Figure 1. Percent Revenue Per Technology Node Over Time

The ramp-up of 28nm has been very fast compared to other recent nodes, with the percentage of revenue coming from 28nm last quarter already equaling that from 40nm. Another interesting point is that 28nm revenue also crossed over 65nm in the same quarter. This would seem to indicate that customers are moving very quickly to 28nm to take advantage of the benefits of that process node. For 2013, about 32% of TSMC’s revenue is projected to come from smartphones and tables. Table 1 below shows the significant shift from “Computer” to “Communications” over the last few years with about 50% of the total revenue in 2012 coming from “Communications.”

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As mobile products continue to increase in popularity, the demand for smaller technology nodes appears to be very strong. TSMC is projecting that 2014 20nm volume will be higher than 2012 28nm volume and that 2015 20nm volume will be higher than 2013 28nm volume. When Chairman Chang was asked about 16nm FinFET production for 2015, he said that he thought that it would be “rather small.”

—Barry Pangrle is a Senior Power Methodology Engineer at NVIDIA. The views expressed in this article are his own and not necessarily those of NVIDIA.