TSMC's trial production of 7nm process to catch up with Samsung chip technology remains to be seen

October 14, 2021

Taiwan media said that TSMC has begun trial production of the 7nm process, and will be officially put into production in the first quarter of next year. It is rumored that Qualcomm will likely return to the 7nm process to produce its high-end chips. The author has some doubts about this news.

In the 16nm and 10nm processes, Taiwan media has also said that it has made good progress. It has also been said that Qualcomm will return to TSMC to produce the Snapdragon 835 chip using the 10nm process, but the facts are different from these rumors.

As early as 2014, TSMC said that the 16nm process is progressing well, but in fact the 16nm process that was put into production at that time was not as efficient or even as good as the 20nm process. The reason was that FinFET technology was not successfully introduced at the time, and the industry generally believed that it was below 20nm process. Due to the smaller gate length, FinFET technology is needed to better control current and leakage to obtain better performance and performance.

TSMC's trial production of 7nm process, catching up with Samsung chip technology remains to be seen

Therefore, the 16nm process of mass production at that time was not recognized by all parties. Only Huawei Haisi and other two customers used the process, and Huawei HiSilicus only used this process to produce chips such as Netcom processors that have low power requirements. . TSMC and Huawei Hisilicon continued to improve the process. Until the third quarter of 2015, the 16nm FinFET process was developed, and the energy efficiency performance was very good. It was adopted by many customers such as Apple A9 and Huawei HiSilicon 950.

The 14nm FinFET process of Samsung and TSMC's 16nm FinFET is successfully put into production in early 2015. This is the first time Samsung has achieved a leading position in two fierce competitions over the years. The Samsung Exynos 7420 chip produced by this process in that year was excellent in energy efficiency, and Qualcomm was then The use of TSMC's 20nm Snapdragon 810 has a fever problem, and Exynos7420 dominates the Android market.

TSMC's 10nm process was once touted by Taiwanese media, and even said it would be put into production before Samsung. However, the fact is that Samsung first mass-produced the process in October last year, while TSMC said that Apple A10X and MediaTek helio adopted the process at the end of last year. The X30 has not been released, and the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, which uses the Samsung 10nm process, has been released, so in fact Samsung has already led TSMC.

From the 16nm FinFET and 10nm process, it can be seen that the Taiwan media has promoted TSMC in advance, but the fact is that the actual production time is behind schedule. Whether the 7nm process can lead Samsung is certainly doubtful.

As for the Qualcomm will return to TSMC to adopt its 7nm process, there is a very big doubt. At the beginning, Qualcomm left because it has been helping TSMC develop the most advanced technology for many years. However, when it came to the 20nm process, TSMC gave the process to Apple to produce the A8 processor, which caused the production time of the Snapdragon 810 to be too late. Sufficient time to optimize, this is one of the factors that cause the fever problem of Xiaolong 810.

Therefore, Qualcomm rushed away and switched to Samsung Semiconductor's 14nm FinFET process to produce its high-end chip Snapdragon 820. In fact, Huawei's Haisi also enjoyed the same experience. Huawei HiSilicon helped TSMC develop a 16nm FinFET process, but TSMC preferred to provide the process capacity to Apple's A9/A9X processor, resulting in the production of Huawei's Kirin 950 two or three months later.

Under the guidance of this, Huawei HiSili developed two high-end chips of Kirin 960 and Kirin 970 at the same time. The two chips are basically the same, except that the former uses TSMC's 16nm FinFET and the latter uses 10nm process. MediaTek hopes that its latest high-end chip, the helio X30, will use TSMC's 10nm process to compete with Qualcomm, and is currently facing the embarrassment of being officially mass-produced due to the competition with Apple's A10X for 10nm process capacity.

Under such circumstances, Qualcomm will return to TSMC to adopt its 7nm process at the end of this year or next year. There is a big doubt. If TSMC's 7nm process is on time, it may be difficult to give priority to Apple's relationship. Providing sufficient capacity for Qualcomm, we must know that Qualcomm is the world's mobile phone chip leader. Its demand for production capacity is very large. TSMC's 7nm process is difficult to meet the needs of Apple and Qualcomm's two large customers at the same time due to the relationship between yield and capacity.

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Shenzhen Chaoran Technology Corp. , https://www.chaoran-remote.com