At TSMC’s 26th Technical Symposium, TSMC officially confirmed that its 5nm and 6nm processes are already in mass production. In addition, the company also announced that it will release a higher version of the 5nm process next year. Furthermore, TSMC officially confirmed that more advanced 3nm and 4nm is in development. As for the 4nm process, it is an ultimate improvement of 5nm. However, the 3nm process is the natural successor to the 5nm process.
In terms of technical indicators, the risk production of the 3nm process (N3) will take place next year. The mass production will commence in 2022. Compared with 5nm, 3nm will reduce power consumption by 25-30% and improve performance by 10-15%. The 4nm (N4) risk production is also scheduled to take place next year. Just like the 3nm process, 4nm mass production will start in 2022. For TSMC N5 customers, the transition to N4 will be very smooth, which means that the tape-out cost will be greatly reduced.
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Of course, TSMC is not the only 3nm manufacturer. Samsung has greater ambitions and wants to introduce 3nm to the market next year. In terms of core technology, Samsung’s 3nm will switch to Gate-All-Around (GAA, surround gate transistor), and TSMC will stick to FinFET (fin field-effect transistor).
TSMC is also building a 2nm R&D center
According to TSMC, it is building a new R&D center for its 2nm process. This center will have about 8000 engineers to look into the development of TSMC’s 2nm process. However, the company did not announce the exact location of the R&D center. Nevertheless, there are reports that it could be in the Nanke Industrial Park. Recall that TSMC recently purchased the polarized light plant at a price of NT$ 3.65 billion ($125 million) to build a new production plant. At the time of the purchase, TSMC did not specify that this plant is for the 2nm R&D center.
Due to the huge increase in orders, TSMC has invested tens of billions of New Taiwan dollars in purchasing land to expand production capacity this year. These investments are necessary for the development of the new manufacturing process. At present, whether Samsung or TSMC, the semiconductor process is at the 3nm level. The 3nm research and development are basically complete. All that is left is to build a factory for mass production. This will not take as much time as the research and development phase. However, this will depend on the availability of investment.