TSMC picks up the pace of 7nm chip production after demand from clients increases
TSMC, the company that produces the 10nm Apple A11 Bionic chipset, has started increasing the number of chips it is mass producing using the 7nm process. Industry sources say that the company moved up its timetable to increase production after demand picked up from clients like Qualcomm, MediaTek and Huawei's HiSilicon. Those three are known as fabless chip producers because they do not fabricate, or manufacture, their own chips. Some of TSMC's fabless clients are skipping the 10nm process and are going straight to 7nm with their designs.
TSMC, which is calling its 7nm process "N7," started mass production of these chips this quarter. Sales of 7nm chips are expected to make up 20% of company sales by this year's fourth quarter, and 10% of total 2018 sales. Next year, TSMC's N7+ will launch. This process will employ the EUV lithography technology. Samsung will be ready to begin mass production on its own 7nm EUV chips during the second half of this year. The technique will allow chip producers to streamline the process of etching designs on silicon wafers.
Lora Ho, TSMC's CFO, said that the 10nm process accounted for 19% of TSMC's wafer sales in the first quarter of this year. By the fourth quarter of this year, that figure will drop to 10% of the company's wafer sales thanks to the proliferation of the 7nm node. As process size gets smaller, chips offer greater performance with less energy consumption.
TSMC is currently mass-producing the 7nm Apple A12 SoC for the 2018 iPhone models.