TSMC changes 3 nm production plans in order to accommodate Intel's CPU orders ↺
DigiTimes recently published a report on TSMC’s latest developments on the upcoming 3 nm production nodes, informing that the Taiwanese foundries are now changing their initial plans in order to accommodate the newly secured orders from Intel. The English article that is now up on DigiTimes appears to be missing a few points made in the original Chinese version, but we now have a clear translation that adds in those missing details, thanks to RetiredEngineer on Twitter.
TSMC initially planned a mass production start for its 3 nm nodes in the first half of 2022 to align with Apple’s and Intel’s product release roadmaps. Due to unexpected difficulties, however, the 3 nm mass production was pushed back by several months and is now expected to begin some time in the second half of this year, with real volume scheduled for early 2023. Apparently, the 3 nm yields were subpar, but TSMC managed to improve them substantially in the meantime. TSMC is projecting strong demand for 3 nm tech well into 2024, with the bulk of the orders coming from Apple and Intel, yet still being able to satisfy demand from long-time customers like Broadcom, AMD, Nvidia, Qualcomm and MediaTek.
The newly secured orders from Intel led to some restructuring measures, which included the repurposing of the new P8 / P9 expansions of the Fab 12 Gigafab at Baoshan, Hsinchu Science park. The P8 / P9 complex was originally intended to serve as an R&D center and mini-line, focusing on designing sub-3 nm transistors. TSMC was planning to complete this R&D center extending on 32.7 hectares by the end of 2021 and turn it into the equivalent of the Bell Labs, where 8,000 additional personnel would be hired.
Plans suddenly changed with the new Intel partnership and the R&D center blueprints needed to be revised. The P8 / P9 complex will be converted into a second fully fledged production base, with an independent team serving Intel. On the other hand, Fab 18 will remain the main base for 5 nm and 3 nm production. This will help TSMC keep Intel and Apple confidential designs and products totally separate from each other. First wave target production for the P8 / P9 factories is 20K wafers per month and will be utilized to satisfy Intel’s “important CPU orders.”
Industry sources are suggesting that this change of plans at TSMC should prove that the Intel partnership is more solid than expected, with long-term goals spanning beyond the 2 nm GAAFET era starting in 2025.