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TSMC eyes 10nm production by 2017

Posted: 25 Feb 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:10nm? Moore's Law? capex? wafer fab? chip foundry?

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) announced its plan to begin 10nm production by 2017. This will make the world's largest chip foundry at par with the process technology of industry leader Intel Corp.

"The performance of our 10nm, in terms of speed, power and density will be equal to what we believe Intel will define as its 10nm technology," TSMC Director of Corporate Communications Elizabeth Sun told EE Times. "Technology-wise, we think we can close the gap at 10nm."

For the first time this year, TSMC is expected to have the largest capex in the semiconductor industry as it aims to maintain its lead in the foundry business against rivals such as Samsung, Intel and GlobalFoundries.

TSMC has raised its capital expenditure budget for 2015 to $11.5-12 billion, an increase of 11.5-20 per cent compared with 2014, mainly due to its confidence in demand for advanced geometries. Intel spent $10.1 billion on capex during 2014. For the current year, Intel expects that figure to hold steady, at $10 billion, plus or minus $500 million.

Moore's Law 'Challenged'

Fewer companies can afford the huge investments in advanced production as Moore's Law is becoming "challenged," Sun said.

"When you continue chip-level scaling, the cost goes up," Sun said. "The cost is escalating, so fewer and fewer people can really afford it."

TSMC will start 10nm production at its existing Taichung, Taiwan site, where the chipmaker will later embark on production at more advanced technology nodes, Sun said.

By the end of 2018, the company's Taichung site will reach a monthly output capacity of 90,000 wafers at the 10nm and more advanced technology nodes, according to a report on the Chinatimes website.

TSMC earlier this month said it would invest NT$500 billion ($15.9 billion) as part of an expansion at the Taichung site in central Taiwan.

TSMC's sales revenue in 2015 will likely rise by "several percentage points" more than the estimated industry average of 12 per cent, according to TSMC co-CEO Mark Liu, speaking at an earnings event in January.

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