LONDON – Foundry Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (Hsinchu, Taiwan) is reportedly going to start installing equipment for 20-nm CMOS production at its Fab 14 on April 20, two months earlier than previously planned.
TSMC would then be able to begin volume production at the end of the second quarter and ramp 20-nm production in the second half of 2013 a Focus Taiwan report said referencing unnamed sources.
That timetable seems extreme as it usually takes several months to get a production line hooked up and another few months for the first wafers to "pipeclean" the line. However a smooth installation could get some additional 20-nm production out in 2013.
At a groundbreaking ceremony for phase 5 of Fab 14 held in April 2012 TSMC indicated that the fab would be TSMC's second 20nm-capable fab area and planned to begin 20-nm volume production early 2014. TSMC's phase 6 at Fab 12 in Hsinchu was slated to be TSMC's first 20-nm production site, coming on stream in 2013.
So an early ramping of Fab 14 looks to be an effort to expand 20-nm production capacity and pull it back into 2013. Many observers are tying this to the expectation that TSMC will make the A7 processor for Apple.
TSMC's ability to transition manufacturing of chips from 28-nm to 20-nm bulk CMOS is seen as a key advantage over competitors Samsung and Globalfoundries but on the other hand some observers have said the process will not bring clear performance or power consumption benefits so that many customers would prefer to wait for a FinFET process at 16-nm or 14-nm. But all these processes are present extreme technical complexities that could affect yield and a foundry's ability to supply demand.