Much of this year’s growth comes in the 28nm node. Just a year ago, Qualcomm’s chief executive Paul Jacobs was telling his investors the company could sell more of the advanced chips than it could make at TSMC and was searching for capacity elsewhere.
In June 2010, TSMC broke ground on a so-called Gigafab 15 site in Taichung, Taiwan, it planned as its manufacturing center for 28-nm chips. By April 2012, just 22 months later, it started production in half the planned facility -- a record for the Taiwan foundry.
Within eight months it was kicking out 50,000 28-nm wafers a month -- another record -- but it still wasn’t enough. So, next month the second half of the facility is set to produce its first wafers and within five months is expected to beat the old record and add another 50,000 28-nm wafers/month. “The scale is difficult to appreciate,” said Chang.
The “unprecedented ramp of 28-nm chips came with an acceleration in time to good yields and volume production," said J.K Wang who oversees TSMC’s 300-mm fabs. The foundry expects to see even faster ramps at 20 and 16 nm, so it has several thousand engineers preparing for those nodes at its fab 12 and 14 facilities today.
TSMC now starts three new fabs each year.
“In the past, we built one phase of a new fab each a year, now we typically initiate three phases a year,” said Wang.
The foundry estimates it makes 1.3 million logic wafers per month total now, far ahead of Samsung in second place at about 900,000 logic wafers/month. It estimates it will produce a whopping 13.5 million wafers/month in 2017 if it continues its growth.