Apple’s massive TSMC gamble could give the company a leg up on the competition

Apple's massive TSMC gamble could give the company an edge over the competition

Last year, we saw the first commercial use of chipsets manufactured in the 5nm process. For example, TSMC produced the first such chip to be found in a smartphone, the Apple A14 Bionic. This replaced the 7nm A13 Bionic chipset. The process node is based on the transistor density of a chip, ie the number of transistors that can fit in a square mm. This number is theoretically believed to double every two years, an observation known as Moore’s Law, first made by former Intel co-founder Gordon Moore in the mid-1960s and revised in the years. seventy.

For example, the A14 Bionic has a transistor density of 134 million transistors per square mm. This is 49% higher than the 89.97 million transistors per square mm of the A13 Bionic. The 49% increase in transistor density results in a transistor count of 11.8 billion for the newer chip, compared to the 8.5 billion transistors in the A13 Bionic chipset.

The reason this is so important is that the higher the transistor density in a chip, the more powerful and energy efficient that chip is. Both iOS and Android devices will benefit from the use of 5nm chipsets this year. In addition to the A14 Bionic, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 is also a 5nm chip that comes off the band at Samsung Foundry. And TSMC manufactured the 5nm Kirin 9000 for Huawei’s HiSilicon unit before the US banned Huawei from supplying its own chip.

Anandtech says 3nm chips will consume 25-30% less power compared to current 5nm peak circuits, while delivering 10% to 15% more performance at the same power consumption. The density of the transistors increases 1.7 times, making the key number approximately 227.8 million transistors per square mm. TSMC Foundry has the capacity to produce 30,000 wafers per month for 3nm chips by 2021, which will increase to 105,000 in 2023-2024.

TSMC is expanding its wafer production for 5nm chips, with capacity rising to 105,000 per month in the first half of this year. This compared to 90,000 wafers produced per month in the fourth quarter of last year. This figure will increase to 160,000 wafers produced per month from 2023-2024. Wafers for the old generation of 7nm chips are currently coming off the production line at a rate of 140,000 per month. That number is expected to grow to 160,000 per month in two to three years.

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