Development of new fabrication technologies never stops at leading-edge companies such as TSMC. Therefore, it is not surprising to hear the annoucement that development of TSMC’s 3nm node is well underway, something the company publicly confirmed last week. As it appears, the manufacturing technology is out of its pathfinding mode and TSMC has already started engaging with early customers.

“On N3, the technology development progress is going well, and we are already engaging with the early customers on the technology definition,” said C.C. Wei, CEO and co-chairman of TSMC, in a conference call with investors and financial analysts. “We expect our 3-nanometer technology to further extend our leadership position well into the future.”

Since its N3 technology is in its early stages of development, TSMC doesn't currently talk about the specific characteristics of the process nor its advantages over N5. TSMC said that it had evaluated all possible transistor structure options for 3nm and came out with ‘a very good solution’ for its clients. The specification is under development and the company is confident it would meet requirements of its leading partnering customer.

One of TSMC’s arch-rivals, Samsung Foundry, plans to use nanosheet-based Gate-All-Around MBCFET transistors for its own 3nm (3GAAE) process technology. Since TSMC will have to be competitive with its rival, we expect the company to also advance its 3nm node significantly in comparison to its 5nm node. In fact, TSMC confirms that N3 is a brand-new process technology, not an improvement or iteration of N5.

Meanwhile, it is safe to say that that TSMC’s 3 nm node will use both deep ultraviolet (DUV) and extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography equipment. Since TSMC’s N5 uses up to 14 EUV layers, it is likely that N3 will go even higher in the amount of layers employed. The world’s largest contract maker of semiconductors also seems to be quite happy with its EUV progress and considers the technology important for its future.

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Source: TSMC

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  • melgross - Wednesday, July 24, 2019 - link

    Years ago, AMD said that 14nm would cost more per transistor than 22nm. That’s getting worse with each succeeding generation. Even TSMC recently said that going to 5nm wouldn’t make much gain in efficiency and performance.

    I’ve felt that more performance could be wrung out from each node if they stayed on it for a longer time. It would also allow them to better prepare the succeeding node. But marketing doesn’t want that. Advertising a new node seems better.

    This is what has gotten Intel into such a bind. Their 14nm is better than it was, and their attempt at 10nm was much more ambitious than anyone else, and it set them back. But not really. It’s popular to think. But 10nm is coming on line, considered about as good as other 7nm l8nes. If they get 7nm on line on time, they’ll be crack in the leading edge Frey, even with 5nm moving in before.
    Reply
  • name99 - Wednesday, July 24, 2019 - link

    No, that's NOT what has got Intel into a bind.

    In the first place, transistors are still cheaper every generation, at least for foundries.
    In the second place Intel's problem is more or less the precise opposite from what you say. Intel bet on GHz not on density. They optimized their designs for GHz, and their process for GHz. But GHz ain't going anywhere -- the best you get is a few hundred MHz over five years or so.

    Apple (and ARM, and maybe AMD -- I can't tell how they think) bet on density -- on designs that run ever faster because they use ever more transistors, not because the transistors are clocked that much faster. With Apple it's really obvious: A12 is about 4x speed of A7, and is just under 2x the GHz --- even split between smarter design (lots! of transistors) and higher speed transistors.

    Intel's path is a dead end. Half the company is designing for GHz, while the other half is creating processes optimized for density! And then, big surprise, it all falls apart when you try to manufacture the GHz-optimized design on the density optimized process?!?

    And they STILL haven't got their act together! Look at their marketing! Same thing. When they advertise CPUs, it's all about "we has top GHz", then when they boast about their new processes, it's all about how the density is even higher. WTF guys, WTF???
    Reply
  • melgross - Thursday, July 25, 2019 - link

    What? Are you living in the past? Reply
  • name99 - Wednesday, July 24, 2019 - link

    One day, maybe, but not soon.

    It's great that we can have dream machines at ridiculously low prices, but these machines are valuable enough that we'd buy them at 2x or 3x the price, easily. There'll be a whole lot of grumbling and complaining, as always. But people have grumbled and complain since the iPhone 1 and every year there after --- and they've been MASSIVELY wrong about the value of these devices compared to their costs, and so, just how desirable they are.

    At the end of the day, are you not willing to pay $5K extra from a car that's REALLY self-driving and ultra-safe? Would you not pay $3K for something like your phone, only with enough performance to translate any text or words you hear, and to behave as intelligently as a human secretary?
    Reply
  • gfkBill - Friday, July 26, 2019 - link

    iPhone sales have gone flat, not sure people would pay much more for one without a lot more people NOT doing so... my 2+ year old S7 works fine, no way in hell I'm paying $1K for a phone, let alone $3K.
    https://www.statista.com/chart/12781/iphone-unit-s...
    Reply

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