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Semiconductor Technology Consulting

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TSMC To Makes Processer Chip For Apple? Not so Quickly

DigiTime below states “Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company's (TSMC) plans to ramp up 20nm production ahead of schedule…to entice Apple”. TSCM already is having trouble processing enough 28nm wafers for their current customers, why would Apple want to give TSCM orders for the next generation 20nm process?

In addition, if we look at how Apple’s is handling the current A5 processor manufacturing. They currently use the 45nm process (New iPad-Teardown: Why Apple's A5X uses 45 nm). It indicates that Apple intentionally does not want to push the envelope of a new process technology at the same time that they are bringing up a new processor circuit. They prefers to use a more mature process while the pushing the limits on circuit design.


It is more likely that TSMC is more aggressive in developing the fab and the 20nm process just to enhance their market position relative to other foundry
vendors for their current customers. See Nvidia: TSMC 20nm Essentially Worthless.

Additional prespective is at TSMC has a “good chance” of winning Apple’s chip biz in 2014

5/2/2012

Ron Maltiel

 

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TSMC eyeing advanced process chip orders from Apple

Cage Chao, Taipei; Jessie Shen, DIGITIMES [Wednesday 2 May 2012]

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company's (TSMC) plans to ramp up 20nm production ahead of schedule have prompted industry sources to speculate that the foundry will be aggressively striving for CPU orders for future Apple devices.

The present 28nm shortage at TSMC makes it more unlikely that the foundry could attract orders from Apple, the sources claimed. TSMC currently is unable to provide sufficient capacity to its existing 28nm customers, the sources said.

With orders placed by Qualcomm, Nvidia, Broadcom, TI and AMD, TSMC meets less than 70% of 28nm chip demand at present, the sources pointed out. While having tight supply of 28nm capacity, TSMC now hopes an early investment in 20nm technology will help the foundry engage in collaboration with potential clients such as Apple in advance and ensure enough capacity to meet demand, the sources indicated.

The sources added TSMC stands a good chance of landing CPU orders from Apple in 2014.

With regards to the speculation, Digitimes Research analyst Nobunaga Chai commented that the fundamental issue will still be whether Apple would use a 28nm or 20nm process to build its next-generation processor, and choose TSMC as its contract manufacturer. If TSMC succeeds in grabbing CPU orders from Apple, the foundry's supply capability should not be a problem at all, Chai said.

Apple still uses 45nm to make its newest A5X, and has Samsung Electronics build the chips.

TSMC has revealed plans to invest about US$700 million in building a 20nm R&D line in 2012 – instead of its originally-planned 2013. Acknowledging that demand for 28nm manufacturing capacity from its mobile product IC customers has been higher than expected since the process ramp-up, the foundry finds it necessary to put its 20nm process into production ahead of schedule. Demand for 20nm will also first come from the mobile device sector, and order volumes are likely to be huge during the initial ramp-up stage – similar to the situation 28nm has, TSMC said at its recent investors meeting.

TSMC also indicated that the firm has accelerated its pace of 28nm capacity expansion. The foundry expects to have its supply of 28nm chips close to catching up with demand in the fourth quarter of 2012, and satisfy demand completely by the first quarter of 2013.

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TSMC has a “good chance” of winning Apple’s chip biz in 2014

Christian Zibreg, May 2, 2012

http://www.idownloadblog.com/2012/05/02/tsmc-apple-biz-by-2014/

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) has long been rumored to become an alternative supplier for Apple-designed processors powering iOS devices. However, yield issues and manufacturing difficulties with the foundry’s 20-nanometer process pushed back those plans.
Meanwhile, Samsung continues to make the Ax-series of processors for the latest iPhone and iPad. Per chatter from Asian supply chain, TSMC is working hard to ramp up 20-nanometer production “ahead of schedule”, apparently in a bid to win over Apple’s chip business from Samsung by 2014…
This indicates that Apple won’t be able to drop Samsung for A6 orders. In fact, the South Korean consumer electronics conglomerate is likely to manufacture at least two upcoming revisions of the Ax chip series until TSMC is able to meet Apple’s strict standards in terms of volume and production quality.
According to DigiTimes, a somewhat hit-and-miss Asian trade publication, TSMC is currently able to meet only 70 percent of 28-nanometer chip demand for clients such as Qualcomm, Nvidia, Broadcom, Texas Instruments and AMD.
The present 28nm shortage at TSMC makes it more unlikely that the foundry could attract orders from Apple, the sources claimed. TSMC currently is unable to provide sufficient capacity to its existing 28nm customers, the sources said.
The semiconductor foundry won’t be able to satisfy 28-nanometer demand completely until the first quarter of 2013.
TSMC, which has its headquarters and main operations in the Hsinchu Science Park in Hsinchu, Taiwan, is betting its $700 million investment in 20-nanometer technology in this year alone will pay off big time as Apple is presumably looking to reduce its dependency on Samsung, with whom the iPhone maker is involved in an ugly patent fight across continents.
Summing up, DigiTimes wrote:
The sources added TSMC stands a good chance of landing CPU orders from Apple in 2014.
It should be noted that switching to the cutting-edge 20-nanometer technology would file as a risky move which would require a significant engineering work on Apple’s part.
A credible chip analysis has indicated that the iPhone maker is already testing the 32-nanometer chipmaking process with the single-core A5 chip powering its third-generation Apple TV set-top box.
The improved A5X processor in the new iPad, however, remains fabbed on Samsung’s 45-nanometer process as Apple opted for a 310 percent larger package which dissipates more heat than its predecessor.
The jumbo-sized A5X package, seen below, measures a whopping 165 mm², more than three times the size of the A4 package (53.3 mm²) and twice the size of Nvidia’s Tegra 3 processor (82 mm²).

Semiconductor experts point out that the A5X chip is a stopgap solution, noting Apple cannot forever make these pieces of silicon bigger and bigger. Moving to smaller production processes would let the Cupertino company design tighter packages which consume less power while performing faster.
Apple and Samsung are due to meet for court-mediated talks on patent issues on May 21-22. It’s unclear whether those negotiations will lead to an out of court settlement. Apple’s boss indicated his company would prefer such an outcome.
According to IDC and Strategy Analytics data, Samsung overtook Apple and Nokia to become both the world’s top smartphone maker and the #1 cell phone vendor in the first quarter of 2012, by volume.
Together, the two frenemies accounted for virtually all of the mobile industry’s profits.
What’s your take, will Apple switch to TSMC for A6 production?

 

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