Apple chip supplier TSMC doubling 16nm chip production, hinting at 'iPhone 7' prep

Posted:
in iPhone
Key Apple processor supplier TSMC plans to double its production capacity for 16-nanometer chips in March, reports said on Wednesday, hinting at preparation for future Apple devices.

Apple iPhone 7 concept by Yasser Farahi.
Apple iPhone 7 concept by Yasser Farahi.


Capacity will leap ahead from 40,000 12-inch wafers in February to 80,000 by the end of the month, according to the Chinese-language Economic Daily News, quoted by DigiTimes. Neither publication indicated why the company is scaling up so rapidly.

Apple, however, is the biggest among several companies said to be major 16-nanometer clients for TSMC. Others include Xilinx, MediaTek, HiSilicon, Spreadtrum, and Nvidia.

TSMC is moreover rumored to be the primary or sole manufacturer of "A10" processors for next-generation iPhones, which could be churned out using the firm's 16-nanometer FinFET process. Mass production with the process -- for all clients -- is expected to start in the second quarter.

If Apple intends to ship new flagship iPhones in September as usual, the company will need processor supply to ramp up months beforehand so enough phones can be manufactured for launch. That may be a particular challenge if chip manufacturing duties are no longer being split with Samsung, as they are for the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 12
    nVidia is the likely client right now, with the upcoming launch of Pascal based GPU's. 
  • Reply 2 of 12
    tmaytmay Posts: 3,979member
    Whatever happened to Global Foundries?

    Are they at 16 nm?

  • Reply 3 of 12
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,891member
    tmay said:
    Whatever happened to Global Foundries?

    Are they at 16 nm?

    Good question.   In this case I think Apple interest in TSMC has little to do with 16nm but rather the stacked die technology that should debut this year.   I'm not convinced that Global has its act together, it will be interesting to see if they actually make any of AMDs new GPUs.  The constant delays with AMDs next generation processor chips doesn't leave one with a warm fuzzy feeling either.  
  • Reply 4 of 12
    tmaytmay Posts: 3,979member
    wizard69 said:
    tmay said:
    Whatever happened to Global Foundries?

    Are they at 16 nm?

    Good question.   In this case I think Apple interest in TSMC has little to do with 16nm but rather the stacked die technology that should debut this year.   I'm not convinced that Global has its act together, it will be interesting to see if they actually make any of AMDs new GPUs.  The constant delays with AMDs next generation processor chips doesn't leave one with a warm fuzzy feeling either.  
    GF has completed the takeover of all of the assets, IP and engineers from IBM's chipmaking operation, and they are at the same 14nm process that Samsung is at (by agreement). I think you are correct that Apple went with TMSC for the stacked technology.

    Maybe this will bring some stability to AMD's production. At any rate, TMSC looks to be solid for the A10 for this year.
    edited March 2016
  • Reply 5 of 12
    mytdavemytdave Posts: 438member
    I thought that TSMC was rolling out 10nm...  Maybe my thought process is off.
  • Reply 6 of 12
    dick applebaumdick applebaum Posts: 12,524member
    tmay said:
    wizard69 said:
    tmay said:
    Whatever happened to Global Foundries?

    Are they at 16 nm?

    Good question.   In this case I think Apple interest in TSMC has little to do with 16nm but rather the stacked die technology that should debut this year.   I'm not convinced that Global has its act together, it will be interesting to see if they actually make any of AMDs new GPUs.  The constant delays with AMDs next generation processor chips doesn't leave one with a warm fuzzy feeling either.  
    Supposedly, GF has obtained all of the assets, IP and engineers from IBM's chipmaking operation, and they are at the same 14nm process that Samsung is at (by agreement). I think you are correct that Apple went with TMSC for the stacked technology.

    It is interesting that as part of the minus sale (IBM paid GF) of sites, assets, IP and engineers -- GF is reported to have agreed to:
    • maintain the sites at ~full staffing
    • is required build chips for IBM for the next 10 years

    Updated: IBM has confirmed the deal, noting that it will exclusively use GlobalFoundries for “22nm, 14nm, and 10nm semiconductors for the next 10 years.” It also says that its previously announced $3 billion investment in next-gen semiconductors over the next five years won’t be affected by the deal.

    The terms of the deal state that GF will continue manufacturing Power processors for IBM for at least the next ten years and that the manufacturing centers in East Fishkill will remain open and fully staffed. Whether or not this translates into no job losses whatsoever isn’t clear, but New York State has aggressively negotiated job deals with IBM in the past and is likely to continue doing so with GlobalFoundries. It’s not clear if IBM is transferring jobs, IP, foundries, and land to GlobalFoundries or if the two manufacturers have worked out a leasing arrangement. GlobalFoundries isn’t just getting the right to build Power processors: it’s also won access to patents on Watson, IBM’s mainframe products, and the expertise of thousands of engineers across New York State.

    It’s certainly interesting that IBM, whose foundries have always been regarded as strong, if small, is paying GlobalFoundries $1.5 billion in cash — $1.3 billion net, including a $200 million transfer of unspecific assets in the other direction — over three years to take over its own business segment. IBM’s chip-making unit reportedly makes a big loss — as much as $1.5 billion per year — which is probably why CEO Ginni Rometty, who is keen to boost the company’s profits, is jettisoning it.


    http://www.extremetech.com/computing/192430-ibm-dumps-chip-unit-pays-globalfoundries-1-5-billion-to-take-the-business-off-its-hands



    It appears that IBM, like Apple is in the fab-less chip business. 

    It would be interesting if:
    • the IBM/GF agreement could include Apple ARM processors
    • the next gen (or the one after) A10X or A11X  (or another variant) could disrupt the server market

    It certainly would be ironic if after Apple left the server business, IBM left the server business, IBM left the foundary business -- that Apple/IBM provided solutions using both ...

    If so, this kind of strategy, likely, is from Tim Cook's wheelhouse.

    I read somewhere that Bob Mansfield * was recently sniffing around IBM and/or GF.

    * Former Apple SVP of Technology -- now working on Special Projects reporting directly to Tim Cook.
    edited March 2016
  • Reply 7 of 12
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,939member
    Let me get this straight. A company that is rumored to have been awarded Apple's business is rumored to be doubling capacity to possibly produce the oft-rumored A10 chip for Apple's rumored iPhone that typically launches in the fall.
  • Reply 8 of 12
    tmaytmay Posts: 3,979member
    tmay said:
    Supposedly, GF has obtained all of the assets, IP and engineers from IBM's chipmaking operation, and they are at the same 14nm process that Samsung is at (by agreement). I think you are correct that Apple went with TMSC for the stacked technology.

    It is interesting that as part of the minus sale (IBM paid GF) of sites, assets, IP and engineers -- GF is reported to have agreed to:
    • maintain the sites at ~full staffing
    • is required build chips for IBM for the next 10 years



    It appears that IBM, like Apple is in the fab-less chip business. 

    It would be interesting if:
    • the IBM/GF agreement could include Apple ARM processors
    • the next gen (or the one after) A10X or A11X  (or another variant) could disrupt the server market

    It certainly would be ironic if after Apple left the server business, IBM left the server business, IBM left the foundary business -- that Apple/IBM provided solutions using both ...

    If so, this kind of strategy, likely, is from Tim Cook's wheelhouse.

    I read somewhere that Bob Mansfield * was recently sniffing around IBM and/or GF.

    * Former Apple SVP of Technology -- now working on Special Projects reporting directly to Tim Cook.
    Dick,

    I believe that Apple has encouraged this, but for the current (A10) generation anyway, Samsung, Global Foundries aren't getting the business. All kinds of funky things could happen on the Mac side with AMD, Global Foundries and Samsung being on the same node, and even some of the same ARM architecture. I'm thinking Servers (for internal use) and transitional OS X products.

    Edit: Is Bob still working for Apple; if he is, that's just brilliant!
    edited March 2016
  • Reply 9 of 12
    dick applebaumdick applebaum Posts: 12,524member
    mike1 said:
    Let me get this straight. A company that is rumored to have been awarded Apple's business is rumored to be doubling capacity to possibly produce the oft-rumored A10 chip for Apple's rumored iPhone that typically launches in the fall.

    Yep!  Keep in mind, though, there is no indication that TSMC has exclusive rights to manufacture the A10 -- that would be very un-Apple!

    I suspect that GF (helped by Samsung) is a second source  -- and Sammy may be a third source.

    Also the lower-demand variant A10X could be manufactured by GF.

    And if Apple/IBM have another variant A10C (for Cloud) this could be manufactured by any/all of the 3.


  • Reply 10 of 12
    dick applebaumdick applebaum Posts: 12,524member

    tmay said:
    tmay said:
    Supposedly, GF has obtained all of the assets, IP and engineers from IBM's chipmaking operation, and they are at the same 14nm process that Samsung is at (by agreement). I think you are correct that Apple went with TMSC for the stacked technology.

    It is interesting that as part of the minus sale (IBM paid GF) of sites, assets, IP and engineers -- GF is reported to have agreed to:
    • maintain the sites at ~full staffing
    • is required build chips for IBM for the next 10 years



    It appears that IBM, like Apple is in the fab-less chip business. 

    It would be interesting if:
    • the IBM/GF agreement could include Apple ARM processors
    • the next gen (or the one after) A10X or A11X  (or another variant) could disrupt the server market

    It certainly would be ironic if after Apple left the server business, IBM left the server business, IBM left the foundary business -- that Apple/IBM provided solutions using both ...

    If so, this kind of strategy, likely, is from Tim Cook's wheelhouse.

    I read somewhere that Bob Mansfield * was recently sniffing around IBM and/or GF.

    * Former Apple SVP of Technology -- now working on Special Projects reporting directly to Tim Cook.
    Dick,

    I believe that Apple has encouraged this, but for the current (A10) generation anyway, Samsung, Global Foundries aren't getting the business. All kinds of funky things could happen on the Mac side with AMD, Global Foundries and Samsung being on the same node, and even some of the same ARM architecture. I'm thinking Servers (for internal use) and transitional OS X products.

    Edit: Is Bob still working for Apple; if he is, that's just brilliant!

    I mostly agree -- but if the A10 is supply constrained by TSMC's capability, I suspect Apple could use GF and Sammy too.


    AFAICT, Bob is still working for Apple in the capacity I posted.  His brilliance is apparently recognized by Apple -- He was given millions to unretire  and take the SVP position -- then the Special Projects role.
    edited March 2016
  • Reply 11 of 12
    nVidia is the likely client right now, with the upcoming launch of Pascal based GPU's. 
    Wrong. TSMC already makes Nvidia GPUs. Do you think Nvidia is expecting to suddenly increase sales overnight by such a huge amount that TSMC would need to increase output to match? All in the face of declining PC sales (where most of their GPUs end up)?

    Meanwhile Apple is splitting production between Samsung and TSMC. If Apple decided to go with TSMC only then that would easily explain why TSMC would need to increase production. 
  • Reply 12 of 12
    ksecksec Posts: 1,567member
    This is simply a transfer of 20nm capacity into 16nm. Nothing special. 16nm FFC will be at better price / performance then 20nm. As 16FFC continues to improves, my guess is that there will not be any more 20nm and everyone moves to 16nm. 

    P.S - A10 is 100% TSMC. I think this is a done deal unless the earth quake has any impact on TSMC. The battle is now on 10nm, which i believe Apple is leaning on TSMC as well.
    edited March 2016
Sign In or Register to comment.