10nm chip foundry process coming to Apple partner TSMC ahead of Intel

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in General Discussion
Apple chip foundry TSMC has given hints for its future road map, and claims that it will start mass producing 10nm chips before the end of 2016, nearly a year ahead of Intel.









At a tech symposium in the northern Taiwanese city of Hsinchu, TSMC CEO Mark Liu declared that 16nm chips have been in production by the company for some time, and research and development for a 5nm process is well underway.



Additionally, the 3nm process has entered initial research phases with between 300 and 400 engineers working on the project. Liu also reports a plan has been developed to bring in academics for development of 2nm processes.



Liu confirmed previous reports of the start of 7nm technology "risk production" in early 2017. Competitor Intel's road map predicts 10nm chips launching the second half of 2017.



Also at the event, Liu noted that TSMC is allocating $10 billion for capital expenditure, and the company's research and development budget has tripled since 2009.

TSMC and Apple



TSMC has supplied Apple with A-series chips since the A8's introduction in Sept. 2014. The company is said to be the sole supplier of the A10 Fusion chip in the new iPhone 7 family, and the "A11" for Apple's 2017 lineup.



In August, TSMC was rumored to be working on the "A11" chip for Apple. Additionally, around the same time, TSMC said that trials of 7nm chip fabrication will begin in the start of 2017, with wide use of the technology by 2018.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 44
    3nm process?? Incredible. I though it was supposed to max out at 7-10nm. So iPhone 8 chip will be on 10nm process?
    williamlondonSpamSandwichcalirepressthisjay-tjustadcomics
  • Reply 2 of 44
    One area where Apple's constant focus on miniaturization may really help in AR/VR headgear: glasses, goggles, etc.  One limiting factor on widespread adoption of AR/VR has been the weight -- and frankly the goofy look -- of the headgear.  If Apple can shrink that down to a pair of normal-looking sunglasses, it could be a huge tipping point for the industry.
    edited September 2016 SpamSandwich1983calirepressthisjustadcomics
  • Reply 3 of 44
    tmaytmay Posts: 3,545member
    schlack said:
    3nm process?? Incredible. I though it was supposed to max out at 7-10nm. So iPhone 8 chip will be on 10nm process?
    A bold move would be for Apple to build the A11X first and deliver it for the 12.7 inch iPad Pro 2 update in early spring, skipping the A10X, then follow up with the A11 in the iPhone 8. 
    edited September 2016 repressthisjustadcomics
  • Reply 4 of 44
    makes you wonder what an Apple Watch with a 2nm chip would be capable of....
    SpamSandwich1983irelandbaconstangrepressthiswilliamlondonjustadcomicswatto_cobralolliver
  • Reply 5 of 44
    TSMC 10nm does not equal Intel 10nm. They're still behind. 
    ecarlseenksecjustadcomics
  • Reply 6 of 44
    From what I've read, what TSMC's marketing people call "10nm" is not the same thing at all as what Intel calls 10 nm. 

    Intel's 10nm process will unambiguously be better than what TSMC labels "10 nm". 

    The more interesting question is -- how does TSMC's 10nm compare to Intel's 14nm? I haven't been able to find a clear answer to that question. 



    ecarlseenrepressthisksecjustadcomics
  • Reply 7 of 44
    Suck it so hard samsung. Maybe they are now finally re-evaluating stabbing Apple in the back, repeatedly. At least microsoft learned some manners, at last.

    Great job, TSMC!! You rock!
    calirepressthiswatto_cobralolliver
  • Reply 8 of 44
    blastdoor said:
    The more interesting question is -- how does TSMC's 10nm compare to Intel's 14nm? I haven't been able to find a clear answer to that question. 

    In this table you can find an indirect comparison between TSMC and Intel technologies.

    We could say that TSMC 7nm will be roughly equivalent to an Intel 10nm.

    source: http://www.extremetech.com/computing/221532-tsmc-will-begin-10nm-production-this-year-claims-5nm-by-2020



    blastdoorecarlseenrepressthisjustadcomicslolliver
  • Reply 9 of 44
    blastdoor said:
    From what I've read, what TSMC's marketing people call "10nm" is not the same thing at all as what Intel calls 10 nm. 

    Intel's 10nm process will unambiguously be better than what TSMC labels "10 nm". 

    The more interesting question is -- how does TSMC's 10nm compare to Intel's 14nm? I haven't been able to find a clear answer to that question. 



    Yet, here we are and Apple is using chips from TSMC and not Intel. That's what matters. 
    tmayericthehalfbeecalibaconstangrepressthispscooter63justadcomicslolliver
  • Reply 10 of 44
    Modern foundry processes are mostly marketing names, not exact matches to transistor size.

    For example, TSMC's 16FF is actually a 20nm BEOL, with Finfets underneath, at the density of 20nm. Hence TSMC's A9 was larger than Samsung's.

    Not that Samsung's 14nm was 14nm, it was closer to 18nm.

    But before you think Intel are blameless, their 22nm was closer to 26nm, and their 14nm is closer to 16nm at best. And Intel's SRAM is dense, but their other logic less so, hence why some 28nm chips sometimes appear to have transistor densities close to Intel still.

    So you can see where we are going here with the "10nm" processes. TSMC's is more like a real 14nm process - denser than Intel's 14nm, but as I wrote, that was more like 16nm really.

    But regardless, it's smaller, and this 10nm process is at least a proper shrink at last over the previous process.

    Let's not start talking about GlobalFoundries' 7nm process... http://semiaccurate.com/2016/09/26/globalfoundries-7nm-process-isnt-even-close-name/
    blastdoorrepressthispscooter63
  • Reply 11 of 44
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,867member
    TSMC's history track record is not good of what they claim will achieve and finally able to do so. Even in tech industry, hype is best marketing tool to keep customers interested. In future when time comes to show what was promised, they come up with some excuse why it was not achieved.. My barometer is Apple selecting whose chip fab tech(TSMC,Intel,Global foundries) in 2018 A-processor.
    edited September 2016
  • Reply 12 of 44
    bradipao said:
    blastdoor said:
    The more interesting question is -- how does TSMC's 10nm compare to Intel's 14nm? I haven't been able to find a clear answer to that question. 

    In this table you can find an indirect comparison between TSMC and Intel technologies.

    We could say that TSMC 7nm will be roughly equivalent to an Intel 10nm.

    source: http://www.extremetech.com/computing/221532-tsmc-will-begin-10nm-production-this-year-claims-5nm-by-2020



    Thanks for finding that link -- I've seen it before, but couldn't put my virtual hand on it. 

    But my impression is that it's even more complicated than that (see Hattig's post, for example). 

    Another complication is that there are other variables that affect the ultimate performance of a SOC/CPU/GPU that aren't reflected in that table at all -- factors like TSMC's InFO packaging; IBM's SOI; etc. 
  • Reply 13 of 44
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,471member
    Let's not get too excited about this. All that matters for Apple, assuming that they are going to stay with TSMC for a few years, is the improvement of TSMC's processes when compared to older TSMC processes.

    intel will remain ahead for the next three or four years, at least. But that doesn't matter unless Apple moves to them.
    calipscooter63justadcomics
  • Reply 14 of 44
    jdgazjdgaz Posts: 348member
    cintos said:
    makes you wonder what an Apple Watch with a 2nm chip would be capable of....
    Dick Tracy time.
  • Reply 15 of 44
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,278member
    One area where Apple's constant focus on miniaturization may really help in AR/VR headgear: glasses, goggles, etc.  One limiting factor on widespread adoption of AR/VR has been the weight -- and frankly the goofy look -- of the headgear.  If Apple can shrink that down to a pair of normal-looking sunglasses, it could be a huge tipping point for the industry.
    Even if it includes a camera? Serious question. I think 'fear of being photographed/recorded' was what led to the downfall of Google Glass wasn't it? I don't know of another reason. 
    baconstangpscooter63justadcomics
  • Reply 16 of 44
    melgross said:
    Let's not get too excited about this. All that matters for Apple, assuming that they are going to stay with TSMC for a few years, is the improvement of TSMC's processes when compared to older TSMC processes.

    intel will remain ahead for the next three or four years, at least. But that doesn't matter unless Apple moves to them.
    It would matter to Apple if another smartphone manufacturer moved to Intel, and Intel has recently shown a willingness to operate as a foundry. 

    However, it's not at all clear that Intel will actually make their most modern process available to foundry customers. My guess is that they won't. They'll probably only make the 14nm process available for foundry work and keep 10nm for their own products. 
  • Reply 17 of 44
    irelandireland Posts: 17,547member
    cintos said:
    makes you wonder what an Apple Watch with a 2nm chip would be capable of....
    It will be faster and more power efficient.
  • Reply 18 of 44
    Its better to look at SoC density at a macro level than a micro level when comparing process density between TSMC, Intel and others. A quick comparison of the 16nm (16FFC) A10 vs. the 14nm Quad Skylake shows that TSMC/Apple squeeze in a much higher transistor density. Skylake has higher performance but does less in terms of an SoC (the PCH is a separate chip, plus A10 includes things like a sensor hub as well).

    Quad-core + GPU GT2 Core i7 Skylake K       1.75B Transistors       122mm^2
    Apple A10                                                         3.3B Transistors         125mm^2   

    The head of manufacturing has already done analysis about how Apple/TSMC has managed to obtain greater transistor density.
    - Apple uses a higher percentage of SRAM in their SoCs (though other research indicates that Intel mis-categorized some of Apple's reg. files as SRAM)
    - Intel uses a higher percentage of cells that are larger than the minimum process geometries for performance (tall cells).
    - Intel acknowledges that the Apple A8 (TSMC 20nm) and Apple A9 (16nm TSMC and 14nm Samsung) have greater RAW TRANSISTOR DENSITY than similar Broadwell (14nm) or Skylake (14nm) SoCs
    - Intel has created their own notion, a normalized transistor density, that shows them somewhat ahead, but requires some questionable reverse engineering of exactly what types of logic and memory Apple has included in each block of their SoCs. See foils 19 and 20.

    http://files.shareholder.com/downloads/INTC/0x0x862743/F8C3E42B-7DA9-4611-BB51-90BED3AA34CD/2015_InvestorMeeting_Bill_Holt_WEB2.pdf ;
      
    pscooter63
  • Reply 19 of 44
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,719member
    One area where Apple's constant focus on miniaturization may really help in AR/VR headgear: glasses, goggles, etc.  One limiting factor on widespread adoption of AR/VR has been the weight -- and frankly the goofy look -- of the headgear.  If Apple can shrink that down to a pair of normal-looking sunglasses, it could be a huge tipping point for the industry.
    There needs to be a compelling use beyond masturbation for VR glasses to really take off, though I have to admit the VCR industry didn't do to bad one stroke at a time. Right now I'm not sure what that is. I don't see people wanting to share movies this way for example. As for a replacement for a laptop of cell phone I don't see that happening yet either. Software and hardware would have to expand / improve dramatically. So while vastly improved VR glasses might be interesting there still needs to be a compelling reason to buy the glasses. I just have a hard time imaging what that reason might be.
    baconstangwilliamlondon
  • Reply 20 of 44
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,719member
    tmay said:
    schlack said:
    3nm process?? Incredible. I though it was supposed to max out at 7-10nm. So iPhone 8 chip will be on 10nm process?
    A bold move would be for Apple to build the A11X first and deliver it for the 12.7 inch iPad Pro 2 update in early spring, skipping the A10X, then follow up with the A11 in the iPhone 8. 
    The bold move would be a process shrunk A10 with some minor modifications. The modifications being larger cache, all four cores running at equal performance, and faster memory interfaces. Being process shrunk this A10X could run a lot faster at the same power levels. We might see 30-50 percent over the A10 with little effort on Apples part. The important thing here is that iPad is low enough volume to do on a process ramp up. By the time TSMC is up to speed Apple will be taping out A11 chips for next years iPhone. I was actually a bit disappointed that an iPad didn't arrive with the iPhones. However if such a chip could make it into an iPad in the next couple of months it would well be worth the wait. No matter what people say about Apples hardware in general what can't be denied is that the A series chips have become awesome. I may get frustrated with the stupidity of the MiFi program and proprietary connectors but it is hard to complain about iOS device performance theses days. Effectively nobody comes close.
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