TSMC’s 16-nm FinFET process coming next year

TSMC is partnered with some of the biggest names in the computing business, including AMD, Apple, Nvidia, and Qualcomm. Those firms come up with the chip designs, and TSMC turns ’em into working silicon. Right now, the foundry’s most advanced fabrication technology uses 28-nm transistors. What about the next node?

A technology roadmap published by EE Times indicates that 20-nm chips should start rolling off TSMC’s production line next year. Like its current 28-nm process, the 20-nm chips will use traditional planar transistors. 3D transistors, otherwise known as FinFETs, are coming at the 16-nm node. The first silicon based on TSMC’s 16-nm process is expected to tape out at the end of next year. That test chip will reportedly be based on ARM’s 64-bit V8 processor; the two companies announced a partnership in July to build 64-bit chips based on FinFET technology.

TSMC’s 16-nm FinFET process will reportedly be similar to its 20-nm one. The foundry doesn’t expect the FinFET process to lower leakage power, but it does say performance will go up by as much as 35%. “Total power consumption” is supposed to fall by the same percentage, according to TSMC R&D Vice President Cliff Hou.

Using a next-gen ARM processor to validate its 16-nm FinFET process should give TSMC’s SoC customers confidence in its ability to churn out chips for smartphones and tablets. ARM is also working with GlobalFoundries on FinFETs, which are being used by that foundry’s 14-nm “eXtreme Mobility” process. It will be interesting to see how smoothly GloFo and TSMC bring their transistors into the third dimension. Intel, of course, started shipping FinFET transistors in its Ivy Bridge processors earlier this year.

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    • jdaven
    • 7 years ago

    Interesting times ahead. I can’t wait to see an ARM v8 chip on 16 nm compared to what Intel will have on 14 nm in the low power SoC segment.

    • Arclight
    • 7 years ago

    So 16nm node is for video cards only? x86 CPUs will go from 22nm to what process node?

      • DancinJack
      • 7 years ago

      14nm is Intel’s next step I think.

      • Game_boy
      • 7 years ago

      The names are pretty worthless. In performance (drive current etc) and density characteristics, TSMC 28nm is about the same as Intel 32nm.

        • Arclight
        • 7 years ago

        I don’t think either AMD or Intel made x86 CPUs on 28nm…..

          • faramir
          • 7 years ago

          … yet. AMD (well, GlobalFoundries) is readying next x86 generation (Steamroller / Kaveri) on 28 nm process.

            • Arclight
            • 7 years ago

            Awwww that’s too bad. I thought they’d jump to 22nm……sigh, they are so behind.

            • Farting Bob
            • 7 years ago

            They are in line with every other foundry, except Intel. It just happens that AMD’s only direct competitor is Intel. It’s not that GloFo, TSMC and all the other foundries are bad, it’s just Intel is ridiculously good.

          • NeelyCam
          • 7 years ago

          The point is that the data published at IEDM (and summarized by David Kanter) shows that Intel “32nm” and TSMC “28nm” are roughly equivalent.

            • NeelyCam
            • 7 years ago

            I know thumbdowns are fun, but downthumbing factual statements is not very useful.

            Unless, of course, my statement is wrong, in which case it would be great if someone corrected me.

    • jjj
    • 7 years ago

    Misleading headline and article and you can’t even blame the source.
    “TSMC aims to have chip design kits for its 16-nm process available in January with the first foundation IP blocks such as standard cells and SRAM blocks ready a month later. It will start limited so-called “risk” production of the 16-nm process in November 2013. Production chip tape outs will follow about four or five quarters later.”.
    And that’s just the major problem here , you don’t mention this at all that “TSMC’s 16-nm FinFET process will be substantially similar to its 20-nm high-K metal gate SoC process in the back-en”. You mention Apple as a TSMC partner but can you mention 1 single Apple designed chip made at TSMC ? And ,you know, Intel is not using FinFET.

      • MadManOriginal
      • 7 years ago

      Whoops, didn’t read carefully enough. So late 2014 for production tape out, and then some time before actual product availability. That is closer to what I recall from roadmaps, I was surprised by the headline as well.

      • DancinJack
      • 7 years ago

      1. Why does he have to mention an Apple product?
      2. What is Intel using?

        • chuckula
        • 7 years ago

        You’re point 2 is good: Intel *is* using FinFETs already. The “tri-gate” or “3D” transistors are just a specific type of FinFET, and every 22nm part that Intel makes uses them exclusively.

          • DancinJack
          • 7 years ago

          Yes, I know. But honestly, why does he or anyone need to mention an Apple product that TSMC manufactures? He doesn’t mention an AMD or Qualcomm product. He just says each of those companies are partners.

          Maybe, just maybe, they’re partnered for a future Apple product.

      • NeelyCam
      • 7 years ago

      [quote<]And ,you know, Intel is not using FinFET.[/quote<] Semantics

    • chuckula
    • 7 years ago

    If you go by TSMC’s inane claims that it’s already running on the 20nm process, then sure, it’ll have 16 nm next year. If you go by when you can actually buy a product using said process, then 20nm is really a 4Q 2013 process… if everything goes a whole lot better than it did for 28nm. Oh and 16 nm? Mid 2015 if you are lucky.

    Who’s an optimist? This guy!

      • sschaem
      • 7 years ago

      And volume will make the 20nm parts very ‘rare’ in 2015.
      Rare as in qualcomm could gobble up all the production volume for the first 6 month.

      We could also see TSMC up the price for new node access….
      Possibly price high enough where Intel could really open up their fab for non competitive product on their older process.??

      • bcronce
      • 7 years ago

      I think this is a paper launch to a paper launch.

      I wish them all the best. I think ARM is showing a lot of potential and mix that with open-source platforms, and you have a recipe for WIN.

    • MadManOriginal
    • 7 years ago

    Tape out to quantity production and available product is what, 6 months if things go smoothly? So mid-2014 for product…not bad since it’s two nodes ahead of where they are now, if only I could have more faith in TSMC not having volume production issues.

    *Oops, according to the article it will be more like mid-2015 for volume production assuming 6 months after real product tape out.

      • Game_boy
      • 7 years ago

      Now add a year for the usual TSMC development delays that happened to 40nm and 28nm.

      • NeelyCam
      • 7 years ago

      [quote<]Oops, according to the article it will be more like mid-2015 for volume production [/quote<] If they manage to pull that off, it'd mean the gap between Intel and TSMC goes from about 24mo to 12mo.

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