IEEE Awards TSMC for 7nm Leadership. Where Is TSMC Going Next?December 17, 2020 by Luke James
TSMC has been formally recognized by the IEEE with the 2021 IEEE Corporate Innovation Award. The 7nm node is just the beginning of TSMC's plans, though.
TSMC has been awarded for its leadership in 7-nanometer semiconductor foundry technology, a node that has enabled widespread innovation from electronics manufacturers both big and small. IEEE’s Corporate Innovation Award is reserved for corporations, governments, and academic organizations that have demonstrated outstanding innovation in an IEEE field of interest.
The 2021 Corporate Innovation Award specifically highlights TSMC’s technology leadership alongside its Open Innovation Platform, both of which have paved the way for new products in 5G mobile and high-performance computing.
“TSMC’s achievements in both developing 7nm technology, and enabling the innovations of IC designers everywhere, have placed it among a select group of organizations that have made lasting contributions to the field of engineering, and to the world,” said IEEE President Toshio Fukuda.
In 2016, TSMC’s 7nm FinFET technology delivered 256Mb SRAM. Image used courtesy of TSMC
TSMC’s approach to business and its foundry model meant that its 7nm process technology was the first time that the world’s most advanced logic technology became available to the entire semiconductor industry as an open platform.
Since it entered volume production in April 2018, TSMC has manufactured over one billion dies for hundreds of products spanning dozens of customers, enabling innovations in areas like data centers, 5G, high-performance computing, and artificial intelligence.
“We are grateful to the IEEE for this prestigious honor; it gives us further inspiration to continue finding new ways to unleash our customers’ innovation,” said Mark Liu, TSMC’s Chairman.
7nm isn't the only technology in which TSMC has excelled in recent years.
Beyond 7nm, the Taiwanese corporation broke ground as the first chip manufacturer to bring a complete design infrastructure to market for the 5nm process technology back in early 2019. By the end of the year, TSMC had already lined up customers for its 5nm process, announcing that it would be making ASICs for a select few which are now known to include Apple, Intel, MediaTek, NVIDIA, and Qualcomm.
TSMC’s foundry process technologies can be seen on the above timeline, kicking off at 3-micron back in 1987, its first process technology developed in-house. Image used courtesy of TSMC
With the TSMC 5nm node will come a swathe of improvements in power, performance, and size, in addition to a huge logic density increase of 1.84x when compared to 7nm. Designed and optimized for both mobile and high-performance computing, the process technology is TSMC’s second that will utilize extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography.
It also offers the highest transistor density to date, packing all the power needed for intense applications into the smaller footprints and levels of power consumption they demand.
What's Next for TSMC?
Despite 7nm still being a new process technology and the first devices commercialized on the 5nm node only hitting the shelves in mid-October, TSMC is already looking ahead to 3nm and 2nm.
At TSMC’s annual Technology Symposium (this year taking place online), the Taiwanese semiconductor giant detailed characteristics of its future 3nm process node, which it had been rumored to have been working on since the backend of 2019.
The company finalized the construction of its $19.5 billion 3nm fab last month. According to TSMC, the 3nm process is set to become the world’s fastest and most advanced logic technology to date, offering performance gains and power reduction of up to 15% and 30% respectively, and a logic density gain of 70% over 5nm.
As for 2nm, TSMC hasn’t said much yet, however, commentators expect TSMC to begin risk production in either 2023 or 2024, but this is not set in stone. As for what could be beyond 2nm, TSMC has not announced or alluded to anything.
Intel has, though, with its 2019 to 2029 Roadmap. Intel expects a “fundamental new node” in 2023, 2025, 2027, and 2029, culminating in 1.4nm. Given the problems that Intel has had with 7nm, this roadmap was met with some skepticism.