TSMC’s 5 nm (N5) manufacturing technology is projected to provide significant benefits when it comes to performance, power, and area scaling, which is why the contract maker of semiconductors expects a tangible number of its customers to adopt this process. And, with a forecast for aggressive demand paired with some early preparation in installing new equipment, TSMC believes that its N5 technology will ramp even quicker than its 7 nm (N7) process.

In a bid to boost its production capacities, TSMC recently increased its capital expenditures for 2019 from $10 billion - $11 billion to $14 billion - $15 billion. TSMC is particularly invested in buying equipment for its cutting-edge nodes, such as ASML’s Twinscan NXE step-and-scan systems for processes that use extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUVL) for select layers. At present, TSMC’s Fab 15 is making SoCs using N7+, whereas its Fab 18 (the first phase of equipment move-in was completed in March 2019) is on-track to produce N5 chips in high volume starting Q2 2020.

The new tools that will be bought in the coming months are expected to be installed in 2020 and this is when the company will be able to quickly ramp production of chips using its N7, N7+, N7P, N6, N5, and N5P process technologies. The company is confident that it will have a very high market share with its 5 nm nodes.

C.C. Wei, vice chairman and CEO of TSMC, said the following:

First, the 5 nm ramp for next year. Certainly, as compared with six months ago, we are right now more aggressive and more optimistic about it. Hopefully, because we spend big money [...] that it will ramp up much in terms of revenue, be much faster than 7 nm. […] With that money, we spend to buy the tools to prepare everything. We do expect that our growth will go beyond 5% to 10%.

The key difference between N5 and its predecessors that use EUVL is that it is designed to use EUVL on up to 14 layers (up from four and five in case of N7+ and N6). So the ramp of N5 will increase usage of the latest equipment, and to some degree will demonstrate whether EUV tools and ecosystem is ready for prime time or not. Right now, TSMC seems to be very optimistic about EUVL. The light sources it uses offer output power of more than 250 Watts and reach target goals for availability. The company also produces its own pellicles and takes into account characteristics of currently available photoresists.

Mr. Wei said the following:

“We produce our own pellicle. We have a large number of masking capacity and everything. So even photoresist, those kind of things, we have been taking into account. We are in a high-volume production [with] EUV lithography technology. For next year, you have big — even higher volume, and I can assure you that we are all prepared.”

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Source: TSMC

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  • Duncan Macdonald - Wednesday, October 23, 2019 - link

    Will Intel reach 10nm for its more powerful desktop CPUs before AMD uses this process to produce 5nm ones ?
  • shabby - Wednesday, October 23, 2019 - link

    Intel is skipping 10nm just like it's skipping pcie4, both are yesterday's news... hello 7nm and pcie5! *intel wakes up*
  • Gondalf - Wednesday, October 23, 2019 - link

    Nope Ice Lake SP will have pcie4. Q2/2020
  • TristanSDX - Wednesday, October 23, 2019 - link

    nope, Comet Lake is Q1/20, Ice Lake desktop is Q4/20 or Q1/21 earliest
  • saratoga4 - Wednesday, October 23, 2019 - link

    Ice Lake SP a Xeon processor, not desktop.
  • outsideloop - Thursday, October 24, 2019 - link

    nope, Comet Lake is delayed: https://youtu.be/A2BLLBSd3Yc?t=1094
  • Xajel - Thursday, October 24, 2019 - link

    I hope this will not be like "We will have 5GHz Pentium within few years".
  • Targon - Thursday, October 24, 2019 - link

    It will be more like, "We are on track" and it takes over four years to actually release the product due in one more year. 10nm won't replace 14nm for high end ANYTHING at Intel until 2021 or 2022. By that time, even if Intel skips 10nm and gets 7nm out for a 2021/2022 launch, AMD will be at 5nm at that point and the node will be more mature than the 7nm will be at Intel.
  • ph00ny - Wednesday, October 23, 2019 - link

    Weren't there talks of Samsung building some 14nm processors? It almost feels like they may end up asking them for 7nm and beyond in the future
  • FullmetalTitan - Thursday, October 24, 2019 - link

    Intel will likely never outsource CPU fabbing, just because it means they have to expose their IP to another company that is offering foundry space. If they are working with Samsung foundry, my bet is it will be to offload components like memory controller ICs, modem chips, PCH chips, etc. to free up floor space for their higher margin items.

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