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TSMC Starts Shipping its 7nm+ Node Based on EUV Technology

TSMC today announced that its seven-nanometer plus (N7+), the industry's first commercially available Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) lithography technology, is delivering customer products to market in high volume. The N7+ process with EUV technology is built on TSMC's successful 7 nm node and paves the way for 6 nm and more advanced technologies.

The N7+ volume production is one of the fastest on record. N7+, which began volume production in the second quarter of 2019, is matching yields similar to the original N7 process that has been in volume production for more than one year.

TSMC Trembles Under 7 nm Product Orders, Increases Delivery Lead Times Threefold - Could Hit AMD Product Availability

TSMC is on the vanguard of chipset fabrication technology at this exact point in time - its 7 nm technology is the leading-edge of all large volume processes, and is being tapped by a number of companies for 7 nm silicon. One of its most relevant clients for our purposes, of course, is AMD - the company now enjoys a fabrication process lead over arch-rival Intel much due to its strategy of fabrication spin-off and becoming a fabless designer of chips. AMD's current product stack has made waves in the market by taking advantage of 7 nm's benefits, but it seems this may actually become a slight problem in the not so distant future.

TSMC has announced a threefold increase in its delivery lead times for 7 nm orders, from two months to nearly six months, which means that orders will now have to wait three times longer to be fulfilled than they once did. This means that current channel supplies and orders made after the decision from TSMC will take longer to materialize in actual silicon, which may lead to availability slumps should demand increase or maintain. AMD has its entire modern product stack built under the 7 nm process, so this could potentially affect both CPUs and GPUs from the company - and let's not forget AMD's Zen 3 and next-gen RDNA GPUs which are all being designed for the 7 nm+ process node. TSMC is expected to set aside further budget to expand capacity of its most advanced nodes, whilst accelerating investment on their N7+, N6, N5, and N3 nodes.

TSMC Expects Most 7nm Customers to Move to 6nm Density

TSMC in its quarterly earnings call expressed confidence in that most of its 7 nm (N7) process production node customers would be looking to make the transition to their 6 nm (N6) process. In fact, the company expects that node to become the biggest target for volume ordering (and thus production) amongst its customers, since the new N6 fabrication technology will bring about a sort of "backwards compatibility" with design tools and semiconductor designs that manufacturers have already invested in for its N7 node, thus allowing for cost savings for its clients.

This is despite TSMC's N6 process being able to take advantage of extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUVL) to lower manufacturing complexity. This lowering is achieved by the fact that less exposures of the silicon are required for multi-patterning - which is needed today as TSMC's N7 uses solely deep ultraviolet (DUV) lithography. Interestingly, TSMC expects other clients to pick up its N7+ manufacturing node that aren't already using their 7nm node - the need to develop new tools and lesser design compatibility between its N7 and N7+ nodes compared no N7 and N6 being the justification. TSMC's N7+ will be the first node to leverage EUV, using up to four EUVL layers, while N6 expands it up to five layers, and the upcoming N5 cranks EUVL up to fourteen (allowing for 14 layers.)
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