Report: TSMC 7nm Utilization Improves on Orders From AMD, HiSilicon
TSMC is reportedly on track for improved 7nm utilization in 2019, following several months of lower-than-expected order volume. The news would be welcome for the foundry given that it’s been struck by multiple issues in the past six months, including malware infections, the contamination of foundry processing chemicals that destroyed a significant number of wafers, and lower-than-expected manufacturing volumes thanks to Apple’s unit volume declines.
The company expects to reach full utilization on 7nm by Q3 2019, courtesy of increased orders from HiSilicon and AMD. HiSilicon is the fully owned subsidiary of Huawei and is responsible for designing the SoCs used in that company’s flagship devices. AMD has aggressively positioned itself for 7nm ramps in 2019. Its 7nm Radeon Instinct GPUs and Radeon VII cards are already in-market, while its Epyc and Ryzen CPU families will be refreshed on 7nm later this summer. A new 7nm GPU, based on AMD’s Navi family, is also expected.
Apple is expected to dominate TSMC’s 7nm orders in Q3 due to the next iPhone ramp, so Qualcomm and MediaTek are reportedly watching their own ramps carefully. Q2 2019 may also be a strong quarter for TSMC if Android manufacturers ramp their own orders on the new node.
A recovery at TSMC would be exceedingly welcome news in the semiconductor industry right now. Concerns about the entire sector are fairly high, given the collapse of memory prices, Intel’s ongoing CPU shortage, and the impact of the US-China trade dispute. Data center sales have slumped in the first part of the year, and multiple tech firms have predicted a recovery in the second half. Stronger fab utilization would be an important indicator that demand was picking back up.
TSMC has already begun volume production of its 7nm EUV node according to the same sources. The plan is to use EUV for contacts and vias at 7nm before wider usage of the technology at the 5nm node and below. Mass shipment of EUV chips isn’t expected before the end of the year and it isn’t yet clear which customers are using these products versus sticking with conventional EUV. Timing dictates that Radeon VII must be a first-generation EUV part. Our current understanding is that the upcoming Ryzen CPUs will also be first-generation EUV parts. It’s reasonable to think that AMD could deploy 7nm+ for whatever CPU follows 3rd generation Ryzen before swapping to 5nm when that node is suitable for mainstream big-core CPU manufacturing.
- Report Claims Apple Will Use TSMC for 5nm in 2020
- TSMC: Weak 2019 Demand, but 5nm Set for 2020 Volume Manufacturing
- Intel Reportedly Gearing Up For Major 7nm EUV Expansion at D1X Fab