TSMC to start 22nm trial runs in 2012

28nm is slightly delayed

THE MAKING OF computer chips is a complicated business, not only for the chip designers but also for the foundries. TSMC’s senior VP of R&D, Shang-Yi Chiang has announced that the company is getting ready for 22nm trial runs towards the end of 2012.

According to Digitimes, he also revealed information about TSMC’s 28nm progress. The company is getting ready to begin trial production on one of its nodes at the end of June. This means that we might start seeing real 28nm products sometime towards the end of the year, but this would be limited to TSMC’s low power silicon oxynitride process.

However, TSMC is planning to kick off its 28nm high performance application node using its high-k metal gate process for trial production in September, and this will then be followed by the low power version trial production in December. This means that TSMC is at least one quarter late, as the company issued a press release in August of last year stating that it was planning to start its first 28nm “risk production” of its low power silicon oxynitride process in the first quarter of 2010, while the high-k metal gate process was scheduled for the second quarter.

Altera, Fujitsu Microelectronics, Qualcomm and Xilinx are said to be TSMC’s first 28nm customers. We would expect many others to follow, although TSMC isn’t the only company getting ready to start 28nm production this year and it might be seeing some competition from GlobalFoundries, as it is also getting ready with its own 28nm process and should kick that off about the same time as TSMC moves to its high-k metal gate process.

As for the 22nm process, not much else was said, although the initial runs will be on the high performance process node moving to the low power version by early 2013. Considering the trouble TSMC has had with its 40nm process and the slight delay in kicking off the 28nm production, we won’t place any bets on its 22nm process coming in on time.

On a side note, TSMC claims that it’s currently able to churn out 80,000 12-inch 40nm wafers per quarter, although it expects to double this by the end of this year. This is all done in Fab 12, but the company is planning to add a second 40nm production facility called Fab 14 in order to be able to meet increased demand.S|A

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