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28nm process changes rumoured at TSMC

28nm process changes rumoured at TSMC

TSMC has denied rumours that it has been forced to stop 28nm production in order to make major changes to its process.

Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC,) one of the biggest chip foundry outfits in the world, is rumoured to have run into trouble with its 28nm process. As a result, claims state that it has had to temporarily cease production while it invests in a quick upgrade.

That's the claim coming from SemiAccurate, which quotes unnamed sources close to the company as revealing that TSMC ceased all 28nm production in mid-February to make as yet unknown changes to its manufacturing processes. While rumours had been spreading of yield issues for graphics giant Nvidia's 28nm chips, no other known problems were known to be affecting the company's facilities.

The news comes as a Citi report quoted by ElecroIQ suggests that TSMC is planning to increase its capital expenditure budget in order to strengthen its 28nm production facilities. In the report, Citi's Terence Whalen claims that TSMC underestimated demand for 28nm chips and was only able to provide 60 per cent of mobile chip giant Qualcomm's demand while also letting Nvidia down on the volume front.

According to Whalen, TSMC is rapidly revising its 28nm plans as its customers start to sniff around rival foundry firms. Part of that includes a volume increase from 25,000-30,000 wafer starts per month to 35,000-40,000 by the end of the year, boosted by a $1.5-$2 billion increase in capital expenditure.

TSMC's apparent failure to provide sufficient manufacturing capacity to meet demand for 28nm parts is music to its competitors' ears. AMD is believed to be talking to Samsung's foundry arm about moving some of its 28nm chip production following a deal with spin-off company GlobalFoundries to end an exclusivity agreement for accelerated processing units.

This move would be aided by AMD's announcement, reported by Electronics Weekly today, that it is to move away from silicon-on-insulator (SOI) manufacturing for its 28nm parts in favour of the more mainstream approach used by rival Intel. 'The flexibility that we gain moving in that direction, the flexibility across foundry partners, across design tools out-weigh by far the benefits of SOI,' claimed AMD's chief financial officer Thomas Seifert in an announcement on the matter.

TSMC, for its part, refused to comment on the claimed stoppages or planned changes to its 28nm production process, with a spokesperson stating that it is company policy 'not to comment on market rumours.' The spokesperson did, however, add the following: 'I want to inform you that our 28nm production is normal, and all our 28nm customers are fully aware of our production status.'

9 Comments

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Parge 8th March 2012, 12:29 Quote
Lets just hope Keppler doesn't end up being a soft launch.

AMD have put a premium on its 7xxx series and a lot of people are relying on competition from Nvidia to drive prices down.
Cerberus90 8th March 2012, 12:37 Quote
Didn't this exact same thing happen with the last process change?

You'd have thought they'd have learnt from their previous mistakes.
[USRF]Obiwan 8th March 2012, 13:00 Quote
Of course they will deny it. Chinese (and Japanese) never say they fail on something. Its almost a religion.
Gareth Halfacree 8th March 2012, 13:13 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by [USRF]Obiwan
Chinese (and Japanese) never say they fail on something. Its almost a religion.
Good job that Taiwan Semiconductor is based in Taiwan, then. :p
Adnoctum 8th March 2012, 14:43 Quote
Regarding AMD "dumping SOI"...

AMD doesn't use 28nm SOI (and has/had no plans to), so it should be obvious to any "analyst" that any APU/GPU shown as being manufactured at 28nm is going to be on bulk. AMDs roadmaps have shown that 28nm bulk being pushed upwards into the lower/middle Mainstream category, otherwise known as the "Llano/Trinity" successor "Kaveri".

This makes some sense for a number of reasons.
* For the lower-end APUs such as the Bobcats and the low/mid Llanos, there is little performance advantage to choosing SOI over bulk.
* SOI is expensive and the margins on these APUs are low. Better it is done on a cheaper process.
* SOI is sole-sourced from GF (or maybe IBM if AMD feels like flushing cash away and IBM is feeling charitable), while AMD can shop around a number of foundries to find best price/process/production capacity on 28nm bulk.
* I would imagine that AMD is feeling a bit capacity constrained on 32nm SOI with only the one of the modules at Fab 1 in Dresden producing 32nm wafers. With both the Bulldozer and Llano families currently on 32nm, they are competing for wafer starts.

The upper Mainstream and Performance level CPUs (note the CPU and not APU) are still shown as 32nm SOI through 2013 and it is likely that they will shrink to 22/20nm SOI. GF process roadmaps show 20nm SOI in late-2013/2014.

The AMD and SOI relationship isn't dead, just being kept for where there is a technical/performance need.
It is interesting to note that there is increasing talk that FD-SOI may be both cheaper and perform better than bulk below 20nm as well as being easier to produce.
Incredibly it seems that Intel may need to go FD-SOI for 14nm and below, so that Electronics Weekly article linked here that begins "Intel was right all along on SOI" may be complemented with another in a 2013 that starts "AMD was right all along on SOI".
We haven't seen the last of SOI, so less of the funeral talk, OK?
Adnoctum 8th March 2012, 14:54 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
Quote:
Originally Posted by [USRF]Obiwan
Chinese (and Japanese) never say they fail on something. Its almost a religion.
Good job that Taiwan Semiconductor is based in Taiwan, then. :p

I thought that was covered by the "Chinese" part of his comment, unless the people of Taiwan are no longer Chinese? In this instance, political and geographical borders do not override racial or cultural traits.
greypilgers 8th March 2012, 15:10 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Adnoctum
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
Quote:
Originally Posted by [USRF]Obiwan
Chinese (and Japanese) never say they fail on something. Its almost a religion.
Good job that Taiwan Semiconductor is based in Taiwan, then. :p

I thought that was covered by the "Chinese" part of his comment, unless the people of Taiwan are no longer Chinese? In this instance, political and geographical borders do not override racial or cultural traits.

I think perhaps many Taiwanese may object to being called Chinese... They have an unofficial independence and China doesn't as rigidly enforce any sovereignty like it does with other contested areas.

:)
Blakmagik 8th March 2012, 18:49 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by greypilgers
I think perhaps many Taiwanese may object to being called Chinese... They have an unofficial independence and China doesn't as rigidly enforce any sovereignty like it does with other contested areas.

:)

For now.
iwod 9th March 2012, 03:29 Quote
After reading all the news about them i begin to question their Top management ability, they keep scaling back and forth on their R&D etc..... they always over react and underestimate.
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