June 22, 2018 // 11:15 a.m.
Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) has announced a planned £18.8 billion investment into 5nm technology, with a view to beginning initial production by the end of 2019.
While direct comparison between different semiconductor companies' process nodes isn't as simple as taking the supposed node size in nanometres and looking for the smaller number - feature size having long been divorced from the claimed node size - the fact that TSMC is forging ahead with 5nm puts it a potential step ahead of rivals. This is particularly true for Intel, which is currently struggling to mass-produce components on its long-delayed 10nm node.
A previous claim from the company that it would be investing £12.5 billion to build a new plant for 5nm and 3nm production, though, appears to have only been part of the story. Speaking at a company event in Hsinchu, Taiwan, attended by Patently Apple, TSMC's chief executive and vice chair C. C. Wei admitted that the cost of getting the new plant ready for volume production is going to hit around £18.8 billion - a significant lift from the £12.5 billion it originally earmarked for the project.
With that investment, though, the company is hoping to produce over a million 12" wafers a year at the 5nm node, but while it will begin production of parts by the end of 2019 it is not expected to hit full volume production until 2020 - which, impressively, ties in perfectly with the company's roadmaps going back to 2012.
TSMC has not yet named its first customers for the 5nm node, but Apple is expected to be among them as it continues to develop its in-house, Arm-based mobile application processor range and, if long-standing rumours are to be believed, investigates a switch to wholly in-house chip designs across its entire product range.