No one ever said that building a new factory to produce chips with a 2nm process node is cheap. The smaller the process node number, the greater the number of transistors that can fit in a chip. This is very important, because the higher the number of transistors on a chip, the more powerful and energy-efficient that chip is.
Apple’s A15 Bionic chipset is equipped with 15 billion transistors.
For example, the 2014 Apple A8 chipset, which debuted on the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, was manufactured by TSMC using its 20nm process node. That SoC contained 2 billion transistors. Compare that to the currently used A15 Bionic chip used on the iPhone 13 line. That chip is produced by TSMC using its second-generation 5nm process node, and each chip is equipped with 15 billion transistors.
The Apple A15 Bionic is manufactured by TSMC using its 5nm process node
The transition from 2 billion transistors to 15 billion between 2014 and 2021 caused a huge increase in iPhone performance in those years. This year, TSMC could begin volume production of chips built using its 3nm process node. An earlier report from Digitimes said that: Apple will introduce an iPad model later this year that will be the first Apple product to be powered by a chip built on the 3nm node.
TSMC is already thinking about the 2nm process node, and in April, the company’s CEO CC Wei said it expects chips built with the first-generation 2nm mode (known as N2) to be released in 2026. While it plans to continue using FinFET transistors for 3nm, TSMC will use gate-all-around (GAA) transistors for 2nm. TSMC rival Samsung Foundry is expected to use GAA for its 3nm production, giving it a year ahead of TSMC in that department.
According to Taiwan’s United Daily News
(UDN), the largest foundry in the world (TSMC, if you didn’t know) is going to spend a trillion New Taiwan Dollars ($33.9 billion USD) to create a factory that will build 2nm chips in the Taiwanese city Taichung. The company already has two facilities in Taichung, including the GigaFab facility, one of four factories capable of producing more than nine million 12-inch silicon wafers annually.
UDN expects TSMC to submit a proposal to the Taiwan Science and Technology Administration to acquire additional land in Taichung. In addition to discussing its 2nm plans, TSMC recently shared a video about the $12 billion US fab it is building in Arizona. This facility was the subject of a video on the business networking app LinkedIn showing the plant for the first time in two years, and TSMC reiterated its plan to start production in Arizona within the next two years.
Here’s Why TSMC Is Behind Intel When It Comes To Signing Employees For Their Arizona Fabs
TSMC has competition from Intel in Arizona. The latter wants to expand the facilities it already uses in the state. There is speculation that TSMC is finding it difficult to hire workers for its Arizona plant. As we said in February, Cultural differences and the different management styles used in US and Taiwanese companies make it difficult for TSMC to move employees away from Intel.
US workers who work for TSMC before the plant opens complain about long hours and the “excessive” number of meetings being convened. Intel will, of course, run its Arizona facility in the typical way for an American company with traditional advantages. It remains to be seen how much home advantage Intel will enjoy in Arizona over TSMC.
Unlike the state-of-the-art fab it builds for 2nm production, the TSMC factory in the US will release 5nm chips first. Not exactly the powerful 2nm chips that will come out of Taiwan, the 5nm process node used in the states will be reserved for other chips besides the Application Processors (AP) that are making most of the headlines today. Those chips include Apple’s “A Series” chipsets, Samsung’s Exynos line, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen x chips, and the MediaTek Dimensity Series to name a few.