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TSMC prepares Gigafab for 20nm

TSMC has begun preparing one of its most advanced semiconductor foundries for the production of 20nm-process wafers.TSMC, the world's largest contract chipmaker according to IC Insights, announced it had broken ground on the third phase of the Taichung, Taiwan, Gigafab on Friday.
Written by Jack Clark, Contributor on

TSMC has begun preparing one of its most advanced semiconductor foundries for the production of 20nm-process wafers.

TSMC, the world's largest contract chipmaker according to IC Insights, announced it had broken ground on the third phase of the Taichung, Taiwan, Gigafab on Friday. TSMC will have two 20nm manufacturing centres — Fab 12 and Fab 15 — once Fab 15, Phase 3 is completed.

"Fab 15, Phase 3 plays an important role in our plans for advanced technology development and capacity expansion," Morris Chang, the company's chairman, said in a statement. "We aim to be the most trusted partner for our customers around the world and to form a powerful competitive force in the semiconductor industry with them."

TSMC started building the 28nm-capable first phase of the Gigafab in July 2010, and expects to start production in 2012. The company started Phase 2 of the facility's build in mid-2011, which it also thinks should lead to volume production by next year. TSMC did not disclose when Phase 3 would start producing in volume.

20nm-capable foundries will allow TSMC to make processors of which the smallest components fall somewhere between 20nm and 29nm in size. The chipmaker does not disclose the exact scale its 20nm process technology is at.

As a contract chipmaker TSMC lives or dies by its partnerships with major chip companies. The facility will help company meet its July 2010 agreement with ARM to build 20nm-scale processors. Apple has also given the company the chance to produce a trial run of A6 processors for use in future mobile devices.

The company's main rival is GlobalFoundries, which is the spun-off foundry wing of chipmaker AMD. There have been hints of trouble at GlobalFoundries this year over the yields of its wafers. In April AMD tweaked a supply agreement so it would only pay GlobalFoundries for high-quality chips.

A TSMC spokesman was not available to provide further information.

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