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TSMC 28nm and 20nm Update Q4 2012

TSMC 28nm and 20nm Update Q4 2012
by Daniel Nenni on 12-16-2012 at 7:00 pm

 The big news in Taiwan last week was another increase in TSMC capital expenditures to $9B in 2013. That number could grow however. Last year TSMC CAPEX was set at $6B and ended up at $8.3B due to rapid 28nm capacity expansion and an accelerated 20nm program. 2013 will be all about FinFETs and manufacturing Apple SoCs so $9B may not cover it.

Taiwan weather was very nice last week, for me anyway. Cooler than normal, cool enough for me to wear a suit and tie, which I very rarely do. It is so rare that people joked and took pictures. And thank you to the Hsinchu Royal Hotel for upgrading me to a suite. You never know when you need a second bathroom in your hotel room.

In 2012 TSMC sales will grow a whopping 19%! TSMC revenue for 2013 is expected to grow 15-20% which is a conservative estimate in my opinion. TSMC 28nm will continue to break process node records and the mobile market will continue to drive economic growth. The semiconductor industry should also do well in 2013 with a predicted 5% growth versus a 3% contraction in 2012.

Speaking of 28nm, TSMC made significant progress in both yield and performance this quarter so we will see even more good 28nm die in 2013 and they will be faster. I give 100% credit to the gate-last implementation of HKMG. Interesting to note, TSMC actually started 28nm research using gate-first HKMG but changed to gate-last due to yield and manufacturing issues. Fortunately TSMC has the advantage of high volume production experience using a broad set of applications. Not just CPUs or GPUs, but FPGAs, SoCs, and dozens of other design types from more than one thousand customers.

IBM on the other hand does not have that breadth of fabless semiconductor customer experience so they went with a gate-first approach at 28nm leaving common platform partners GLOBALFOUNDRIES and Samsung way behind the manufacturing yield and performance curve. TSMC owns the 28nm node and that is why they will have another big revenue year in 2013. TSM stock at $20 in 2013! Believe it!

20nm will be a much more interesting node in regards to competition however. After learning the gate-first lesson, IBM is following TSMC with a gate-last HKMG implementation at 20nm. Unfortunately the added difficulty of 20nm double patterning and lithography challenges, which have yet to be solved at a production level, is causing delays. The fabless semiconductor ecosystem is working around the clock on this and I honestly expect a hockey stick 20nm production curve once this has been solved. Crowdsourcing at its finest!

 The other big news was the Intel 22nm SoC process announcement at IEDM last week. I was very vocal about Intel not understanding the SoC business when they jumped into the foundry mix last year. This is a big first step but Intel still has a long way to go. I will do a much more detailed analysis in my next blog and you will see what I mean. Let me apologize in advance to the Intel PR people as I take some wind from their over blown sails.

While I enjoy my monthly trips to Taiwan it sure is good to be home. Absence does make the heart grow fonder.

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