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TSMC 20nm Essentially Worthless?

TSMC 20nm Essentially Worthless?
by Daniel Nenni on 02-15-2015 at 7:00 am

 It happens at every process node, professional journalists write that something is broken and blames TSMC like a worn out record. To be fair they are not semiconductor professionals with access to the fabless semiconductor rank and file and are easily manipulated which is what happened again at 20nm. Remember when NVIDIA suggested that TSMC 20nm was economically challenged? And the media changed that to “essentially worthless?” Thankfully Apple knew better otherwise we would not have the amazing iProducts we have in our hands today.

Nvidia deeply unhappy with TSMC, claims 20nm essentially worthless
By Joel Hruska on 3/23/2012

Back at 40nm I was the foundry liaison for an IP company and the GPU part of AMD was a big customer. I was the executive sponsor for AMD meaning that whenever there was an escalated problem it landed on my desk. And there were ALWAYS escalated problems at the bleeding edge of GPU design, absolutely.

As 40nm was ramping NVIDIA came out and said their GPUs would be delayed because of yield problems and they pointed fingers at TSMC. The media jumped all over this of course but the AMD guys and I had a good laugh because AMD did not have the same yield problems. At 40nm they had these things called “recommended design rules” (RDRs) to increase yield. One of them was doubling the vias in case there was a one in a billion failure. Of course this increased area and capacitance so the clever NVIDA designers did not do it and had billions of single vias. AMD on the other hand respected the RDRs and beat NVIDIA to 40nm. When the dust settled NVIDIA did admit to design related yield issues but that was not front page news of course.

The same thing happened at 28nm when the fabless guys talked about wafer shortages on conference calls as an excuse for not making their Wall Street targets. The media immediately played the yield card and threw TSMC under the bus. Come to find out TSMC built 28nm capacity based on customer forecasts which were half of what they should have been. TSMC ended up with 100% market share at 28nm versus the 50% forecast and the rest is history.

Nvidia Blames TSMC’s 28nm Process Technology for Slow Sales
by Anton Shilovon 05/11/2012

In March of 2012 NVIDIA came out saying 20nm was not economically feasible and blamed TSMC. In fact, NVIDIA made a detailed presentation at the International Trade Press Conference. The media was all over it reporting in detail WHAT was said but not once considered WHY it was being said and WHY at that particular venue. The entire fabless semiconductor ecosystem had a good laugh because silicon doesn’t lie like people do and the last laugh would be ours.

Some points to ponder:

  • Why was this presented at a press conference versus a technical conference?
  • The NVIDIA CEO and TSMC CEO are very close friends, right?
  • The media says GPUs will skip 20nm for 16nm
  • 16nm is really 20nm with low power FinFETs, right?
  • NVIDIA has a 20nm Tegra SoC in production
  • Apple has two 20nm SoCs in production
  • Oracle has a 20nm high performance CPU in production
  • Xilinx has 20nm FPGAs in production

    So tell me, what really happened to the 20nm GPUs?

    Disclaimer: This is written from my aging memory so correct me if I’m wrong here…

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