TSMC to Offer Only One Version of 20nm Process Technology

TSMC Looking Forward at 18nm, 16nm Half-Nodes

by Anton Shilov
04/18/2012 | 03:34 PM

Many criticize the world's largest contract maker of chips of inability to supply enough chips made using leading edge 28nm process with high-k metal gate (HKMG) technology. In a bid to avoid a similar situation with 20nm fabrication process, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. plans to cut some corners and options.


The difference between chips for different applications nowadays is so significant that in order to build them contract makers of semiconductors develop special versions of each process technology in a bid to meet particular requirements. Nonetheless, TSMC intends to offer only one flavour of its 20nm fabrication process, but to consider possibility to introduce "half-node" 16nm or 18nm technologies.

Nowadays Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company offers four versions of 28nm process technology: 28LP (poly/SiON) for low-power cost-efficient chips, 28HPL (HKMG) for low-power applications, 28HP (HKMG) for high-performance chip designs and 28HPM (HKMG) that combines elements of high-performance and low-power process technologies and is mostly designed for microprocessors for tablets, superphones and notebooks. With 20nm, TSMC will not give any choice and there will be only one option, the company said at its annual technology symposium.

Shang-yi Chiang, executive vice president and co-chief operating officer at TSMC, said the firm might offer an 18nm or 16nm process node after 20nm if lithography technology is not available to make 14nm devices cost effectively, reports EETimes web-site. There is a huge difference between 20nm and 14nm fabrication processes across the industry since at 14nm a number of innovations, such as different - FinFET 3D - transistor structure, come into play. In case it is impossible to make 14nm chips in a cost efficient manner initially, chip designers may rely on half-node technologies like 16nm or 18nm.

Another major concern for TSMC is that extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography that is needed to produce chips at 14nm process will not be available by 2015 because it consumes too much power and no appropriate power sources are available at this time for it. Manufacturers of lithography, such as ASML Holding NV, have managed to tweak 193nm immersion lithography tools for 14nm fabrication technology, but that might require triple-patterning on some layers and double patterning on many layers in order to achieve adequate image fidelity, which would make it too costly for volume production.