Nvidia: TSMC Remains Our Primary Manufacturing Partner for 16nm FinFETs and 10nm


An efficient wafer foundry contract is one of the most critical factors for a fabless design house like Nvidia. It seems however, that even though TSMC has always given priority to Apple for orders, Nvidia will be retaining Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. as their "primary" partner. Nvidia also has Samsung as a partner and so far it remains unclear as to which products will be fabricated by which partner - although it is a good bet that high performance ASICs such as their upcoming mainstream GPUs will go to TSMC.

tsmc_semiconductor_fab14_production_4A stock photo inside one of the foundries of TSMC. @TSMC Public Domain

Nvidia Corp and TSMC will go a long way - Key manufacturing partner for 16nm FinFET, 10nm and beyond

This doesn't really come as a surprise since Nvidia Corp. was present on the list of partners for 16nm FinFETs published by TSMC. It is worth noting that Samsung has already begun volume production of 14nm FinFET with their 14LPE node while as TSMC will start volume production of 16nm FinFET in the third quarter of this year - with meaningful revenues by Q4. The following was said at the earnings conference of Nvidia:

“We are constantly evaluating foundry suppliers, ....[but] we largely purchase from TSMC, the vast majority of our wafers we buy from TSMC. We are in 20nm, we are expecting to ramp 16nm. We are deeply engaged with TSMC for many, many nodes to come, including 10nm.” CEO, Nvidia

At the moment, it is not really feasible for Nvidia to drop TSMC in favor of Samsung (and its 14nm FinFET) but the fact that CEO Nvidia states that they will remain engaged with TSMC for many nodes to come shows that they don't really want to do that either way. The green giant has aptly stated on occasion that they arent really that obsessed with the bleeding edge of process technology - something I will begrudgingly admit, considering their effortless performance jumps on the 28nm node per generation.

“There are just so many ways for us to deliver energy efficiency and performance,” said Mr. Jen Hsun, CEO of Nvidia Corp “I would not get too obsessed about the process technology all by itself.”....“But we are always looking at new foundry suppliers, and competition keeps everybody sharp......But for all intents and purposes, TSMC is our primary partner.”

It isn't really clear to me as to why Nvidia decided to get Samsung onboard as a partner, but if I had to take a hunch - I would guess it has something to do with Apple's monopoly of the TSMC customer list. Nvidia is reducing its production risk and as the saying would go - two foundries are definitely better than one. Just ask AMD. Whether we will see a product any time soon from Samsung is another question entirely. It depends on how long Nvidia has been working on Samsung's 14nm FinFET products - if its been a couple of years, we might see them later this year or early 2016.