TSMC 7nm Production Lead Time Increases 3x In Worrying Sign

Ramish Zafar
File photo.

Taiwanese fab TSMC is right now one of the most popular semiconductor printers all around. The fab rose to prominence in the PC world after it partnered up with AMD, and when the latter was able to market its processors on being manufactured on smaller nodes than Intel's products. In the smartphone world, TSMC has continued to provide Apple and Qualcomm with reliable services and allowed the pair's SoCs to be at the top of the food chain. Now, it might be the case that this increased popularity is becoming hard to handle for TSMC. Take a look below for more details.

TSMC's 7nm Production Lead Time Increases To Six Months Due To Increased Demand Claim Anonymous Sources

With its N7+ fabrication node, TSMC has become the world's first chip manufacturer to introduce extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography in commercial products. EUV, due to a shorter wavelength, allows fabricators to etch smaller transistors on a silicon substrate, as compared to traditional DUV (Deep Ultraviolet) manufacturing. As a result, not only can more transistors be printed on similarly sized silicon sheets, but this proximity also allows performance to improve.

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A chip has several layers on which it's built. True EUV lithography would allow all of these layers to be exposed to the new techniques, but right now, the N7+ applies EUV only on select layers. Nevertheless, it's still a start despite the moderate performance gains offered. Now, we're hearing some concerning whispers from Taiwan, that might have implications for several companies.

As reported by Digitimes, 'industry sources' are claiming that production lead times for TSMC's 7nm orders have increased to six months. This means that manufacturers should wait for their orders to be fulfilled six months after having made them. The news of this extension comes in the aftermath of Apple's iPhone 11 launch. The Cupertino tech giant is one of TSMC's biggest customers, and given Apple's culture, there's no doubt that the two will have worked rather closely in developing fabrication nodes for the An chipsets.

While Nvidia has confirmed that it'll contact Samsung for 7nm EUV, AMD might be hit hard by the alleged lead time delays. Additionally, Apple might now fare well either, and the delay could mean the company fails to keep up with strong consumer interest in the iPhone 11 Pro early in the device's life cycle.

Of course, if we're being speculative then TSMC might be devoting more resources for Apple's products, but unless demand for the new iPhones is substantial, it's unlikely that the fab will have failed to arrange its production assets accordingly. And, naturally, 7nm production lead time can also involve EUV and DUV based processes, so the delay can be unrelated to the 2019 iPhones.

TSMC has declined to comment on the report as per CRN.

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