TSMC Achieves HVM On Its 7nm+ EUV Process – Next Generation CPUs And GPUs On 7nm EUV Are Now A Go

A featured image of a wafer in TSMC's Fab14.

In a statement published yesterday, TSMC has confirmed that it has achieved High Volume Manufacturing (HVM) on its critical 7nm+ Extreme Ultra Violet (EUV) process. This is a landmark event because it marks the critical shift from a sub-EUV wavelength to EUV successfully completed by a foundry. This is something Intel and Samsung have yet to manage and will make it exponentially easier for TSMC to deliver nodes at 7nm and below.

TSMC achieves high volume manufacturing (HVM) on its 7nm+ EUV node

Most of our readers will be familiar with the significance of EUV lithography but I will do a quick recap regardless. Wafers are etched using a light source and the etching "fineness" is determined by the wavelength. Let's assume we are using a sub-EUV light source that has a wavelength of roughly 193 nm. The etch can be made at a maximum of 1/2 the wavelength; in this case roughly 96.5nm. Now you can use complicated optical tricks like double patterning, triple and even quad pattering to bring this value down further, but it gets exponentially harder to do so and the etches become blurry.

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Shifting to EUV means we will be using a light source with a wavelength of 13.5nm and a useful value of 6.75nm and can just directly etch the wafer without using any trickery. This makes for an incredibly clean and highly stable etch that will drastically lower the difficulty level of foundries as they continue on their path of Moore's law. So why didn't they do this before? Because there is a significant risk involved when transferring existing tooling to a completely new type of process and potential loss of lead times. TSMC however, appears to have done it already:

The N7+ volume production is one of the fastest on record. N7+, which began volume production in the second quarter of 2019, is matching yields similar to the original N7 process that has been in volume production for more than one year.N7+ is also providing improved overall performance.

When compared to the N7 process, N7+ provides 15% to 20% more density and improved power consumption, making it an increasingly popular choice for the industry’s next-wave products. TSMC has been quickly deploying capacity to meet N7+ demand that is being driven by multiple customers.EUV technology enables TSMC to keep driving chip scaling as the shorter wavelength of EUV light is better able to print the nanometer-scale features of advanced technology designs.

TSMC’s EUV tools have reached production maturity, with tool availability reaching target goals for high-volume production, and output power of greater than 250 watts for day-to-day operations. - TSMC

TSMC's 7nm+ EUV process, dubbed N7+, provides 15 to 20% higher density and improved power consumption and will be tapped by partners such as AMD (and potentially NVIDIA too, although there are some rumors that they might fo with Samsung) to build their next-generation CPU and GPUs. The foundry also revealed that they will be beginning risk production of 6nm (on the EUV node) in the first quarter of 2020 with volume production by year-end. TSMC's 6nm EUV process will offer 18% higher logic density when compared to the N7 node.

This is great news for companies like AMD that rely heavily on partner foundries for their continued existence. With AMD ramping up to Zen 3 and its EPYC promotion and adoption in full swing, this is a great signal for investors because it shows that their primary bottleneck (the foundry) is charging ahead full steam as well. The only concern now, would be of capacity allocation, and how TSMC and AMD manage that, only time will tell.

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