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TSMC Sees Fast Ramp for 20-nm

17 October 2013

TSMC will start making 20-nm CMOS in volume production in the first quarter of 2014 and the process will ramp faster than 28-nm node did in 2012, according to Morris Chang, chairman and CEO of TSMC. Meanwhile, development of the 16-nm FinFET process is going well, with volume production due to start one year after 20-nm bulk CMOS, he said.

Speaking in a conference with analysts held to discuss TSMC's third quarter financial results, Chang spoke in glowing terms about TSMC's capabilities at the leading-edge of silicon manufacturing, emphasizing thaat they would ensure TSMC's success in the quarters and years to come.

Chang said that TSMC's technology leadership allowed the company to bring up process nodes first and achieve commanding market share, which competitors then found hard to overcome. TSMC has been in the market with 28-nm CMOS for more than two years. In the 28-nm polysilicon oxynitride foundry offering in 3Q13 TSMC had about 75 percent market share. For the alternative high-k metal gate version of 28-nm CMOS, TSMC has few competitors and Chang claimed greater than 90 percent market share.

"We will begin volume production of 20-nm in the first quarter of 2014—that's 90-days from today," Chang said, adding that 16-nm production is expected to follow 20-nm in one year. "We view both 20-nm and 16-nm virtually as one node," Chang said.

TSMC's 20-nm bulk CMOS process already has five tape-outs under its belt, with 30 tape-outs scheduled this year and in 2014 from customers in mobile communications, CPU and PLD segments, Chang said. "And all those tape-outs represent big volumes," he added.

The yield-learning is in-line with or better than it was at an equivalent stage in the development of 28-nm CMOS, Chang said, adding that this leads him to expect that the 20-nm ramp in 2014 will be faster than that achieved by 28-nm in 2012.

With regards to the 16-nm FinFET process, Chang said that technology development is going well and "risk production" would start before the end of the year, with 25 tape-outs planned for in 2014.

Chang said that even when he resumed his role as CEO of TSMC in 2009 he was not thinking so much about foundry competition or the challenge of TSMC emerging as global company. "My gaze was already upon the two 700lb gorillas in the industry," he told analysts.

When asked specifically if the introduction of 20- and 16-nm processes would extend TSMC's lead in the industry, Chang said: "At 20-nm, yes, very definitely. On 16, I think the battle is still raging. On 20 we will start with very high market share like we did on 28 and we will keep that high market share for quite a while, several years. On 16 I believe we do have serious competitors; the gorillas that I mentioned. But, my goodness, we intend to prevail."

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