Exclusive partner is another word for single point of failure

Subject: General Tech | August 30, 2012 - 02:38 PM |
Tagged: TSMC, apple, qualcomm, fab

If you believe the rumours, TSMC recently turned down offers from both Apple and Qualcomm to make those companies the exclusive partner of TSMC's smartphone chip production.  Now, that sort of deal does tend to line the pockets of the supplier quite nicely, as the customer must pay to recompense the lost business from other customers.  It also gives the manufacturer the ability to specialize their production lines for one specific type of chip which will eventually bring the cost per wafer down.  On the other hand, this type of deal can stifle innovation on a general level as the manufacturer doesn't need to worry about attracting other customers, nor designing fabrication plants capable of producing multiple types of chips.  Then there is TSMC in specific, a company which has a long history of providing supplies to companies both sides of the war, be it GPU, CPU or a mixed chip.  As arms dealers proved long ago it is far more profitable to sell to both sides than to only supply one belligerent.  Read DigiTimes take on this topic here.

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"A recent Bloomberg report cited unnamed sources as saying that Apple and Qualcomm had been rebuffed in separate attempts to invest cash in Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) in a bid to secure exclusive access to smartphone chips. Digitimes Research analyst Nobunaga Chai has commented saying that he sees no good reason why TSMC should accept the investment."

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Source: DigiTimes

TSMC makes the future of 28nm a little brighter

Subject: General Tech | August 22, 2012 - 03:53 PM |
Tagged: TSMC, 28nm

If you like NVIDIA and AMD's current 28nm process GPUs and future APUs, you should be very happy to hear that TSMC's current 28nm process is topping 80% yield.  This means that the vast majority of silicon coming out of TSMC is good and the supply shortages we have had to become accustomed to are a thing of the past.  This also bodes well for the upcoming AMD APUs which will most likely be using TSMC 28nm silicon.  As well, DigiTimes has good news about the new Fab 15 which should vastly expand TSMC's production capability.

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"Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company's (TSMC) 28nm processes have topped a yield rate of 80%, the Chinese-language Commercial Times cited unnamed equipment suppliers as saying in a recent report. Meanwhile, the foundry's new 12-inch fab - Fab 15 - will have a capacity of more than 100,000 12-inch equivalent wafers in the fourth quarter of 2012, according to the report.

Installed capacity at TSMC's Fab 15 thus far in the third quarter has expanded by about 300% sequentially, the report indicated. Fab 15 is identified as the major wafer fab where TSMC's foundry capacity for 28nm processes will be located.

TSMC will be able to satisfy all demand from its major clients including Qualcomm, Nvidia and AMD by the fourth quarter of 2012 as it manages to boost output of wafers processed using 28nm technology, the report believes."

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Source: DigiTimes

ARM, TSMC to Produce 64-bit Processors With 3D Transistors

Subject: Processors | July 24, 2012 - 12:07 PM |
Tagged: TSMC, ARMv8, arm, 64-bit, 3d transistors, 20nm

 

Yesterday ARM announced a multi-year partnership with fab TSMC to produce sub-20nm processors that utilize 3D FinFET transistors. The collaboration and data sharing between the two companies will allow the fabless ARM SoC company the ability to produce physical processors based on its designs and will allow TSMC a platform to further its process nodes and FinFET transistor technology. The first TSMC-produced processors will be based on the ARMv8 architecture and will be 64-bit compatible.

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The addition of 3D transistors will allow the ARM processors to be even more power efficient and suitable for both mobile devices. Alternatively, it could allow for higher clockspeeds at the same TDP ratings as current chips. The other big news is that the chips will be moving to a 64-bit compatible design, which is huge considering ARM processors have traditionally been 32-bit. By moving to 64-bit, ARM is positioning itself for server and workstation adoption, especially with the recent ARM-compatible Windows 8 build due to be released soon. Granted, ARM SoCs have a long way to go before taking market share from Intel and AMD in the desktop and server markets in a big way but it is slowly but surely becoming more competitive with the x86-64 giants.

TSMC’s R&D Vice President Cliff Hou stated that the collaboration between ARM and TSMC will allow TSMC to optimize its FinFET process to target “high speed, low voltage and low leakage.” ARM further qualified that the partnership would give ARM early access to the 3D transistor FinFET process that could help create advanced SoC designs and ramp up volume production.

I think this is a very positive move for ARM, and it should allow them to make much larger inroads into the higher-end computing markets and see higher adoption beyond mobile devices. On the other hand, it is going to depend on TSMC to keep up and get the process down. Considering the issues with creating enough 28nm silicon to meet demand for AMD and NVIDIA’s latest graphics cards, a sub-20nm process may be asking a lot. Here’s hoping that it’s a successful venture for both companies, however.

You can find more information in the full press release.

Source: Maximum PC

AMD and NVIDIA are sticking with TSMC

Subject: General Tech | July 9, 2012 - 04:32 PM |
Tagged: TSMC, Samsung, amd, nvidia, 28nm, rumour

All of the speculation about the problems TSMC has had with their 28nm process and the possible issues they might have producing enough wafers to meet their clients demands.  Today we hear from DigiTimes that Qualcomm is going to switch to Samsung, possibly because TSMC was focusing on AMD and NVIDIA, but this is pure speculation at the moment.  What seems more reliable is that GPU vendors are stating that both AMD and NVIDIA are sticking with TSMC which makes a lot of sense, even if TSMC has problems delivering it is a better alternative than AMD or NVIDIA redesigning their graphics processors to be compatible with Samsung's process.  The story also mentions that in 2013 Brazos 2.0 and Hondo will be moved to a 28nm design, again likely sourced at TSMC.

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"While Qualcomm has reportedly switched foundry orders for its 28nm-based Snapdragon S4 processors from Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) to Samsung Electronics because TSMC's 28nm capacity has failed to meet its needs, Nvidia and AMD may not follow suit, according to graphics card makers.

TSMC has the upper hand over Samsung in 28nm technology, yield rate and price and therefore changing foundry partnership involves high risks, the sources said. In addition, Nvidia is expected to consider Samsung's ARM-based processors in competition with its Tegra 3 processors, the sources indicated."

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Source: DigiTimes

Changes afoot for AMD's CPU process

Subject: General Tech | June 18, 2012 - 06:21 PM |
Tagged: amd, TSMC, 28nm

It looks like AMD is going to move its CPU process from the current Silicon on Insulator to the same 28nm bulk CMOS process at TSMC that they currently are using for their Southern Islands GPUs.  This should see the same changes to thermals as with the HD7xxx series of cards when compared to their predecessors and it is possible that this move could help future APUs as both GPU and CPU portions will be using the same improved process.  The article on DigiTimes also carries a bit of speculation on Sea Island, the next GPU architecture as well as the HSA and ARM on AMD.

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"AMD is set to make a major change in its manufacturing process in 2013 and will fully switch from the existing SOI manufacturing processor to 28nm Bulk CMOS process, according to Mark Papermaster, senior vice president and chief technology officer of AMD."

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Source: DigiTimes

Good news from TSMC for NVIDIA and you

Subject: General Tech | May 9, 2012 - 02:28 PM |
Tagged: TSMC, 28nm, nvidia

In the seemingly never ending saga of TSMC, NVIDIA and the mysteriously lacking supply of 28nm GPUs on the market is another update from DigiTimes.  TSMC is going to give priority to NVIDIA on their production lines, though if TSMC is still at 95% capacity that may not mean a great increase in capacity.  This doesn't refute the rumours that NVIDIA is shopping around for a new supplier for their chips nor that they may be revamping the mask they use for the chips but it does imply that TSMC does not want to lose NVIDIA's business and might have some capacity to spare for them.

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"Since Nvidia has been unsatisfied with TSMC's 28nm process, while the company has also not refuted rumors that the company may cooperate with Samsung Electronics or Globalfoundries, TSMC, to sooth Nvidia, has put the GPU maker on its supply priority, allowing Nvidia to be able to release its 28nm GPUs on schedule in May and June."

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Source: DigiTimes

May it truly be the end of our graphics card drought

Subject: General Tech | May 3, 2012 - 12:21 PM |
Tagged: NVIDA, amd, graphics card, TSMC, 28nm, kepler, southern islands, gtx690, gtx680, gtx670, gtx610

Enthusiasts were offered a bit of hope this morning with news from DigiTimes that more capacity at TSMC will be available for AMD and NVIDIA which would mean more dies being made and hopefully a larger supply of GPUs.  Since TSMC seems to have finished playing with their Cortex A9 process, there is a good possibility that the GTX680 and perhaps even the GTX690 will become common enough that the great unwashed actually have a chance to purchase one.  We can also hope that it will give NVIDIA a chance to build up stocks of the GTX670 and 610 which are due out at the end of the month and June, respectively.  Unfortunately, if a certain site is correct that may not be the case as NVIDIA will be redoing their mask and not be able to take advantage of the extra capacity TSMC could make available for them.  Perhaps if this scenario is true AMD will be able to leverage TSMC to flood the market with Southern Island GPUs and hope to win the availability war as the performance crown is firmly on NVIDIA's head in this generation of GPUs.

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"AMD and Nvidia, impacted by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company's (TSMC's) fully-booked capacity, had rather weak shipment performance in the first quarter; however, as more capacity will be gradually released by TSMC, shortages of 28nm graphics cards are expected to improve in late May, according to sources from graphics card makers."

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Source: DigiTimes

There is plenty of blame to go around when you are talking about the GTX 680

Subject: General Tech | May 2, 2012 - 01:05 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, TSMC, gtx680

The GTX680 would be far outselling the HD7870 if it was available anywhere but NVIDIA's biggest problem is that there is no supply to sell to the customers that want this card.  If SemiAccurate's sources are correct NVIDIA has yet to ship 10,000 cards in total, which really makes NVIDIA's stance that the supply problems are just a perception issue hard to swallow.  Mostly the fingers have been pointed at TSMC and the difficulties they have had with their 28nm production line, but that is getting old as well; if their 28nm process was inherently flawed they would not be at 95% capacity and AMDs GPUs would be just as rare as the new NVIDIA cards.  Could the issue lie with NVIDIA's chip design being flawed and producing incredibly low yields?  Is it that somehow the design takes an incredibly long time on the line in order to produce a wafer and so yields are not low so much as slow?  It is really hard to peg down exactly what is going on behind the scenes since neither of the companies involved are willing to discuss the causes behind the shortages.  That is the normal way of things however, no matter what company you talk about, you are far more likely to see denials and finger pointing than an explanation ... similar to children when you think about it really.

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"Nvidia has been busily blaming TSMC for their many supposed failings on 28nm, but SemiAccurate has learned what is really going on. The short story is that the finger pointing around the Kepler launch problems should be at Nvidia, not TSMC."

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Source: SemiAccurate

The never ending story of TSMC's 28nm process

Subject: General Tech | April 17, 2012 - 04:12 PM |
Tagged: TSMC, 28nm

Once again DigiTimes is focusing on TSMC's 28nm process, a node which we have been hearing a lot about for a long time.  Today they are proposing that perhaps the industry has been a bit harsh on TSMC and the availability of working 28nm silicon from that manufacturer.  Their analyst suggests that the 28nm node is still new to the industry and that the production lines still do not have all of the bugs worked out, let alone optimizations to decrease the time it takes to produce a wafer.  This is at least partially true though AMD has been using TSMC for its 28nm Southern Islands GPUs for a while now, other companies have not been so successful in using TSMC.  That seems to have scared other companies, not only is NVIDIA looking elsewhere for chips, Qualcomm is as well.  On the other hand, ARM is trying to get their customers to do the opposite, and are optimising their processors for TSMC's 28nm node, as well as the older 40nm.

DigiTimes may be spot on when they describe TSMC's 28nm process production speeds as increasing faster than previous nodes have and that the problems are only for specific chips and not across the board like the 40nm issues were.  Since TSMC is predicting that they will be running at 95% capacity by the end of the year they had better hope that they can speed production and find a way to do so without having to shut down entire production lines in order to implement any optimizations they discover along the way as any drop in supply is going to be poorly received by customers.

No process transition goes smoothly.  TSMC may be in the news more frequently than other Fabs but those competitors are not without their difficulties as we saw with the limited amount of GLOBALFOUNDRIES produced Llano chips at the end of last year.  Hopefully the current yields do improve, not just for the sake of the GTX 680 but for all of the other customers planning on moving to this node.  In the meantime, it offers a tech-centric soap opera for enthusiast to watch and speculate on.

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"Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) could ramp up its 28nm production capacity at a much faster pace than older 40/45nm and 65nm process nodes, according to Digitimes Research analyst Nobunaga Chai. To make such speculation about yield problems with TSMC's 28nm processes is unfair, said Chai, adding that the foundry is actually improving the process yield rate within its expectations."

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Source: DigiTimes

ARM aims to make TSMC the Fab of choice for their customers

Subject: General Tech | April 16, 2012 - 01:47 PM |
Tagged: arm, TSMC, fab, cortex a15, cortex-a9, 28nm, 40nm

ARM has developed some optimizations for their chips, provided that the customer purchasing them uses TSMC to fabricate them.  ARM has licensed a large variety of fabrication companies to produce their chips but with their familiarity with TSMC's 28nm and 40nm processes they have been able to introduce performance enhancing optimizations specific to TSMC.  It could taste a bit like favouritism but is much more likely to stem from the volume of TSMC's production as well as the maturity of the 40nm process node.  The 28nm node could be a bit of a problem for ARM as we have seen that TSMC is not having an easy time producing enough good dies for their customers; this is why you cannot buy a GTX 680.  As The Inquirer points out, if ARM wants to make sure their customers can get their hands on reasonable volumes of chips, they will want to create optimizations specific to other manufacturers sooner rather than later.

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"CHIP DESIGNER ARM has released a slew of optimisation packs for Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company's (TSMC) 28nm and 40nm process nodes.

ARM, which licenses designs to many chip designers, including Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, Nvidia and Samsung, has given TSMC a boost by offering processor optimisation packs for the firm's 28nm and 40nm process nodes. ARM claims the optimisation packs for its Cortex-A5, Cortex-A7, Cortex-A9 and Cortex-A15 processor cores help designers make use of TSMC's process node nuances to get the most out of their designs."

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Source: The Inquirer