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

Intel becomes a 22nm foundry -- no, not for NVIDIA.

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | March 25, 2012 - 08:42 PM |
Tagged: TSMC, nvidia, Intel

NVIDIA would like Intel to be their fab partner for ARM processors. Turns out NVIDIA-produced ARM products are not tempting to Intel.

Last month we reported that Intel would open up their fabrication plants to contracts from other companies. We stated that the world would likely end if Intel were to ever produce products from NVIDIA. It turns out that the world is safe.

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Turn out the lights, pretend we’re not home.

Intel is far and away the most advanced semiconductor fabricators in the world and many companies would love to have their components created in their factories. Intel is very aware of how sophisticated their technique is relative to their competitors and exercises that advantage.

NVIDIA currently fabricates their chips at TSMC. That partnership has proven to be slightly problematic to NVIDIA’s business goals. Their Kepler launch turned out to not be nearly as soft of a launch as was proposed by SemiAccurate -- but that is to be expected from a website by that name (especially with NVIDIA news).

Perhaps you were a little too greedy in requesting that Intel manufacture your ARM processors, NVIDIA? Maybe you should test the waters with a discrete GPU order or, you know, some other market that Intel does not compete in try as they might.

Even still, there was a rumor going around when Intel partnered with AMD for hardware-accelerated physics support. It does not seem like Intel really want to be friends. Plenty of fish in the sea, though.

Source: Forbes

TSMC's 28nm process is going to be around for the long haul

Subject: General Tech | March 20, 2012 - 01:12 PM |
Tagged: TSMC, nvidia, amd, southern islands, kepler, 28nm, maxwell, llano

TSMC's 28nm process has been in the news for a long time, sometimes this was a good thing but more often it was not.  Back in May of 2009 the first announcements of TSMC's brand new 28nm process hit the news with major production slated to start in early 2010.  That didn't happen on time, much to several companies dismay as Josh unhappily discussed towards the end of 2010.  This set a trend for TSMC's 28nm process for a while, for instance AMD did not quite meet their promise of readily available 28nm GPUs in 2011, though a late December launch for the HD7970 did meet the spirit of the agreement.  The delays and issues on TSMC's 28nm lines had a variety of causes, perhaps one of the worst being TSMC's overly optimistic attitude about their production capabilities especially when AMD had a surprise for them.  Add to that the long line of woes during the development and production of NVIDIA's 28nm Kepler GPU as well as the recent shutdown of the production line, and you can see why TSMC's 28nm process has spent a lot of time being maligned in the news.  It almost makes you forget about the 40nm process woes, but that is ancient news.

All that effort is not going to waste as DigiTimes reports that TSMC is planning on expanding their 28nm capacity this year and expects that process to account for 10% of their 2012 revenue.  The next question on most peoples minds is the progress on TSMC's 22nm process which in 2010 they announced would be ready by Q3 2012, something which NVIDIA's Maxwell team is probably anticipating with great anxiety.

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"With current capacity for 28nm processes filled up, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) is likely to expand the leading-edge process capacity later in 2012, according to industry sources.

TSMC reportedly is running at full capacity at its 12-inch fabs due to strong orders for 28nm as well as 40nm and 65nm designs. In order to avoid orders to rivals such as United Microelectronics (UMC) and Samsung Electronics, TSMC will have to speed up the pace of its leading-edge capacity expansion in particular its 28nm capacity, the sources said."

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Source: DigiTimes

Nobody likes NVIDIA, even Apple won't play with them

Subject: General Tech | March 13, 2012 - 12:15 PM |
Tagged: TSMC, nvidia, macbook, kelper, Ivy Bridge, fermi, apple

NVIDIA has been having a rough life lately with problems besetting them on all sides.  Their IGP business has been disembowelled by AMD's Llano and even Intel is now offering usable graphics with the HD3000 on higher end Sandy Bridge chips.   The console makers seem to have decided on AMD as the provider of choice for the next generation of products which locks NVIDIA out of that market for years to come, as console generations tend to last significantly longer than PC components.  The delays at TSMC have enabled AMD to launch three families of next generation GPU without NVIDIA being able to respond, which not only hurts NVIDIA's bottom line but lets AMD set their own pricing until NVIDIA can finally release Kepler, at a price that will not be wholly of their choosing. 

Now according to SemiAccurate they are losing a goodly portion of Apple's MacBook business as well.  The supply issues which will be the result of the fabrication problems were likely a big factor in Apple's decision to trim back GPU orders but there is also the fact that the low to mid range GPU could well be going extinct.  With the power of the forthcoming Intel HD4000 and AMD's Trinity line of APUs it will become hard for laptop and system makers to justify putting in a discrete GPU since they will have to choose relatively expensive parts to have the discrete GPU contribute to performance. That leaves NVIDIA only providing GPUs for high end MacBooks, a much less lucrative market than the mid range.  Don't even mention the previous issue of overheating GPUs.

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"That is exactly what SemiAccurate moles are telling us is going on. Nvidia can’t supply, so Apple threw them out on their proverbial magical experience. This doesn’t mean that Nvidia is completely out at Apple, the Intel GPUs are too awful to satisfy the higher end laptops, so there will need to be something in those. What that something is, we don’t definitively know yet, but the possibilities are vanishingly small."

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Source: SemiAccurate

TSMC Suffers 28 nm Woes

Subject: Editorial | March 9, 2012 - 11:45 AM |
Tagged: TSMC, tahiti, process node, nvidia, kepler, amd, 28 nm

 Charlie over at Semiaccurate is reporting that TSMC has closed down their entire 28 nm line.  Shut down.  Not running wafers.  This obviously cannot be good.

Apparently TSMC stopped the entire line about three weeks ago and have not restarted it.  This type of thing does not happen very often, and when it does, things are really out of whack.  Going back we have heard mixed reviews of TSMC’s 28 nm process.  NVIDIA was quoted as saying that yields still were not very good, but at least were better than what they experienced with their first 40 nm part (GTX 400 series).  Now, part of NVIDIA’s problem was that the design was as much of an issue as the 40 nm process was.  AMD at the time was churning out HD 5000 series parts at a pretty good rate, and they said their yields were within expectations.

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AMD so far is one of the first customers out of the gate with a large volume of 28 nm parts.  The HD 7900 series has been out since the second week of January, the HD 7700 series since mid-February, and the recently released HD 7800 series will reach market in about 2 weeks.  Charlie has done some more digging and has found out that AMD has enough product in terms of finished boards and packaged chips that they will be able to handle the shutdown from TSMC.  Things will get tight at the end, but apparently the wafers in the middle of being processed have not been thrown out or destroyed.  So once production starts again, AMD and the other customers will not have to wait 16 to 20 weeks before getting finished product.

NVIDIA will likely not fare nearly as well.  The bulk of the stoppage occurred during the real “meat and potatoes” manufacturing cycle for the company.  NVIDIA expects to launch the first round of Kepler based products this month, but if production has been stopped for the past three weeks then we can bet that there are a lot of NVIDIA wafers just sitting in the middle of production.  Charlie also claims that the NVIDIA launch will not be a hard one, and NVIDIA expects retail products to be available several weeks after the introduction.

The potential reasons for this could be legion.  Was there some kind of toxic spill that resulted in a massive cleanup that required the entire line to be shut down?  Was there some kind of contamination that was present while installing the line, but was not discovered until well after production started?  Or was something glossed over during installation that ballooned into a bigger problem that just needed to be rectified (a stitch in time saves nine)?

Source: SemiAccurate