Apple and Intel likely the first to use TSMC’s 2nm node in 2025

Meanwhile, Intel is catching up to TSMC in leading-edge manufacturing nodes

Apple and Intel are likely to become the first customers for TSMC's advanced 2nm manufacturing process when the node goes into production in late 2025, according to new reports.

The reports, which come from Taiwanese outlets DigiTimes and UDN, are supplemented by a financial analyst's suggestion that Intel plans to use TSMC's 2nm process node, officially known as N2, for the graphics tile of its next-generation client processor, code-named Lunar Lake. Intel will also use its own 18A node, which the chipmaker has said is equivalent to a 1.8nm process, for the CPU title of Lunar Lake.

More broadly, Intel plans to use TSMC processes for GPUs and various system-on-chips, DigiTimes said. This falls in line with previous statements by Intel, including the one about its plan to use 18A and an external process for Lunar Lake.

Intel has said that Lunar Lake is due in 2024, so we're not clear yet on how TSMC's late 2025 high-volume production timeline for 2nm fits with this, besides knowing that the 2nm node will enter risk production in late 2024.

We don't have any indication yet of which chips Apple will make using TSMC's 2nm node.

These reports arrived shortly after TSMC revealed its production timeline for 2nm, which, at least on paper, shows that Intel could catch up to TSMC in leading-edge nodes in the next couple of years. This is because Intel recently disclosed that production for its 18A node will start in the second half of 2024, months ahead of the previously given 2025 timeline.

Meanwhile, AMD, Broadcom, Nvidia and MediaTek will apparently have to jockey for their own allocation of TSMC's 2nm node, according to the DigiTimes report, which said that the fabless chip designers are expected to begin discussions on the matter next year.

Intel's plan to rely on foundries like TSMC in addition to its own manufacturing plants is part of the chipmaker's new IDM 2.0 strategy, an evolution of its integrated device manufacturer model. Its goal is to make the best performing chips possible, whether it's based on internal or external manufacturing plants, after the company faced setbacks with its 10nm and 7nm processes over the last several years.

"This will provide us with the increased flexibility and scale we need to optimize our roadmaps for cost, performance, schedule and supply, giving us a unique competitive advantage," Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger said last year.

At the same time, Intel is dramatically ramping up manufacturing capacity not just for its own products but also for its revitalized foundry business, which competes with TSMC. It's an odd dynamic, for sure, but apparently TSMC CEO CC Wei is not concerned, based on recent comments.

"We do not anticipate any issues at all. And for the future, actually, this IDM – might take their business back into their own house," Wei said in reference to Intel on TSMC's recent earnings call [PDF]. "We have already taken this into our capacity planning consideration already." ®

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