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TSMC ramps up 3nm chip baking at Taiwan plants

Actions speak volumes

Mass production of 3nm components has begun at TSMC's south Taiwan facilities, the silicon slinger announced on Thursday.

The design is expected to deliver significant performance and efficiency improvements over TSMC's 5nm node, now widely deployed in Apple, Qualcomm and AMD products. The foundry operator claims its N3 process will offer 60 to 70 percent higher logic density, 15 percent higher performance, while consuming 30 to 35 percent less power than its N5 process.

It's worth noting that TSMC is drawing comparisons to its N5 process, which is getting on in age, having been deployed in products for more than two years now. Several chipmakers, including Apple and Nvidia have already begun transitioning production over to TSMC's N4 node.

While rival Samsung is moving to a gate-all-around transistor design — sometimes called RibbonFET — TSMC is sticking with the tried-and-true FinFET transistor architecture. The foundry isn't expected to migrate to gate-all-around transistor designs until the launch of its 2nm process. TSMC is already preparing for its 2nm fabs in the Hsinchu and Central Taiwan Science Parks.

The announcement, made during a ceremony at the foundry's Tainan facility, comes as the chipmaker faces grapples with rapidly deteriorating trade relations between the US and China.

"TSMC is maintaining its technology leadership while investing significantly in Taiwan," TSMC Chairman Mark Liu said in a statement. "This 3nm volume production and capacity expansion ceremony demonstrates we are taking concrete action to develop advanced technology and expand capacity in Taiwan."

The comment comes as TSMC has been compelled by trade restrictions and sanctions to effectively bifurcate its supply chain and expand into new regions.

Earlier this month, TSMC confirmed that it would build a second US fab in Phoenix, Arizona that will produce 3nm chips when it comes online in 2026. The company's first fab, announced in 2020, is slated to come online in 2024 and produce 4nm chips.

However, TSMC execs clearly aren't happy about the position the company has been put in. During an industry event, earlier this Month, CEO CC Wei grumbled that geopolitical conflict had created an environment in which the company no longer could sell its product to the world.

The comments came weeks after TSMC founder Morris Chang proclaimed that globalization was "almost dead."

But while TSMC is expanding its US process and is reportedly weighing an expansion into Europe, it appears the company remains committed to its home country, keeping its best tech for its Taiwan fabs. If the foundry operator sticks with this timetable, the US will get TSMC's 4nm process tech two years and its 3nm process nearly three years after Taiwan. ®

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