TSMC is assessing how to implement EUV at 5nm

Taiwan Semiconductor
Peellden/Wikimedia
The future of computing is being written as we speak, as engineers around the world attempt to create the technology necessary for the next generation of systems. Now, the CEO of TSMC has indicated that the company is surging ahead with planning and development geared towards years to come.

Speaking at a conference at the company’s headquarters earlier this month, Mark Liu confirmed that TSMC has embarked upon development of a five naonometer process node. However, it seems that there’s still some work to be done before a decision is made on whether or not to adopt extreme ultraviolet lithography at this scale, according to a report from Hexus.

Extreme ultraviolet lithography — more commonly referred to as EUV lithography — is different to typical manufacturing methods as it uses light with a shorter wavelength. This allows for higher resolution equipment, and smaller physical sizes of the components being built.

However, EUV tool maker ASML has warned that the technology might not yet be applicable to the 5nm process. The work that’s going on at TSMC right now might be targeted towards finding a method of making EUV practices viable as the company prepares for manufacturing at 5nm.

TSMC’s current roadmap categorizes 5nm transistors as a “long-term research” project, scheduled to play out between 2014 and 2019. Running parallel to this is the company’s “next-generation lithography” project, which is set to look at EUV and related technologies to see how they help meet the challenge of fulfilling Moore’s Law.

Looking at the more immediate future, TSMC announced the successful manufacturing of functional SRAM chips at 7nm back in October of this year. A widespread production rollout for these chips is expected to take place in 2017, with customer tapeouts for 10nm chips expected to get underway in the early part of next year.

What does this mean for users? For now, not much — but it does appear the production war is in a moment of particular activity. After a half-decade of definite dominance by Intel, it seems the silicon giant has hit a snag, resulting in the delay of its upcoming 10nm process. That could give TSMC and others time to catch up, resulting in more competitive chips from Intel’s peers. IBM is also pushing hard, having produced the world’s first 7nm chip with functioning transistors earlier this year.

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