Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company ("TSMC") has quickly become a household name in the chip fabrication business, and the foundry of choice for many fabless chip makers. In recent times, TSMC has eclipsed Intel when it comes to advancing research and investing into smaller, more efficient process nodes, and at the volumes necessary to support global demand. While Chipzilla is still struggling with its 10nm process, TSMC has already hit volume production for parts using its 7nm process and is expecting over 50 tape-outs this year alone.
At its 24th annual Technology Symposium in Santa Clara, TSMC announced its Wafer-on-Wafer (“WoW”) technology, which could be a boon for GPU performance, similar to how vertical stacking has improved DRAM manufacturing and performance. The technology, as the name suggests, stacks layers of logic on top of one another using a through-silicon via (“TSV”) interconnect. With limited lateral space on wafers, WoW technology should allow for faster chips with higher areal density to be crammed in the same amount of space using high-speed, low-latency interconnects.
Process maturity plays an important role in determining yields, which are currently low for the WoW tech – so expect an initial roll-out on parts built on more mature 16nm or 10nm processes, before transitioning to smaller process nodes. However, as the technology matures and yields improve, GPU manufacturers could literally stack two fully-functional GPUs on top of one another, as opposed to dual-GPU setups using two independent dies, leading to cost savings, and smaller, more power-efficient video cards.
At the conference, TSMC also announced a new 7nm+ node using extreme ultraviolet (“EUV”) lithography, which should ramp up during H1-2019, and that it’s on track to start ‘risk-production’ of a 5nm node, also during H1-2019 for mobile and high-performance computing chips. Back in January, TSMC started building a brand new 5nm fab in Taiwan, which is expected to start volume production in 2020. There's a lot to look forward to in H2-2018, particularly the next-gen 7nm mobile SoCs, CPUs and GPUs, and what they have in store in terms of performance and power efficiency.