What just happened? The Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) has announced that two years after making its first 7-nanometer chip, the company has now produced over one billion of them. That’s enough silicon to cover 13 Manhattan city blocks.
TSMC notes that the figure represents the number of functional, defect-free 7nm chips that it’s produced since the technology entered volume production in April 2018. With each chip packing over a billion transistors, that equals a total of one quintillion 7nm transistors.
The 7nm chips end up in more than 100 products from dozens of customers, including AMD, Apple, and Qualcomm. Team red is set to become TSMC’s largest customer of 7nm chips this year, with its Zen 2 architecture found in the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, and current CPUs, while Zen 3 is expected to use an improved 7nm MOSFET node. The upcoming Big Navi GPUs also use the 7nm manufacturing process, as do AMD’s current cards. Nvidia is also using 7nm for its Ampere cards, which arrive soon.
TSMC writes that practice makes perfect when it comes to chip manufacturing, and as it was the first to bring 7nm into high-production, it has had “more time and wafers to improve our quality and yield more than any other semiconductor manufacturer.”
Since it started producing 7nm, TSMC introduced extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography, which allows nanometer-scale features to be printed more easily. Creating EUV light is more complicated, though, as it requires hitting tiny droplets of tin with pulses from a powerful source laser to turn the droplets into a plasma, which then emits the required wavelength of light. TSMC was the first company to bring EUV into commercial production and is applying the experience it gained from this process to its 5nm manufacturing. Next year, work begins on a new $12 billion 5nm TSMC fab in Arizona, with the chips expected to arrive in 2023 or 2024.