Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) plans to move its 10nm process technology to volume production by the end of 2016, according to the company's chairman.
The world's largest chip maker will break ground for a new fab at its 12-inch wafer plant in central Taiwan in June 2015. The fab is designed to manufacture chips using 10nm process technology, TSMC chairman Morris Chang said. Volume production at the new facility of Fab 15 will kick off in mid-2016, Chang added.
TSMC plans to apply the new node technology for the production of mobile application processors, baseband chips, server chips, graphics processors (GPU), network processors and chips for gaming systems.
The news coincide with the 50th aniversary of the Moore's Law, which suggests the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit to double approximately every two years. In 1965, Gordon Moore authored a paper predicting the rate of growth of IC components in Electronics magazine. His observatin was later termed 'Moore's Law'.
In 1971, Intel's Ted Hoff invented the first microprocessor. The '4004' had 2,300 transistors. In 2015, Intel introduced its 5th generation Intel Core processor, which packs 1.3 billion transistors.
However, the realization of Moore’s Law is becoming increasingly difficult as technological development for higher integration requires very high processing costs. Under the circumstances, concerns are rising that delayed semiconductor performance improvement might hamper the growth of new industries. The microfabrication processes for higher integration is currently underway at the 20 nm level, and the minimum investment for stable mass production has skyrocketed to biilions of dollars.
Nevertheless, leading semiconductor companies are still regarding Moore’s Law as an achievable goal, although it could be somewhat adjusted to better reflect reality.
At the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) held in the United States in February this year, Kim Ki-nam, president of the semiconductor business of Samsung Electronics, remarked that faster yet power-saving semiconductor chips with a larger storage capacity are essential in today’s data-driven world, and innovation will go on despite the difficulty of performance improvement.
Chip makers are trying to deliver on the promise of Moore's Law with the introduction of powerful multi-core technologies, transistor architectures, advances in materials sciennce and other innovations.
New advanced new materials include graphene and carbon nanotubes, meant to replace silicon. Semiconductor processing technology is moving to 3D stacking, and one-chip solutions are set to incorporate memory and non-memory chips together. Samsung Electronics has already started a quest by succeeding in manufacturing 3D NAND flash memory and 14 nm FINFET.
Collaboration among the key players in the chip industry could also help towards achieving Gordon Moore's expectations. Samsung Electronics, Intel and TSMC, for example, are accelerating the development of new equipment by co-financing Dutch semiconductor equipment manufacturer ASML.