Taipei--Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC, ???), the world's largest contract chip maker, is planning to start production of chips made using the sophisticated 5 nanometer process on a trial basis in 2019.
C.C. Wei (???), president and co-chief executive officer of TSMC, said at a technology symposium held in Hsinchu on Thursday that the chip maker's efforts to introduce advanced technology processes will allow electronic chips to be used in a wide range of applications under four platforms: mobile devices, high-speed computing devices, automotive devices and the Internet of Things.
However, Wei did not reveal when the 5nm process will start commercial production.
The symposium was watched closely by market analysts who are looking for indications as to TSMC's outlook and technological progress being made by the global semiconductor industry.
TSMC's latest mass production technology is based on the 10nm process which was introduced in the fourth quarter of last year. The chip maker is currently devoting considerable effort to developing 7nm, 5nm and even 3nm processes, in a bid to maintain its lead over peers in the global wafer foundry business.
TSMC currently accounts for more than 50 percent of the global contract chip manufacturing market.
Discussing the 7nm process, Wei said, to date the chip maker has rolled out 12 tap-out designs based on the technology. A tap-out design is the final result of the design process for integrated circuit suppliers.
Wei said the mass production of chips made using the 7nm process is scheduled for 2018.
Although Wei did not elaborate on progress made in developing 3nm processes, local media have widely reported that TSMC is likely to build a new production site for 3nm process production and has speculated that the plant could be located in the United States.
However, TSMC reiterated on Thursday that plans for a 3nm process plant will not be finalized until the first quarter of next year.
Wei said that TSMC is planning to assign US$10 billion to capital expenditure to expanding production capacity and product development in 2017, including US$2.2 billion investment in research and development, to meet demand from clients which currently total about 450.
While TSMC declines to comment on client details, the chip maker is believed to supply processors for iPhone production and its major clients include Qualcomm Inc., NVidia Corp. and MediaTek Inc. (???).
At the technology symposium, Tsai Chih-chun (???), a section director at TSMC's Asia Pacific operations, said that sales in the global semiconductor business rose 7 percent from 2016 to US$383 billion in 2017.
Tsai said that artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality and automotive alliances are expected to drive semiconductor business this year.
He also forecast that smartphone shipments worldwide will rise 6 percent from last year to reach 1.552 billion units in 2017, with shipments to the China market expected to grow 10 percent.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel