Taiwan’s MediaTek, one of the few 5G merchant semiconductor vendors, has successfully developed its first chip using TSMC’s leading-edge 3nm technology, taping out MediaTek’s flagship Dimensity system-on-chip (SoC) with volume production expected in 2024. MediaTek joins Apple as an early adopter of TSMC’s 3-nanometer tech, a rare joint statement by a chip developer and chip manufacturer.
This marks a significant milestone in the long-standing strategic partnership between MediaTek and TSMC, with both companies taking full advantage of their strengths in chip design and manufacturing to jointly create flagship SoCs with high performance and low power features, empowering global end devices.
“We are committed to our vision of using the world’s most advanced technology to create cutting edge products that improve our lives in meaningful ways,” said Joe Chen, President of MediaTek. “TSMC’s consistent and high-quality manufacturing capabilities enable MediaTek to fully demonstrate its superior design in flagship chipsets, offering the highest performance and quality solutions to our global customers and enhancing the user experience in the flagship market.”
“This collaboration between MediaTek and TSMC on MediaTek’s Dimensity SoC means the power of industry’s most advanced semiconductor process technology can be as accessible as the smartphone in your pocket,” said Dr. Cliff Hou, Senior Vice President of Europe and Asia Sales at TSMC. “Throughout the years, we have worked closely with MediaTek to bring numerous significant innovations to the market and are honored to continue our partnership into the 3nm generation and beyond.”
Image Credit: AP
TSMC’s 3nm process technology provides enhanced performance, power, and yield, in addition to complete platform support for both high performance computing and mobile applications. Compared with TSMC’s N5 process, TSMC’s 3nm technology currently offers as much as 18% speed improvement at same power, or 32% power reduction at same speed, and approximately 60% increase in logic density.
MediaTek’s Dimensity SoCs, built with industry-leading process technology, are designed to meet the ever-increasing user experience requirements for mobile computing, high-speed connectivity, artificial intelligence, and multimedia. MediaTek’s first flagship chipset using TSMC’s 3nm process is expected to empower smartphones, tablets, intelligent cars and various other devices starting in the second half of 2024.
Chinese chipmaking suppliers plan to spend 50 billion yuan ($7.26 billion) with backing from the state to strengthen the domestic supply chain as the U.S. curbs tech exports.
“We cannot avoid decoupling in semiconductors,” Chiu Tzu-Yin, president of state-backed wafer giant National Silicon Industry Group (NSIG), said at a chip supply chain conference hosted in Guangzhou for two days through Wednesday.
“This will be the greatest opportunity for Chinese enterprises that make production machinery and materials.”
As imports of foreign-made chipmaking machines have slowed due to U.S. restrictions, Chinese companies that produce chipmaking equipment and materials have gained visibility, aided by subsidies and investment under the auspices of the government’s Made in China 2025 initiative.
About 35% of Chinese semiconductor factories used domestic equipment in 2022, up from 21% in 2021, Chinese media report. Domestic players have won nearly half of all public bids for equipment by leading chipmakers here so far in 2023, a Chinese brokerage reports.
“Global political frictions will likely usher in a golden age to China’s semiconductor manufacturing machinery sector,” said David Wang, CEO of ACM Research, which specializes in wafer-cleaning equipment.
Naura Technology Group, China’s top manufacturer of chipmaking devices, earned 14.6 billion yuan in revenue last year, more than six times the figure in 2017. The state-linked company bought a U.S. wafer cleaning device maker in 2018 and extended its business profile to include products for etching.
Naura is said to supply leading Chinese foundry Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC) as well as Yangtze Memory Technologies. Naura is investing 3.8 billion yuan on building a plant in Beijing due to begin operations next year.
Advanced Micro-Fabrication Equipment, China’s No. 2 manufacturer of chipmaking tools and a producer of etching devices, roughly quintupled its sales last year from 2017. Products from the state-backed enterprise can handle advanced 5-nanometer semiconductors. Construction is underway for a 1.5 billion yuan plant in Shanghai.
Sales of chipmaking equipment in China totaled 52 billion yuan last year, an industry group estimates, roughly six times more than in 2017.
About 62 billion yuan worth of chipmaking materials was sold in 2022 as well, nearly triple the 2017 figure. NSIG’s revenue roughly quintupled during that span, and the company raised 10 billion yuan in funds last year alone.
“We plan to increase the monthly production capacity of 300-millimeter wafers up to 1.2 million units, quadruple the current level,” Chiu said.
Beijing plans further support to domestic companies in light of its growing rivalry with Washington. Speculation centers on a package worth 1 trillion yuan or more.
“Upstream and downstream industries will work together on innovation, accelerating efforts for a Chinese-style self-reliance in semiconductors,” said Tsinghua University professor Wei Shaojun, a policy adviser on semiconductors.
China ranked first worldwide in chipmaking equipment sales for the third consecutive year in 2022 despite a 5% decrease, industry group SEMI reports. Demand is expected to grow in 2023, especially as Chinese chipmakers anticipate new American export restrictions. SMIC plans a similar level of investment in 2023 as in 2022.
Overseas players also have an eye on opportunities in China, the world’s largest market for chips. The three largest U.S. equipment makers generated around 30% of their total sales last year in China, according to Chinese research institution ChipInsights.
Sponsors for this week’s Guangzhou conference included U.S.-based Applied Materials, KLA and Lam Research, as well as Germany’s Siemens. A Singaporean executive from KLA used the event to highlight the company’s expertise in automotive chips.
Current U.S. restrictions on tech exports to China focus on cutting-edge areas, like 10- and 14-nm logic chips. Shipments in more mature fields, like equipment, are still allowed.
One executive from a foreign company noted that losing the Chinese market would harm overall earnings, in turn impacting research and development.
In Japan, Disco and Hitachi Group were listed as sponsors for the Guangzhou event. But they kept a low profile, largely watching for U.S. moves.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), the world’s #1 semiconductor company in total sales, said revenue could fall as much as 16% in the three months to the end of June, as the weak global economy and high energy prices weigh on demand from customers.
The world’s biggest contract chip maker said Thursday (April 20th)that it expected second-quarter revenue of between $15.2 billion and $16 billion, from $18.16 billion a year earlier. On an earnings call with analysts, Chief Executive C.C. Wei said the company will likely post a low- to mid-single digit percentage decline in full-year sales—a more gloomy outlook than the one he gave in January.
Contrary to market expectations that it would cut spending, TSMC left its full-year capital expenditure budget unchanged. This underscores its commitment to maintain a high level of spending in anticipation of a pickup in orders in the second half of the year, the chip maker’s executives said, warning that demand for smartphones and PCs will likely remain weak all year.
TSMC in January cut its capital spending plans for 2023 to a range of $32 billion to $36 billion, down from $36.3 billion last year.
Mr. Wei said he forecasts the global semiconductor industry, excluding memory chips, will post a full-year revenue decline in a similar range to TSMC’s—and which would also be worse than he predicted in January.
Analysts say TSMC’s sales have been squeezed as many clients clear their inventory.
The auto-related business was the only segment to post an increase in sales from the previous three months, with the company’s usual growth drivers, such as smartphone and high-performance computing, all falling.