Some bleeding-edge 3nm processors may be available months ahead of schedule

TSMC semiconductor chip close up
(Image credit: TSMC)

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company or TSMC is preparing to move up the schedule for its N3E fabrication technology by around a quarter according to a new report from Morgan Stanley.

Although this move will make a variety of 3nm chip designs available sooner, it will still likely take at least a year until chips made using the company's next-generation chip manufacturing technology begin showing up in real-world devices.

Compared to TSMC's first iteration of the N3 node, its N3E node was designed with the aim of improving the process window in an effort to speed up time to yield, increase yields, boost performance and lower power according to Tom's Hardware.

While the company originally planned to begin high volume manufacturing (HVM) using N3E around a year after it did so with its N3 node, test production yields of N3E are already high enough that it wants to start using the new node commercially some time during the second quarter of next year.

N3E vs N3

In a recent tweet, a user posting under the name RetiredEngineer shared a portion of Morgan Stanley's report that provided further details on TSMC's new timeline for N3E production, saying:

“Our recent checks with equipment vendors suggest that TSMC may freeze the N3e process flow sooner - by the end of this March. This means that volume production of N3e may start in 2Q23, around a quarter ahead of the original schedule of 3Q23. The test production yield is much higher for N3e than N3b. Our checks suggest that the logic density of N3e is only ~8% less than that of the original N3 by cutting four EUV layers, yet it's still 60% denser than 5nm. All this makes N3e a competitive node for TSMC in terms of cost and timing.”

When coming up with its new N3E node, TSMC never meant to replace N3 but to provide a wider choice of manufacturing parameters to achieve decent yields, performance enhancements and lower power in order to benefit all of its customers.

The schedule for N3 hasn't changed and the company is slated to begin production using the node during Q3 of this year with the first chips delivered at the beginning of next year. As TSMC tends to give its main customers first access to its leading-edge nodes, Apple will likely adopt N3 ahead of AMD, Intel, MediaTek and other chipmakers.

We'll likely hear more about TSMC's progress on N3E once the new node enters production during the second quarter of next year.

Via Tom's Hardware

Anthony Spadafora

After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.