TSMC struggles with 28nm

Posted by Trent Nouveau

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) is reportedly experiencing issues with its 28nm foundry capacity which has fallen "drastically short of demand."

According to DigiTimes, the shortage is currently affecting a number of Silicon Valley heavyweights, including Qualcomm, Nvidia and AMD. 

Indeed, Qualcomm has apparently shifted "some" chip orders to Microelectronics, but has thus far been unable to meet high demand for 28nm smartphone and tablet processors.

Similarly, AMD launched its next-gen 28nm-based Radeon HD 7970 in the first quarter of 2012, but has only managed to ship a "relatively small volume" due to TSMC's short 28nm capacity.

Meanwhile, Nvidia, which launched its Kepler GeForce GTX 680 in late March, has been forced to delay the roll out of other Kepler series GPU models.

Fortunately, 28nm yield rates are slowly improving, although TSMC remains conservative about expanding its foundry capacity to maintain gross margins. Nevertheless, industry sources estimate the shortage will be somewhat alleviated by Q3 2012.

Of course, TSMC isn't the only foundry to struggle with 28nm difficulties. Back in January, TechEye reported that the situation for TSMC rival GlobalFoundries continues to "look grim" with rumors of discontent among disparate staff and poor leadership affecting chip production.

According to TechEye's Matthew Finnegan, GloFo has been having big trouble at 32nm and 28nm production - with both using problematic gate first processing. 

This is apparently further compounded by a split in production between two processes: AMD and IBM. 

"Trying to debug two processes is causing serious headaches, and a lack of cooperation between Dresden and the US bases is throwing the company even deeper into the mire," Finnegan explained. 

"It looks like it could be a few years before AMD's production arm spinoff is truly counted among the major players in the industry. A sore lack of cohesion is being blamed on a lack of quality leadership which could get the firm powering forward."