TSMC this week said that it has completed development of tools required for design of SoCs that are made using its 5 nm (CLN5FF, N5) fabrication technology. The company indicated that some of its alpha customers (which use pre-production tools and custom designs) had already started risk production of their chips using its N5 manufacturing process, which essentially means that the technology is on-track for high-volume manufacturing (HVM) in 2020.

TSMC’s N5 is the company’s 2nd generation fabrication technology that uses both deep ultraviolet (DUV) as well as extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography. The process can use EUVL on up to 14 layers (a tangible progress from N7+, which uses EUVL on four non-critical layers) to enable significant improvements in terms of density. TSMC says that when compared to N7 (1st Gen 7 nm, DUV-only), N5 technology will allow chip developers to shrink die area of their designs by ~45%, making transistor density ~1.8x higher. It will also increase frequency by 15% (at the same complexity and power) or reduce power consumption by 20% power reduction (at the same frequency and complexity).

Advertised PPA Improvements of New Process Technologies
Data announced by companies during conference calls, press briefings and in press releases
Power 60% 40% 60% <40% 10% 20%
Performance 40% 20% 30% ? same (?) 15%
Area Reduction none >50% 70% >37% ~17% 45%

TSMC finished development of N5 some time ago and its alpha customers with access to pre-production tools are already risk producing chips using the technology. Meanwhile, TSMC has finalized its 5 nm design rule manual (DRM), process design kits (PDKs), and SPICE (simulation program with integrated circuit emphasis) model for those clients who prefer to work with a stable version of design infrastructure.

Besides TSMC’s tools, chip developers can also use a comprehensive set of EDA (electronic design automation) tools from ANSYS, Cadence, Mentor Graphics, and Synopsys. TSMC says that EDA programs from the said companies fully support N5 DRM to ensure necessary accuracy, routability for optimized power, and other aspects of the technology. Obviously, all the tools have been certified by the contract maker of semiconductors.

Finally, TSMC and its partners have also developeda comprehensive N5 IP portfolio that is currently focused primarily on HPC and mobile SoCs. TSMC’s Foundation IP includes high-density and high-performance sets of standard cell libraries and memory compilers. Meanwhile, the company’s partners offer a variety of IP cores for N5 SoCs, including DDR, LPDDR, MIPI, PCIe, and USB PHYs.

“TSMC’s 5-nanometer technology offers our customers the industry’s most advanced logic process to address the exponentially growing demand for computing power driven by AI and 5G,” said Cliff Hou, Vice President of Research & Development/Technology Development at TSMC. “5-nanometer technology requires deeper design-technology co-optimization. Therefore, we collaborate seamlessly with our ecosystem partners to ensure we deliver silicon-validated IP blocks and EDA tools ready for customer use. As always, we are committed to helping customers achieve first-time silicon success and faster time-to-market.”

All the tools required for development of chips to be made using N5 fabrication technology are available from TSMC and its partners right now.

Related Reading

Source: TSMC

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  • FunBunny2 - Friday, April 5, 2019 - link

    I wonder. how much of this manufacturing is independent of the principal tool makers, aka ASML? is this work a collaboration, or is TSMC going it alone?
  • Metroid - Friday, April 5, 2019 - link

    Intel still on 14nm and amd soon on 5nm, how stupid can this get? Amazing to see intel as big as they are very far behind the competition. The gap is becoming so big that makes me to think that intel was taken on a mass barter level 99 skill to never ever compete anymore.
  • FunBunny2 - Friday, April 5, 2019 - link

    "The gap is becoming so big that makes me to think that intel was taken on a mass barter level 99 skill to never ever compete anymore."

    Law of Diminishing Returns in the Real World.
  • haukionkannel - Saturday, April 6, 2019 - link

    Most likely this 5nm is bigger than Intel original plan for 10nm... these X nm thing Are pure marketing and They have nothing to do with real size... but good that euv is getting ahead! It help making chips with less relayering.
  • Kevin G - Saturday, April 6, 2019 - link

    It is indeed mostly marketing at this point but I still would find it doubtful that Intel's 10 nm would be denser than TSMC's 5 nm node.

    The question is if Intel's 7 nm node is more dense than TSMC's 5 nm node. Also which one of those two would arrive first. Volume production of Intel's 10 nm hasn't begun with only a handful of low volume parts shipping.
  • 5080 - Friday, April 5, 2019 - link

    I think he meant higher density creates about 45% more chips per wafer compared to 7nm, so a higher yield per wafer. This should offset the higher cost per wafer compared to 7nm wafers.
  • Opencg - Saturday, April 6, 2019 - link

    assuming there are no buffer zones 45% area reduction is over 80% more chips per wafer
  • Calin - Monday, April 8, 2019 - link

    As chips are square or rectangular and wafers are round, producing smaller chips uses more of the "border area". And yes, 45% area reduction means the same chips only use 55% of the area used before, so you get close to double the number of transistors in the same wafer area
  • zodiacfml - Friday, April 5, 2019 - link

    Hey Intel, come on! Stop penny pinching! I want to see a good fight.
  • TristanSDX - Monday, April 8, 2019 - link

    Improvement in 80% more density and only 20% better in power do not look good. Designs will have to greatly reduce frequency to reduce power draw and total benefit will be just 50% more perf over 7nm. Adding high costs for design and manufacturing, this process won't be popular.
    NVidia rezlized that is is more economcal to design and make large GPU on old process, than smaller GPU on newer process. They will move to 7nm, only when it will be much cheaper than now and again they will make large GPU

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