The cost per TSMC silicon wafer will increase by a

The cost per TSMC silicon wafer will increase by a quarter when switching from 5nm to 3nm process technology

Arguments that semiconductor components should become cheaper with the transition to “thinner” process technology do not take into account current industry realities, which point to an increase in manufacturing costs as the size of transistors on a chip decreases. Specifically, TSMC will charge customers approximately $20,000 per wafer for 3nm technology versus $16,000 for 5nm technology.

    Image Credit: TSMC, Toms Hardware

Image Credit: TSMC, Toms Hardware

The resource traditionally shared similar calculations. DigiTimesand detailed information on this topic has been published by representatives Tom’s hardware. According to unofficial sources, the increase in the cost of a 300mm silicon wafer with 3nm chips to $20,000 will be due to an increase in the number of layers processed with EUV lithography. Already in the framework of 5 nm technology, the number of such layers can reach 14 pieces, and with the transition to 3 nm technology, it will only grow. For TSMC, this means an increased need for EUV scanners, each costing at least $150 million. EUV lithography products also have a fairly long production cycle, which also increases the manufacturer’s costs in terms of capital turnover.

All of this implies that TSMC will be forced to pass increasing costs onto customers’ wallets, and 3nm products will become more expensive per wafer. One of the first TSMC customers to receive 3nm chips could very well be Apple. It feels the need to reduce the size of transistors and increase the density of their placement, while willing to buy chips in bulk. Such cooperation is advantageous for both sides, it cannot be ruled out that Apple, as TSMC’s largest customer, can count on some price concessions. For comparison, in 2018 a wafer with 7nm products was valued at $10,000, and in 2004 a wafer with 90nm components cost TSMC customers no more than $2,000. Since the middle of the last decade, when the main contract manufacturers switched to the so-called FinFET transistor structure, there has been a noticeable increase in chip costs, increasing the complexity of the process and the cost of processing silicon wafers.

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Dylan Harris

Dylan Harris is fascinated by tests and reviews of computer hardware.

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