This article is from WeChat official account:Semiconductor Industry Observation (ID: icbank) , author: Chang autumn, title figure from: vision China

Last week, it was reported that Intel is considering resetting its process node naming rules and may completely abandon its previous practices. If this news is true, then Intel’s doing so is completely reasonable, because the company announced not long ago that it will enter the foundry market on a large scale, and the business operation model of this market is very different from traditional IDM. IDM mainly produces its own chips, while foundry manufactures chips for multiple manufacturers in the market. The situation is much more complicated.

As far as process nodes are concerned, there must be a set of naming methods and rules that can be quickly accepted by the market. The current foundry market, especially the most advanced manufacturing process, is controlled by TSMC and Samsung. Customers have become accustomed to this set of naming rules, and it has actually become the industry standard. After entering the field, latecomers have to move closer to such rules in order to better win customers and provide convenient services.

Intel’s 10nm process has been mass-produced, and its transistor density has reached 100.8MTr/square millimeter, which is equivalent to TSMC’s 7nm. The 7nm process, which is highly anticipated by the former, has not yet been mass-produced. The latest news shows that Intel’s Meteor Lake computing chip using 7nm process node technology is expected to begin tape in in the second quarter of 2021. To achieve mass production, I am afraid it will have to wait until 2022. From the perspective of technical indicators, Intel’s 7nm is equivalent to TSMC and Samsung’s 5nm. ASML has explained this.

The time when Intel announced its large-scale entry into the foundry market is the time when its 7nm process is about to achieve mass production. And if the company really revises the process node naming rules, the focus of the article should be on the current 7nm process.

By then, if the 7nm is changed to 5nm or similar expressions, it will be just in time for the completion of the construction of its new fab. If the process development goes well, it will be completed within that time period. (probably in 2022), TSMC and Samsung dominate the 5nm foundry arena, it is very likely that there will be a third competitor, that is, the BritishTel.

The whole industry chain focuses on 5nm

At present, the 5nm foundry market is still dominated by TSMC, Samsung is catching up, and Intel is also keeping an eye on this market. In the next few years, the global advanced manufacturing process (below 10nm) market capacity will generally be in short supply. Intel is expected to start at 5nm in the global wafer generation The advanced process field of the industrial market has launched a wave of impact on TSMC and Samsung.

Supply capacity exceeds supply, and market demand continues to grow. This kind of market not only attracts IDM leaders like Intel, but also manufacturers in all links of the industry chain to strive for a share of this huge market.

In terms of semiconductor equipment, just this week, Yin Zhiyao, chairman of China Micro-Micro, said that the 12-inch wafer plasma etching equipment developed by the company has entered the customer’s 5nm process production line. Plasma etching machine is a key equipment in chip manufacturing. It is used for micro-engraving on the chip. The processing accuracy of each line and deep hole is one-thousandth to one-ten thousandth of the diameter of the hair. , The precision control requirements are very high.

In terms of EUV lithography machines, only ASML in the world masters the core technology of EUV lithography machines. This is also a necessary equipment for the 5nm process. However, the cost of EUV lithography machines is very high, with a price of 1.2 per unit. 100 million US dollars, almost twice the price of DUV lithography machine.

According to the financial report released by ASML, a total of 26 EUV lithography machines were shipped in 2019, more than 30 EUV lithography machines were delivered in 2020, and the delivery volume will reach 45-50 units in 2021. A large part of this has been supplied to TSMC for the expansion of 5nm and 7nm production capacity.

As the current leader in 5nm process capacity, TSMC is sought after by many chip manufacturers. Recently, another batch of 5nm chips will be mass-produced this year, and some are under research and development, which are expected to be mass-produced in 2022 and 2023. At that time, Intel, which has joined the battle group, is expected to start from the top two foundry companies, TSMC and TSMC. Samsung competed for some orders.

The biggest customer of TSMC’s 5nm process is Apple. According to reports, TSMC will start producing the A15 processor for Apple in May this year, which will be equipped with the new iPhone that will be unveiled in September this year. It is reported that the Apple A15 chip will continue to be built with 5nm process, and the overall performance may be different from the previous generation A14Not big, but due to the improvement of TSMC’s process technology, there will be improvements in power consumption and heat generation.

Huawei HiSilicon was originally the second largest customer of TSMC’s 5nm process, but due to US sanctions, HiSilicon was unable to obtain TSMC’s foundry support, and the vacated related production capacity has also been sought after by many chip manufacturers. Among them, AMD is expected to follow Apple and become the second largest customer of TSMC’s 5nm process.

That is, this week, AMD Zen4 architecture processor using 5nm process was exposed again.

After Zen3 Vermeer, the Ryzen CPU family planned Zen3+ Warhol and Zen4 Raphael. Zen3+ changes include 6nm process, continuation of AMD4 interface and support for PCIe 4.0 and DDR4 memory; Zen4 changes even more, including 5nm process, support for PCIe 5.0, DDR5 memory, new AM5 interface, etc. In addition, it is reported that Zen4 Raphael will integrate Navi2 GPU unit for the first time.

There are speculations that the reason why Zen4 Raphael can integrate GPU is due to interface changes, 5nm process transistor density, and I/O Die upgrade to 6nm, which leaves room for GPU.

Zen4 Raphael will be the industry’s first x86 processor with a 5nm process. The EPYC Xiaolong processor with Zen 4 architecture will be released in 2021 or early 2022. Zen 4 is very important to AMD, because the data center processor code-named “Genoa” will use a new SP5 interface, the new interface will significantly change the processor I/O, and support the new DDR5 memory standard and PCIe 5.0 standard.

In March 2020, AMD announced the GPU development roadmap, which not only includes Radeon RX 5700 XT RDNA, but also elaborates RDNA 2 and RDNA 3. Among them, the information that RDNA 3 can get in terms of functions is still relatively small. But from the overall goal, AMD still hopes to continue to improve the power performance per watt, power consumption is still the bottleneck of the overall performance of the GPU, and more advanced process technology can help improve power efficiency. Given that the upcoming RDNA 2 may no longer be limited to TSMC’s EUV 7nm+ process, then RDNA 3 may use TSMC’s 5nm process technology.

Recently, Samsung’s 5nm process has also received orders. In late March, Qualcomm announced the next Snapdragon 7.The series of processors, named Snapdragon 780G 5G, use Samsung’s 5nm process, code-named SM7350-AB. The Snapdragon 780G SoC is based on an eight-core architecture and is the successor to the Snapdragon 768G. It will target low-budget 5G smartphones.

MediaTek, another major mobile phone processor manufacturer, is not to be outdone. In 2020, with the strong performance of Dimensity processors, the company fought a beautiful turnaround and became the largest mobile phone processor supplier in China. Not long ago, MediaTek also released the Dimensity 1200/1100 series of 5G chips for the first year of 2021, but this series is only a slight upgrade to the previous generation products, and does not bring real flagship chips.

Recently, the latest report shows that MediaTek’s first 5nm process chip will be officially put into production in the fourth quarter of this year and will be officially released early next year. It is a flagship product specifically for the high-end market.

It was previously reported that MediaTek’s 5nm chip will be named Dimensity 2000. It has already received orders from many domestic mobile phone manufacturers, and products equipped with this chip will come out in the first half of next year.

MediaTek CEO Cai Lixing has publicly revealed that its 5nm flagship chip will be built by TSMC and is now close to tapeout. It is reported that MediaTek has booked a 5nm process capacity of at least 20,000 pieces per month from TSMC to build Dimensity 2000 series flagship processors.

It’s no secret that Google’s self-developed mobile phone chip. There is also news this week that it is expected that the Pixel 6 phones released this year will be equipped with the first batch of Google’s self-developed processors, whose codename is Whitechapel. In fact, as early as last year, Google exposed the news of its self-developed chip. At that time, the self-developed chip had been implanted in mobile phones and began long-term testing. The chip was built by Google and the Samsung Exynos team. Some financial media broke the news that Whitechapel had been taped out in December last year, using Samsung’s 5nm LPE process, 8-core ARM architecture, and the main units include CPU, GPU and NPU.

The above mentioned are the 5nm process wafer foundries, semiconductor equipment, and many chip customers. In order to achieve mass production of corresponding chip products, in addition to the above factors, the corresponding semiconductor materials, accessories, and various services Work is also indispensable and requires the participation of partners in the industry chain.

The development of 5nm and more advanced processes cannot rely solely on the innovation of core processes and the blessing of EUV equipment. From a material point of view, the innovation of semiconductor materials such as photoresist is also the key to process evolution.

2019The semiconductor material war between Japan and South Korea broke out in 1988. South Korea’s three major semiconductor materials, photoresist, high-purity hydrogen fluoride, and fluorine-containing polyimide used in the manufacture of semiconductors and parts and equipment, were all subject to Japanese export restrictions. The development of some important industries in South Korea has caused considerable impact.

Photoresist is the most important of these three types of semiconductor materials.

In the chip manufacturing process, important process steps such as exposure, development and etching are all related to photoresist, which takes 40% to 60% of the total process time, and the cost also accounts for 35% of the entire chip manufacturing cost.

Organic photoresist is mainly used for 90nm to 7nm chip manufacturing, but as the process advances to 5nm, inorganic photoresist will begin to be needed.

At present, the mid-to-high-end photoresist products are mainly controlled by Japanese manufacturers, and TSMC maintains close contact with its Japanese partners.

There are more and more opportunities for semiconductor material manufacturers in mainland China. For example, Anji Microelectronics and Jiangfeng Electronics are all suppliers of TSMC. From 2016 to 2018, Andiz Microelectronics’ revenue from TSMC accounted for 10.7%, 9.7%, and 8.1%, but Andiz Microelectronics mainly provided products such as polishing fluids for TSMC’s mature process. Jiangfeng Electronics’ important customers also include TSMC, and its tantalum targets and rings have been used in TSMC’s 7nm chips. But in order to break into its 5nm process supply chain, mainland semiconductor material manufacturers still need to work harder.

In terms of masks, Jiadeng is the exclusive supplier of TSMC’s mask transfer box. With TSMC’s introduction of EUV at 7nm and 5nm mass production, EUV mask transfer box shipments are expected to double, and after EUV is introduced , The number of times the mask can be exposed is one-fourth of the original, driving the demand for the mask transfer box to further increase.

In addition to Jiadeng, TSMC’s related equipment and peripheral material suppliers also include the contractors of clean room engineering factories Hantang and Fanxuan, as well as Hongkang, which is responsible for the analysis of wafer reliability, and the spare parts foundry of Jingkang. Ding and back-end wet process equipment, Hongsu, Xinyun, and related automation and interface equipment, such as Xunde and Xinhongke.

In equipment maintenance, AI can be used for predictive maintenance. At the same time, TSMC also uses deep learning methods for automated image recognition, and timely and accurate inquiries on defects. In this regard, Xunde won an order for the automation system of the 7nm and 5nm production lines.

For testing, any wafers with errors will be scrapped, and risk assessment reports will be provided to customers in accordance with the principle of small batch processing. ForIn the reliability test, if there is any die fail, the 4 adjacent die will also fail, and the edge die will fail if the yield rate is low. TSMC has improved the sampling method to ensure that no failure occurs.


The production capacity of the 5nm process is in a climbing stage, and all links in the industry chain are actively cooperating with the foundry, and there is a lot of room for growth in the future. In this case, if Intel really changes the naming rules of process nodes in the next two years, it will bring some competitive pressure to TSMC and Samsung at the 5nm node.

Although it is difficult to obtain a larger market share, Intel’s size and strong financial resources will surely bring more profit opportunities and space to manufacturers in all links of the 5nm process industry chain. From this point of view, it is still worth looking forward to.

This article is from WeChat official account:Semiconductor Industry Observation (ID: icbank) , author: Chang autumn