Home » SoC » With 28nm non-exclusive in 2013 TSMC tested first tape-out of an ARM Cortex™-A57 processor on 16nm FinFET process technology

With 28nm non-exclusive in 2013 TSMC tested first tape-out of an ARM Cortex™-A57 processor on 16nm FinFET process technology

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Core information:


– 3x performance of 2012 superphones
– 64-bit support for future consumer apps + current and future enterprise apps
– Scalable beyond 16 cores

First Cortex-A50 series chips available from 2014

Update: TSMC 16nm FinFET to enter mass production within one year after 20nm ramp-up, says Chang [DIGITIMES, April 18, 2013]

TSMC’s 16nm FinFET process will enter mass production in less than one year after ramping up production of 20nm chips, company chairman and CEO Morris Chang said at an investors meeting today (April 18).

Chang indicated that TSMC already moved its 20nm process to risk production in the first quarter of 2013. As for 16nm FinFET, the node will be ready for risk production by the year-end, Chang said.

While stepping up efforts to bring newer nodes online, TSMC has revised upward its 2013 capex to US$9.5-10 billion. The foundry previously set capex for the year at US$9 billion.

In addition, Chang reiterated his previous remark that production of TSMC’s 28nm wafers and revenues generated from the process in 2013 will triple those of 2012. The node technology will continue to play the major driver of TSMC’s revenue growth in 2013, said Chang, adding that the foundry’s share of the 28nm foundry market will remain high this year.

Nandan Nayampally highlights the ARM® Cortex™-A57 processor [ARMflix YouTube channel, Oct 30, 2012]

Nandan Nayampally highlights the ARM® Cortex™-A57 processor, ARM’s highest performing processor, designed to further extend the capabilities of future mobile and enterprise computing applications including compute intensive 64-bit applications such as high end computer, tablet and server products.

Introductory information: ARM information page [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Feb 5, 2013]


TSMC reports big Q4 net profit jump [Formosa EnglishNews YouTube channel, Jan 18, 2013]

TSMC held its quarterly investor conference today, and the news was all good. The world’s biggest contract chip maker reported a huge rise in fourth quarter profit because of the boom in mobile devices, and it expects sales growth of 15-20 percent in 2013. TSMC Chairman Morris Chang had reason to be happy. Profits in the fourth quarter of 2012 not only rose 32 percent, but the company set highs for consolidated sales and income for the year as whole. And Chang was optimistic about this year. Morris Chang TSMC Chairman We estimate that global economic growth will be 2.6 percent in 2013, which is higher than the growth rate last year.Chang also predicted that Taiwan’s chip makers would see sales grow 7 percent this year. The company’s chief financial officer Lora Ho said strong demand for chip

Morris Chang with Jen-Hsun Huang [ComputerHistory YouTube channel, Nov 15, 2007]

Important note: The video was recorded in 2007, so an important addition has to be given in a preceding note from Morris Chang Wikipedia article:
… In 2005, he handed TSMC’s CEO position to Rick Tsai.
As of June 2009, Chang has returned to the position of TSMC‘s CEO once again [because things were not going well]. …
[Recorded Oct 17, 2007] A rare and fascinating conversation with one of the most innovative semiconductor pioneers and esteemed business leaders of our time. Born in Ningbo (Zhejiang province), China, in 1931, Dr. Morris Chang is the founding chairman of the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, Ltd. (TSMC), a revolutionary enterprise he founded in 1987. TSMC is a dedicated silicon foundry, an independent factory available to anyone for producing integrated circuits. Using this approach, both entrepreneurs and established semiconductor companies could avoid having to build their own semiconductor factories and focus instead on circuit features and system-level product design as the source of value. From 1958 to 1983, Chang worked at Texas Instruments (TI), rising to group vice president for its worldwide semiconductor business. Under Chang’s leadership, TI emerged as the world’s leading producer of integrated circuits. During his tenure the company also pioneered high-volume production of consumer products including calculators, digital watches, and the popular “Speak & Spell” electronic toy. In 1983, Chang left TI to become president and chief operating officer at General Instrument Corporation. After a year at General Instrument, Chang was recruited by the Taiwanese government to spearhead that country’s industrial research organization, the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI). While there, he focused on issues relating to using technology to advance Taiwan’s larger social and economic goals. It was in this capacity that Chang founded TSMC. In 1998, Chang was named by Business Week magazine as one of the Top 25 Managers of the Year and one of the Stars of Asia. In 2000, he received the IEEE Robert N. Noyce Award for exceptional contributions to the microelectronics industry. In 2005, he won the Nikkei Asia Prize for Regional Growth. On October 16, 2007, Chang will be inducted as a Fellow of the Computer History Museum. Chang is a Life Member Emeritus of MIT Corporation, a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, and serves on the advisory boards of the New York Stock Exchange, Stanford University, and the University of California at Berkeley. Chang holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in mechanical engineering from M.I.T. (1952, 1953), and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford University (1964). He also holds honorary doctorates from seven universities. This talk was with Jen-Hsun Huang, co-founder, president and CEO of NVIDIA Corporation.

The essence of TSMC’s contract chip manufacturing operation, as it stands now, can be summarized by this diagram (more information around that is in the excepts included towards the end of this post from TSMC’s Annual Report released on April 2, 2013):


And here is another essential introductory information about TSMC:
TSMC OIP [Open Innovation Platform] 2012 – Sit down with Suk Lee, TSMC [chipestimate YouTube channel, Oct 26, 2012]

Sean O’Kane, Producer/Host ChipEstimate.TV interviews at TSMC OIP [Open Innovation Platform] 2012 Suk Lee, Sr. Director, Design Infrastructure Marketing Division, TSMC

Investing in FinFET Technology Leadership Presented by ARM [ARMflix YouTube channel, Nov 12, 2012]

As the industry heads down the advanced technology curve, there’s a lot of interest around the benefits of FinFET technology over existing planar CMOS transistors. In this video, Dr. Rob Aitken, R&D Fellow at ARM, discusses the need for new transistor technologies and how FinFET may be a solution.

Background information:
The future of the semiconductor IP ecosystem [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Dec 13, 2012]
ARM information page [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Feb 5, 2013]

Next-generation Solutions: One Size does not Fit All by Nandan Nayampally, Director of Apps Processor Products, Processor Division, ARM [ARMflix YouTube channel, Jan 3, 2013]

Nandan Nayampally, Director of Apps Processor Products, Processor Division of ARM gives keynote at ARM Hsinchu Technical Symposium 2012. Presentation title: Next-generation Solutions: One Size does not Fit ALL

ARM TechCon 2012 – Simon Segars Keynote launching the Cortex-A53 and Cortex-A57 processors [ARMflix YouTube channel, Oct 30, 2012]

Background information:
ARM information page [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Feb 5, 2013]
Cortex-A57 Processor [ARM microsite, Oct 30, 2012]
ARM Cortex-A57 – So Big is Relative but How Relative is Your Big? [SoC Design blog of ARM, Oct 30, 2012]
ARM TechCon 2012 Day 1 – Cortex-A50 Launch, Panel Discussion and Busy Sessions [ARM Events blog, Oct 31, 2012]
big.LITTLE in 64-bit [SoC Design blog of ARM, Nov 1, 2012]
Cortex-A57 – Connected Community – ARM [ARM community page, Nov 12, 2012]

Finally here is the press release describing the news summarized by me in the headline of this post as “With 28nm non-exclusive in 2013 TSMC tested first tape-out of an ARM Cortex™-A57 processor on 16nm FinFET process technology”:

ARM and TSMC Tape Out First ARM Cortex-A57 Processor [joint press release, April 2, 2013]

Hsinchu, Taiwan and Cambridge, UK – April 2, 2013 – ARM and TSMC (TWSE: 2330, NYSE: TSM) today announced the first tape-out of an ARM® Cortex™-A57 processor on FinFET process technology. The Cortex-A57 processor is ARM’s highest performing processor, designed to further extend the capabilities of future mobile and enterprise computing, including compute intensive applications such as high-end computer, tablet and server products. This is the first milestone in the collaboration between ARM and TSMC to jointly optimize the 64-bit ARMv8 processor series on TSMC FinFET process technologies. The two companies cooperated in the implementation from RTL to tape-out in six months using ARM Artisan® physical IP, TSMC memory macros, and EDA technologies enabled by TSMC’s Open Innovation Platform® (OIP) design ecosystem.
ARM and TSMC’s collaboration produces optimized, power-efficient Cortex-A57 processors and libraries to support early customer implementations on 16nm FinFET for high-performance, ARM technology-based SoCs.
“This first ARM Cortex-A57 processor implementation paves the way for our mutual customers to leverage the performance and power efficiency of 16nm FinFET technology,” said Tom Cronk, executive vice president and general manager, Processor Division, ARM. “The joint effort of ARM, TSMC, and TSMC’s OIP design ecosystem partners demonstrates the strong commitment to provide industry-leading technology for customer designs to benefit from our latest 64-bit ARMv8 architecture, big.LITTLE™ processing and ARM POP™ IP across a wide variety of market segments.”
“Our multi-year, multi-node collaboration with ARM continues to deliver advanced technologies to enable market-leading SoCs across mobile, server, and enterprise infrastructure applications,” said Dr. Cliff Hou, TSMC Vice President of R&D. “This achievement demonstrates that the next-generation ARMv8 processor is FinFET-ready for TSMC’s advanced technology.”
This announcement highlights the enhanced and intensified collaboration between ARM and TSMC. The test chip was implemented using a commercially available 16nm FinFET tool chain and design services provided by the OIP ecosystem and ARM Connected Community partners. This successful collaborative milestone is confirmation of the roles that TSMC’s OIP and ARM’s Connected Community play in promoting innovation for the semiconductor design industry.
About ARM
ARM designs the technology that lies at the heart of advanced digital products, from wireless, networking and consumer entertainment solutions to imaging, automotive, security and storage devices. ARM’s comprehensive product offering includes RISC microprocessors, graphics processors, video engines, enabling software, cell libraries, embedded memories, high-speed connectivity products, peripherals and development tools. Combined with comprehensive design services, training, support and maintenance, and the company’s broad Partner community, they provide a total system solution that offers a fast, reliable path to market for leading electronics companies. Find out more about ARM by following these links:
• ARM website: http://www.arm.com/
• ARM Connected Community: http://www.arm.com/community/
• ARM Blogs: http://blogs.arm.com/
• ARMFlix on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/ARMflix
ARM on Twitter:
About TSMC
TSMC is the world’s largest dedicated semiconductor foundry, providing the industry’s leading process technology and the foundry’s largest portfolio of process-proven libraries, IPs, design tools and reference flows. The Company’s managed capacity in 2012 totaled 15.1 million (8-inch equivalent) wafers, including capacity from three advanced 12-inch GIGAFAB™ facilities, four eight-inch fabs, one six-inch fab, as well as TSMC’s wholly owned subsidiaries, WaferTech and TSMC China, and its joint venture fab, SSMC. TSMC is the first foundry to provide 28nm production capabilities. TSMC’s corporate headquarters are in Hsinchu, Taiwan. For more information about TSMC please visit http://www.tsmc.com.
# # #

Form 20-F Filings with U.S. SEC (4/2/2013) for Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Limited (TSMC 台積公司) [TSMC, April 2, 2013]

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2012

… Over the years, our customer profile and the nature of our customers’ business have changed dramatically. While we generate revenue from hundreds of customers worldwide, our ten largest customers accounted for approximately 54%, 56% and 59% of our net sales in 2010, 2011 and 2012, respectively. Our largest customer accounted for 9%, 14% and 17% of our net sales in 2010, 2011 and 2012, respectively. …

… We believe we are currently the world’s largest dedicated foundry in the semiconductor industry. We were founded in 1987 as a joint venture among the R.O.C. government and other private investors and were incorporated in the R.O.C. on February 21, 1987. …

As a foundry, we manufacture semiconductors using our manufacturing processes for our customers based on their own or third parties’ proprietary integrated circuit designs. We offer a comprehensive range of wafer fabrication processes, including processes to manufacture CMOS logic, mixed-signal, radio frequency, embedded memory, BiCMOS mixed-signal and other semiconductors. We estimate that our revenue market segment share among total foundries worldwide was 45% in 2012. We also offer design, mask making, bumping, probing, assembly and testing services.

We believe that our large capacity, particularly for advanced technologies, is a major competitive advantage. Please see “— Manufacturing Capacity and Technology” and “— Capacity Management and Technology Upgrade Plans” for a further discussion of ourcapacity.

We count among our customers many of the world’s leading semiconductor companies, ranging from fabless semiconductor and system companies such as Advanced Micro Devices, Inc., Altera Corporation, Broadcom Corporation, Marvell Semiconductor Inc., MediaTek Inc., NVIDIA Corporation, OmniVision Technologies and Qualcomm Incorporated, to integrated device manufacturers such as LSI Corporation, STMicroelectronics and Texas Instruments Inc. Fabless semiconductor and system companies accounted for approximately 85%, and integrated device manufacturers accounted for approximately 15% of our net sales in 2012.

We manufacture semiconductors on silicon wafers based on proprietary circuitry designs provided by our customers or third party designers. Two key factors that characterize a foundry’s manufacturing capabilities are output capacity and fabrication process technologies. Since our establishment, we have possessed the largest capacity among the world’s dedicated foundries. We also believe that we are the technology leader among the dedicated foundries in terms of our net sales of advanced semiconductors with a resolution of 65-nanometer and below, and are one of the leaders in the semiconductor manufacturing industry generally. We are the first semiconductor foundry with proven low-k interconnect technology in commercial production from the 0.13 micron node down to 28-nanometer node. Following our commercial production based on 65-nanometer process technology in 2006, we also unveiled 55-nanometer process technology in 2007. Our 65-nanometer and 55-nanometer technologies are the third-generation proprietary processes that employ low-k dielectrics. In 2008, we also qualified our 45-nanometer and 40-nanometer process technologies with ultra low-k dielectrics and advanced immersion lithography. In the fourth quarter of 2011, we have begun volume production of 28-nanometer products with first-generation high-k/metal gate transistor. In 2012, we continued 20-nanometer technology development to provide migration path from 28-nanometer for both performance driven products and mobile computing applications.

Our capital expenditures in 2010, 2011 and 2012 were NT$186,944 million, NT$213,963 million and NT$246,137 million (US$8,322 million, translated from a weighted average exchange rate of NT$29.577 to US$1.00), respectively. Our capital expenditures in 2013 are expected to be approximately US$9 billion, which, depending on market conditions, may be adjusted later. Prior to 2012, our capital expenditures were funded by our operating cash flow. Starting 2012, our capital expenditures were partially funded by the issuance of corporate bonds. The capital expenditures for 2013 are also expected to be funded in similar ways as in 2012. In 2013, we anticipate our capital expenditures to focus primarily on the following:

  • adding production capacity to our 300mm wafer fabs;
  • developing new process technologies in 20-nanometer, and 16-nanometer nodes;
  • expanding buildings/facilities for Fab 12, Fab 14 and Fab 15;
  • other research and development projects;
  • capacity expansion for mask and backend operations; and
  • solar and solid state lighting businesses.

… We plan to continue to invest significant amounts on research and development in 2013, with the goal of maintaining a leading position in the development of advanced process technologies. Our research and development efforts have allowed us to provide our customers access to certain advanced process technologies, such as 65-nanometer, 55-nanometer, 45-nanometer, 40-nanometer and 28-nanometer technology for volume production, prior to the implementation of those advanced process technologies by many integrated device manufacturers and our competitors. In addition, we expect to advance our process technologies further down to 20/16-nanometer and below in the coming years to maintain our technology leadership. We will also continue to invest in research and development for our mainstream technologies offerings to provide function-rich process capabilities to our customers.

We manufacture a variety of semiconductors based on designs provided by our customers. Our business model is commonly called a “dedicated semiconductor foundry.” The foundry segment of the semiconductor industry as a whole experienced rapid growth over the last 26 years since our inception. As the leader of the foundry segment of the semiconductor industry, our net sales and net income were NT$419,538 million and NT$161,605 million in 2010, NT$427,081 million and NT$134,201 million in 2011, and NT$506,249 million (US$17,427 million) and NT$166,159 million (US$5,720 million) in 2012, respectively. The sales in 2011 increased slightly by 1.8% from 2010, mainly due to growth in customer demand and more favorable product mix, partially offset by the effect of U.S. dollar depreciation. Our sales in 2012 increased by 18.5% from 2011, mainly due to continuous growth in customer demand and increase in sales of our 28-nanometer products, which commanded a higher selling price.

Technology Migration.

Our operations utilize a variety of process technologies, ranging from mainstream process technologies of 0.5 micron or above circuit resolutions to advanced process technologies of 28-nanometer circuit resolutions. The table below presents a breakdown of wafer sales by circuit resolution during the last three years:

Percentage of total wafer revenue (1) for the year ended December 31




















0.11/0.13 micron




0.15 micron




0.18 micron




0.25 micron




0.35 micron




≥0.5 micron








(1) Percentages represent wafer revenue by technology as a percentage of total revenue from wafer sales, which exclude revenue associated with design, mask making, probing, and testing and assembly services. Total wafer revenue excludes sales returns and allowances.

Our gross margin fluctuates with the level of capacity utilization, price change and product mix, among other factors. In 2012, our gross margin increased to 48.1% of net sales from 45.4% of net sales in 2011. The higher margin in 2012 was primarily due to higher capacity utilization and cost reductions, which contributed favorably to our gross margin by 5.5 and 2.8 percentage points, respectively, partially offset by price decline and higher portion of wafer sales in 28-nanometer technology bearing lower than corporate average margins at initial production stage, which negatively impacted our gross margin by 5.3 percentage points.

Research and development expenditures increased by NT$6,572 million in 2012, or 19.4%, from 2011, mainly due to a higher level of research activities for 20-nanometer technologies and higher employee profit sharing expenses and bonus. In 2011, research and development expenditures increased by NT$4,123 million, or 13.9%, from 2010, mainly due to higher spending in developing 20-nanometer technology, partially offset by lower employee profit sharing expenses and bonus. We plan to continue to invest significant amounts in research and development in 2013.

Capital expenditures in 2012 were primarily related to:

  • adding production capacity to 300mm wafer fabs;
  • developing process technologies including 20-nanometer node and below;
  • expanding buildings/facilities for Fab 12, Fab 14 and Fab 15;
  • other research and development projects;
  • capacity expansion for mask and backend operations; and
  • solar and solid state lighting businesses


The following table sets out, as of the dates indicated, the number of our full-time employees serving in the capacities indicated.

As of December 31













Assistant Engineers/Clericals












The following table sets out, as of the dates indicated, a breakdown of the number of our full-time employees by geographic location:

Location of Facility and Principal Offices as of December 31





Hsinchu Science Park, Taiwan




Southern Taiwan Science Park, Taiwan




Central Taiwan Science Park, Taiwan




Taoyuan County, Taiwan







North America




















(1) Including employees of our non-wholly owned subsidiaries, Xintec Inc. and Mutual-Pak Technology Co., Ltd., since 2011.

As of December 31, 2012, our total employee population was 39,267 with an educational makeup of 3.6% Ph.Ds, 34.4% masters, 25.9% university bachelors, 12.8% college degrees and 23.3% others. Among this employee population, 50.2% were at a managerial or professional level. …

Major Shareholders

The following table sets forth certain information as of February 28, 2013, with respect to our common shares owned by (i) each person who, according to our records, beneficially owned five percent or more of our common shares and by (ii) all directors and executive officers as a group.

Names of Shareholders

Number of Common Shares Owned

Percentage of Total Outstanding Common Shares

National Development Fund



Capital World Investors



Directors and executive officers as a group




  1. […] After CPU level optimisation With 28nm non-exclusive in 2013 TSMC tested first tape-out of an ARM Cortex™-A57 processor on 16nm… [‘Experiencing the Cloud’ April 3, 2013] the world #1 foundry decided to further optimise its […]

  2. […] With 28nm non-exclusive in 2013 TSMC tested first tape-out of an ARM Cortex™-A57 processor on 16nm… [April 3, 2013] […]

  3. […] with Imagination’s PowerVR Series6 GPUs and Cadence design infrastructure [April 8, 2013]- With 28nm non-exclusive in 2013 TSMC tested first tape-out of an ARM Cortex™-A57 processor on 16nm… [April 3, […]

  4. […] With 28nm non-exclusive in 2013 TSMC tested first tape-out of an ARM Cortex™-A57 processor on 16nm… [April 3, 2013 – April 18, 2013] […]

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