For processors, smaller is super, but bigger is better for the wafers the processors are made from. Earlier this week, the Taiwan government gave TSMC -- which manufactures chips for virtually everybody -- permission to build a new $10 billion facility dedicated to creating 450mm-wide wafers, up from the 300mm-wide wafers being developed today. Intel also has plans to move to 450mm wafers. Larger diameter wafers yield more processors, which lowers production costs and makes everybody happy. Just don't expect them to come easy.
TSMC Chairman Morris Chang told reporters that "18-inch (450mm) is something we have to do, but the technology is not ready yet,"
. "If we can overcome it, it'll be a big breakthrough." He went on to say that the technical difficulties in creating 450mm wafers could last up to five years.
Technical difficulties are nothing new for TSMC; the company has had a notoriously difficult time with its 28nm manufacturing process, which has resulted in lower than expected yields. The poor yields have reportedly contributed to the low levels of availability for Nvidia's GTX 600-series GPUs and Qualcomm's Snapdragon S4 SoCs. Neither company is said to be pleased with the problems, and both
have been rumored to be looking for alternative wafer suppliers.
Despite the OK for the new facility for larger wafers, the 28nm woes aren't expected to end anytime soon. Yesterday,
Chang said that TSMC already expects to fail to meet customer demands
in both the third and fourth quarter of the year, with 2013 being the earliest that the 28nm kinks are worked out. Then again, TSMC's competitors (like Samsung and Globalfoundries) haven't exactly had the best 28nm yields either, so the grass isn't exactly greener anywhere else, either.
Image credit: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., Ltd.