While next year’s iPhone 16 Pro models are expected to use a smaller version of TSMC’s 3nm process, chipmaker Apple is already planning production of its first 1nm chips…
TSMC’s increasingly smaller chip manufacturing processes
Apple used to split orders for A-series chips between Samsung and TSMC, but that changed with the release of the iPhone 6. At that time, TSMC received 100% of Apple’s orders, which remains so today.
Cause? While Samsung’s chip-making capabilities have stalled, TSMC has continued to push ever-smaller processors, closing the gap between transistors so that more and more of them can fit on the same-sized chip.
The A17 Pro chip in the two iPhone 15 Pro models is made using a 3nm process. Next year’s iPhone 16 Pro is expected to use an even smaller version of this process, known as N3E, with 2nm process technology in 2025. A 2nm fab is currently being built in Kaohsiung, in the country’s south.
TSMC plans to switch to 1nm chips
But the Taiwanese chipmaker is not resting on its laurels and is already planning to produce 1nm chips, which is close to the likely physical limitations of transistor gate sizes.
The company had initially settled on a site for its first 1nm chip factory, but that would have meant moving some residents. They objected, and TSMC has now agreed to look elsewhere, Reuters reports.
The world’s largest contract chipmaker intended to build a 1-nanometer chip manufacturing plant in Longtang, according to a report by the Central News Agency in December. [but TSMC] said it would not build a state-of-the-art chip plant in rural northern Taiwan after local residents protested, saying they did not want to move to accommodate an expansion of the industrial park.
The company said it would work with the government’s science park authority “to evaluate land in Taiwan suitable for building semiconductor factories.” It did not mention potential alternative locations.
Chip production requires significant amounts of electricity and water, meaning setting up a new factory requires substantial investment in infrastructure. Still, the country’s economy minister says the government will assist the industry’s importance.