Apple Supplier TSMC Starts Making Next-Gen 3nm Chips

Apple supplier Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) on Thursday kicked off mass production of its next-generation 3-nanometre chips in Tainan, Taiwan — reports Bloomberg.

TSMC has set up the N3 process node at its Fab 18 plant at the Southern Taiwan Science Park. To celebrate the start of 3nm fabrication, TSMC held a “Volume Production and Capacity Expansion Ceremony” at the site.

Holding a launch ceremony for a new chip process is pretty unusual for TSMC, but it may have been a move to reinforce the company’s commitment to continued manufacturing of cutting-edge chips in its home country as it readies a $12 billion USD factory in the U.S. that’s expected to start producing 5nm chips in 2024, and 3nm chips soon after.

“The semiconductor industry will grow rapidly over the next decade, and Taiwan will surely play an even more critical role in the global economy,” TSMC Chairman Mark Liu said during the ceremony. He noted that demand for 3nm chips is “very strong.”

Apple will be among the first of TSMC’s customers to use the new 3nm chips in its products. Next year’s iPhone 15 Pro series will reportedly be powered by A17 Bionic chips built on TSMC’s 3nm process (while base iPhone 15 models will get hand-me-down A16 chips from this year’s iPhone 14 Pro).

Before the iPhone 15 Pro, though, Apple is expected to launch new Mac models featuring 3nm technology in the form of next-generation M2 Pro and M2 Max chips. An M3 chip further down the line will also be based on TSMC’s 3nm technology, per reports.

“Mass production of 3-nanometer chips is the fruit of decades-long collaboration with the local supply chain,” Liu added.

According to TSMC, 3nm chips will deliver better performance than its previous-generation 5nm architecture while using approximately 35% less power. The Taiwanese silicon giant previously also claimed a 70% increase in logic density and up to 15% higher clock speeds at the same power target for 3nm chips.

TSMC’s launch of 3nm mass production comes under the looming threat of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, which the company previously warned would shut down its plants on the island.