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TSMC celebrates a colossal milestone: one billion 7nm chips

(Image credit: Taiwanese Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.)

The Taiwanese Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Limited, commonly known as TSMC, is celebrating its one billionth 7nm chip—that's over one quintillion (a billion billion) 7nm transistors that have left the foundry's fabs in one piece.

The news comes directly from TSMC's blog, in which the company touts the ability to meet demand at scale as a pivotal factor in how it will continue to deliver technological advancements and continue advanced node development.

"Our 7nm technology ramped to high-volume production faster than any other TSMC technology before," the blog post says. "As with any skill, practice makes perfect in chip manufacturing. The more chips you make, the more you learn—where defects can occur, or where new materials or equipment cause unexpected results, and the more opportunity you have to learn how to eliminate these problems and optimize the process."

TSMC is the largest foundry in the world, and that's entirely due to contract manufacturing—meaning it only produces other people's processors. It attracts big game with this approach too, considering both AMD and Apple are two of the company's largest 7nm process node customers.

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There's a good chance you are reading this on a PC that is in someway powered by a TSMC-made chip. Every one of today's best graphics cards and at least half of the best CPUs for gaming originate from one of TSMC's fabs.

AMD's 3rd Gen Ryzen processors use TSMC's 7nm process, as do its Radeon RDNA and upcoming RDNA 2 GPUs (set for an enhanced version). Nvidia's Turing architecture graphics cards are built using the 12nm process. However, it does have at least have one 7nm product from TSMC announced today: the GA100 Ampere GPU within the A100.

It's not yet confirmed that Nvidia will also opt for (one of) TSMC's 7nm process node for its upcoming Ampere GeForce graphics cards for gaming. Samsung is also set to be responsible for a yet-unreleased Nvidia product.

The only major chipmaker in gaming not yet using TSMC is Intel. The company has been keen to stick to its own manufacturing arm, which it has successfully run since the invention of the chip itself. However, recent delays to its own 7nm process have meant that it will look to external foundries for some of its Intel Xe products.

That external fab is reportedly TSMC, although Intel has offered no official confirmation as of yet.

So while TSMC is celebrating "one billion functional, defect-free 7nm chips", Intel is facing one defect that is causing a six-month delay to its own 7nm process. Ouch, that's got to sting. 

But it's not all bad for ol' Chipzilla. Process names hardly make the node, and so you can never be too sure just how dense a given process is from its marketing title alone. That's where benchmarking comes in...

There's no 'Silicon Valley' where Jacob grew up, but part of his home country is known as 'The Valleys' and can therefore it be easily confused for a happening place in the tech world. From there he graduated to professionally break things and then write about it for cash in the city of Bath, UK.