ARM and TSMC announced that they will collaborate on making 7nm chips a reality in the next few years. The two companies are already working together to create 16nm and 10nm chips.
IBM was the first to announce the creation of a 7nm chip, although the innovative processes it used to create it also meant that mass production wouldn’t be possible for a few more years, due to the high cost. Chances are that IBM’s 7nm chips could arrive sometime in 2018, or in 2019 at the latest.
Intel has already delayed its 10nm chip production to the second half of 2017, which means its 7nm chips won’t arrive until late 2019, or even early 2020. That gives IBM and other companies the opportunity to surpass Intel in cutting-edge process technology for the first time.
It’s not clear when TSMC will be mass-producing 7nm chips. However, knowing that its 10nm chips are likely to appear early next year, then chances are that its 7nm chips will be ready sometime in 2019, potentially surpassing Intel with quicker production of 7nm chips, too.
“TSMC continuously invests in advanced process technology to support our customer’s success,” said Dr. Cliff Hou, vice president, R&D, TSMC. "With our 7nm FinFET, we have expanded our Process and Ecosystem solutions from mobile to high performance compute. Customers designing their next generation high-performance computing SoCs will benefit from TSMC’s industry-leading 7nm FinFET, which will deliver more performance improvement at the same power or lower power at the same performance as compared to our 10nm FinFET process node. Jointly optimized ARM and TSMC solutions will enable our customers to deliver disruptive, first-to-market products," he added.
ARM also said that its chips will be optimized for TSMC's 7nm process node, to enable the "industry's lowest-power architecture across all performance points."
TSMC doesn’t seem to be using the extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography that IBM used for its 7nm chips, but the company is still researching it for smaller process nodes. The EUV lithography, which has a much smaller wavelength of only 13.5nm compared to the existing technology (193nm wavelength) will be necessary to design smaller and smaller chips in the future.
Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware. You can follow him at @lucian_armasu.