Intel Has Reportedly Cornered TSMC 3nm Chip Capacity To Feed Next Gen Xeon And GPU Demand
When Pat Gelsinger stepped into the role of CEO of Intel, replacing Bob Swan at the helm, he outlined a plan to restore Intel's leadership in its fab process technologies. He also made clear that Intel would tap third-party foundries, where it makes sense to do that, and it appears as though Intel will be a major customer of TSMC's 3-nanometer node.
It was reported earlier this year that TSMC anticipates mass producing 3nm wafers next year, which will pack 1.7 times the density of its 5nm node. At the time, it was expected Apple would be a major customer of 3nm silicon, for custom chips used in its various product lines as it continues to transition away from Intel's x86 silicon.
Then last month, a report came out saying Apple and Intel had both negotiated with TSMC to supply them with 3nm silicon. In a new report, however, it's said Intel has finalized its order agreement with TSMC, and will be the first to receive 3nm silicon. Not only that, but it's said the bulk of TSMC's 3nm production will go towards fulfilling Intel's order.
Sources told UDN, a Chinese media outlet, that TSMC will begin mass producing 3nm wafers for Intel at its 18b Fab during the second quarter of next year. The chip maker anticipates cranking out 4,000 wafers a month initially, then scaling to 10,000 wafers per month as it ramps up volume (and assuming everything goes without any major hiccups).
Intel also makes its own semiconductors, as opposed to Apple, AMD, and NVIDIA, which are fabless operations. Tapping TSMC, however, helps Intel to stay on track with its product roadmap while it continues to invest billions of dollars into expanding and building new fab sites.
As it pertains to 3nm orders, these chips will not comprise upcoming consumer processor launches, like Alder Lake and Raptor Lake. Instead, reports indicate TSMC's 3nm production will drive certain Xeon products for data centers, and future GPUs. Intel is close to launching its first modern discrete GPU, and appears in it for the long haul.
An interesting side story that could develop is how this will affect AMD in the future, in terms of order fulfillment. That's getting a bit ahead of ourselves, as next-year's Zen 4 processors are 5nm parts, but AMD will presumably move to 3nm not too longer after. It's worth noting, however, that TSMC is also in the midst of investing billions of dollars into upgrading and expanding its fab sites as well.