what is common and why the latter will become more expensive

what is common and why the latter will become more expensive

If Apple starts using 2nm processors in next-generation gadgets, and the probability of this is high, the cost of new devices may unpleasantly surprise fans of the brand. Chips using the 2-nanometer technological process are now being mastered by an exclusive “apple” partner – the Taiwanese company TSMC.

According to recent reports, the cost of implementing an innovative processor manufacturing process can increase by 50% compared to the cost of producing chips using a 3-nanometer process. Of course, this will affect the final cost of both the chip itself and Apple products. Most likely, iPhone smartphones and Mac laptops will be the first mass electronic devices equipped with new chips. Details – under the cat.

Cost items and the overall chip production budget

The American consulting company IBS decided that starting the production of chipsets, taking into account the innovations, will cost TSMC 1.5 times more than the already existing and working capacities. In particular, the commissioning of the plant, which operates according to the latest technologies, will cost the manufacturer $28 billion. The limit of semiconductor wafer processing will be about 50,000 units per month. For comparison: the launch of a similar production of microcircuits using the 3-nm technological process would cost about $20 billion.

The main reason for the increase in costs is the cost of EUV lithographic equipment (Extreme ultraviolet lithography) and the cost of attracting and retaining personnel with the appropriate level of qualification. All these factors will affect the increase in the cost of manufacturing as a separate plate, and the chip, which plates are then cut. Well, this, in turn, will affect the price offered by the contract manufacturer to its client. The cost for the buyer of the finished gadget will be even higher.

Isn’t everything so scary?

In addition, it is possible that TSMC’s customers, including Apple, will continue to order 3nm chips, not wanting to raise the price of products. It is likely that most companies will wait until the cost of production of new 2nm chips falls, and then gradually move to the new standard. This business is not very fast, but it is expensive, as corporations understand.

Therefore, the introduction of the technical process according to the 2-nm standard will not necessarily affect the buyers of Apple equipment. The company’s products are currently the only ones with serial chips produced using the N3 process. iPhone smartphones and Mac personal computers are equipped with them. So far, Apple is ahead of the whole planet. And perhaps the transition to 2nm chips will not happen as quickly as IBS experts think.

If we compare Apple’s potential costs in the future, it will cost about $30,000 to process one 300mm semiconductor wafer using the N2 standard, while it costs the company $20,000 to process the same wafer using the N3 process.

Despite the pessimistic forecasts, the actual prices may depend on various factors, including the size of the crystal of the microcircuit and the strategic decisions of customer companies such as Apple. According to analytical data, one 3-nm chip costs Apple approximately $40-50.

Arete Research experts found out that the single-chip electronic circuit (SoC) of the latest generation A17 Pro has an average area of ​​105 mm.2 and installed in iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max. Its size roughly corresponds to the size of SoC of previous generations – A15 with an area of ​​107.7 mm.2 and A16 with 113 mm2. From one 300 mm wafer, you can get about 586 chips without taking marriage into account. The cost of each of them will be about $34. In the real situation, the defective chip rate is about 15%, so the price of one chip is about 40-50 dollars.

The IBS analysis showed that Apple will have to pay about $85 for each 2nm chip, which is $40-45 more than the company costs a 3nm processor today. Experts believe that the inflated cost of new chips is also due to an increase in the percentage of marriage in production, which cannot be excluded from the calculations.

There is another option

It will probably be used by Intel, AMD and some other companies. It is a chiplet arrangement of processors to combine all chip elements in a single package. At the same time, the elements can be made according to different norms. This technology makes it possible to keep the price of chips at approximately the same level, unlike monolithic processors. AMD will most likely not use chiplet layout, as the transition to this technology requires additional resources, and a lot of it.

By the way, the very emergence of the production of 2-nm chips is not a fast process. As for TSMC, the manufacturer is likely to calculate all the risks in advance before starting work on expanding production. The company has adjusted its profit forecasts several times already this year, based on the experience of 2022, when the shortage of electronic components ended and demand for them suddenly began to fall while maintaining high production volumes. TSMC is also cautious about capital expenditures.

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