Apple A9 (mockup 002)

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Limited (TSMC), the world’s top semiconductor foundry, and ARM holdings plc, a British multinational fabless semiconductor designer, have joined forces to make an upcoming 7-nanometer FinFET process a reality in time for volume production in early-2017.

TSMC currently manufactures the iPhone 6s’s A9 chip on its 16-nanometer process, while Samsung-made A9 chips are fabbed on a smaller 14-nanometer process.

The timing of TSMC’s seven-nanometer FinFET process suggests it might be used to fabricate Apple-designed ‘A11’ processors for the iPhone 8 in 2017. By comparison, Intel has said it will produce 10nm node processors in the second half of 2017.

The two companies want their future seven-nanometer parts to push “beyond mobile and into next-generation networks and data centers” and have set their sights on “low-power, high-performance compute system-on-chips”.

“TSMC will most likely use multi-patterning lithography at 7nm rather than EUV, which was once heralded as a savior for the semiconductor industry but spluttered to a halt after it had barely left the drawing board,” reads the article.

Apple has been using ARM’s CPU blueprints as a basis for its fully customized CPU cores in A-series chips since the A7 processor which debuted three years ago.

Although Apple is its top client, Taiwan-based TSMC also builds chips for the likes of Nvidia, AMD, Qualcomm, Apple, Marvell and Broadcom.

Source: TSMC via The Register