TSMC Stays Ahead: A16 Breakthrough Without High-NA EUV

Recently, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) hosted its 2024 North American Technology Forum, where it unveiled its latest advancements in process technology, advanced packaging, and three-dimensional integrated circuit (3D IC) technologies, aimed at driving innovation in the next generation of artificial intelligence (AI). Notably, TSMC announced for the first time its A16 process technology, which integrates nanosheet transistors and backside power supply solutions to enhance logic density and energy efficiency, with mass production expected by 2026.

According to media sources, TSMC revealed to attendees that the A16 process technology does not require the involvement of the next-generation High-NA EUV lithography systems. This indicates that TSMC has found ways to economically and efficiently use existing EUV lithography systems for double patterning techniques, pushing critical dimensions beyond 13nm. However, TSMC has not halted its exploration of using High-NA EUV lithography in future process technologies; the subsequent A14 process technology will incorporate this new lithographic technology.

TSMC 1nm process

TSMC has previously reported that the development of the A14 process technology is progressing well, aimed at further enhancing frequency, power, density, and cost performance. The company will continue to explore the use of High-NA EUV lithography, researching thin-film photomasks and other components to support cutting-edge technology and extend Moore’s Law.

Utilizing High-NA EUV lithography systems significantly increases the cost of wafer fabrication, with equipment prices starting at approximately $385 million depending on the configuration. Chip manufacturers prefer to reuse existing tools, so TSMC also strives to avoid using High-NA EUV systems unless the existing EUV lithography systems cannot further improve production capacity. Concurrently, TSMC is investing in lithographic materials to enhance the lithography process and yield rates.

The announcement of the A16 process technology by TSMC was somewhat unexpected, as the rapidly accelerating development of the artificial intelligence industry and rising demands seem to have spurred TSMC to hasten the pace of its process technology development.