TSMC will produce 3nm chips in five different processes for the next three years

TSMC is working on five different 3nm nodes to produce chips. The company is on track to mass-produce the first 3nm chips this year. The N3E, N3P, N3S and N3X nodes with different properties will follow later.

The different 3nm variants TSMC announces, are the last nodes still using finfets and TSMC combines them with FinFlex technology. This is the company’s name for providing flexibility when it comes to architecture within a node. For example, customers can choose from different configurations in terms of gates and fins on the transistors.

For example, to save on surface area and provide energy efficiency, they can opt for a double-gate-single-fin configuration. If customers want chips with maximum performance, they can go for triple-gate and dual-fin. For a balance between consumption and performance, there is a dual-gate-dual-fin option.

TSMC will produce the first N3 chips on a large scale this year. Presumably this concerns specific production of processors for Apple, for example. Mass production of the more flexible N3E process for a larger number of customers should start in the middle of next year. This production process enables an 18 percent speed improvement compared to N5, or an improvement in consumption of no less than 34 percent.

N3P is then a process for economical chips and N3S is another variant of this for higher density and potentially smaller chips. There will also be another variant for high performance, the successor to N4X. TSMC has not yet announced what performance improvements can be expected with N3X. N4X will deliver up to 15 percent better performance than N5. The successor to N3 is N2, which TSMC announced on Friday and which uses gaa-fets with nanosheets instead of finfets.

N2 vs N3E N3E vs N5 N3 vs N5 N5 vs N7 N4X vs N5

Speed ​​improvement
with equal consumption
10%~15% +18% +10% ~ 15% +15% +15%
Decrease consumption
at the same speed
-23% ~ -30% -34% -25% ~ -30% -30% unknown
Chip density >1.1X 1.3X unknown unknown unknown
Start mass production N2: H2 2025 N3E: Q2/Q3 2023 N3: H2 2022 N5: Q2 2020 N4X: test production H1 2023