After the US prohibited TSMC from supplying Huawei with its cutting-edge 5nm chips, the company was left in an uncomfortable position. One of its major clients was cut off from the supply chain, leaving a wide gulf in the foundry’s 5nm process capacity. Fortunately for TSMC, AMD has stepped up and replaced the 5nm capacity vacated by Huawei.
AMD has placed 5nm GPU orders for its future RDNA 3 graphics cards, essentially upending a crisis at TSMC. In addition to AMD, other clients like Huida, Supermicro, and MediaTek have also placed additional 7nm orders, allowing the Taiwanese Foundry to expand its 7nm capacity to a whopping 1.4 million pieces.
As per analysts, TSMC should be able to maintain its earlier speculated growth trajectory for 2020 (a double-digit growth in profits) thanks to this timely rescue. TSMC stopped supplying chips to HiSilcion (Huawei’s chip manufacturing arm) from the 15th of May.
As far as AMD’s 5nm GPU orders are concerned, it seems like RTG has already taped out the higher-end RDNA 3 dies. It’s not clear whether we’re looking at just a node shrink or a completely new microarchitecture, but considering AMD’s history, the former is more likely. The monthly capacity bought by AMD includes 24,000 5nm units, pretty much the same as Huawei’s original stake.
As far as the CPU side is concerned, it looks like AMD will stick to the 7nm process for the Zen 3 based Milan and Vermeer processors, with an expected shift to 5nm with Zen 4 by the end of 2021.
On the GPU side, the advanced node the company has been talking about is TSMC’s 5nm EUV process. It’s a bit surprising that AMD was able to start volume production for the RDNA 3 GPU so early, but considering the circumstances, this might as well be a RDNA 2 die shrink.