Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (NYSE:TSM) is a contract chip manufacturer that services a very broad range of customers, spanning virtually all areas of the semiconductor landscape. It has managed to deliver consistent revenue and profit growth over the last several years, thanks in large part to its high exposure to the boom in mobile computing.
TSMC hosted a conference call with investors back in October to discuss its financial results, in addition to a variety of other topics. In this column, I'd like to go over three items that really stood out.
28-nanometer still going strong
Although there is a lot of focus on TSMC's leading-edge technologies like 20-nanometer, 16-nanometer, and soon 10-nanometer, a large portion of the company's revenue comes from older manufacturing technologies.
Indeed, although high-end, performance, and power-sensitive processors tend to be built on the newest technologies available (i.e., mobile applications processors for premium smartphones), more cost-sensitive chips (like Wi-Fi chips, low-cost mobile applications processors, and so on) are built on older technologies.
One such technology is TSMC's 28-nanometer technology, first introduced back in late 2011. Per the company, 24% of the company's revenue last quarter came from this technology. Moreover, TSMC said its capacity on this technology "remained fully utilized."
Demand is certainly robust for TSMC's 28-nanometer technology.
TSMC's 7-nanometer tech will get an "upgrade" in 2018
TSMC's next-generation, leading-edge manufacturing technology, known as 7-nanometer, is expected to go into mass production in early 2018. The company says it will "complete developing 7-nanometer in 2017" and then "upgrade 7-nanometer in 2018."
After the enhanced 7-nanometer technology, TSMC intends to introduce a next-generation 5-nanometer technology, which it plans to put into risk production in the first half of 2019 (suggesting volume shipments in the first half of 2020).
The company's plans are designed to "support smartphone and high-end mobile product[s] on an annual cadence."
TSMC's main peers in chip manufacturing -- Samsung (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF) and Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) -- have also indicated that they intend to deliver performance-enhanced versions of their own next-generation manufacturing technologies over time, as well.
Mobile and high-performance computing products to fuel growth
"We believe mobile will continue to be a growth driver for TSMC in the next few years," TSMC co-CEO Mark Liu said.
Liu went on to say that TSMC expects worldwide smartphone unit shipments to enjoy mid-single-digit growth over the next five years. He also shared TSMC's expectation that the amount of silicon content inside of smartphones "will continue to increase, driven by increasing smartphone features such as dual camera, security sensing, [augmented reality], [virtual reality], and migrating to 4G, 4G Plus, and 5G."
Beyond mobile, though, Liu highlighted growth opportunities in the world of high-performance computing, particularly in deep learning (a type of machine learning).
"These rapid developments of artificial intelligence technology allowing machine ability to see, hear, and predict has huge implications in many industry verticals like healthcare, media, consumer, automotive, and so forth," Liu Said. "The silicon content to support [artificial intelligence] applications, I think will be huge."