Japanese chip company plans to produce 2nm prototypes by 2025

In short: Japanese and American companies teamed up to produce 2nm semiconductors over the next few years. With the help of Japanese leadership, they hope to compete with Taiwanese industry leader TSMC. The president of one company recently presented a roadmap for 2nm chips.

This week, Atsuyoshi Koike, president of Japanese chip maker Rapidus, told Nikkei Asia that the company plans to establish a prototype production line for 2nm semiconductors by the first half of 2025. If successful, the roadmap will put the company right behind industrial titanium Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC), which also wants to begin 2nm mass production in 2025.

In December, Rapidus and IBM announced a partnership to further develop and produce the 2nm semiconductor design that IBM first introduced in 2021. The process promises a 45 percent performance improvement over 7nm nodes by cramming over 50 billion transistors into a fingernail-sized chip. It can also deliver the same performance as 7nm while consuming 75 percent less power. The American tech giant doesn’t manufacture the chips itself. Instead, he licenses his designs to partners.

Koike said the Japanese company’s long-term goal is to begin mass production on the 2nm process sometime in the late 2020s. This effort is part of a collaboration between Japanese and US private companies, funded in part by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of the Japanese government.

Previous reports have said that the groups want to create the first Japanese 2nm enterprises between fiscal year 2025 and 2027. The first wave of semiconductors is likely to go to quantum computers, data centers, flagship smartphones, and possibly military applications.

Flagship smartphones are also in the spotlight of TSMC’s N3 3nm node, which launched just before the end of last year. The company’s main customer for the early N3 app is Apple, which will use the chips for the iPhone 15 it plans to release later this year.

Meanwhile, Intel wants to introduce its 20-angstrom (20A) — essentially a rebranded 2nm — in 2024 to catch up with TSMC. The first customers for the upcoming node will be Amazon and Snapdragon chip maker Qualcomm.

Samsung, the number two player behind TSMC, began manufacturing 3nm chips in June, with an improved design scheduled for 2024. Like its Taiwanese competitor, the company wants to begin mass production of 2nm in 2025. In October, Samsung unveiled a roadmap with plans. by 2027 will reach 1.4 nm.

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