TSMC's Renegade Genius

TSMC's Renegade Genius

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the was one of tsmc's founding geniuses unquestionably brilliant but scathingly difficult to work with he rose through tsmc's ranks for nearly two decades then he defected to south korea to work for the company's biggest and fiercest competitor samsung in doing so he nearly single-handedly pushed samsung to overtake and overthrow the taiwanese chip giant most western media seems to skip over tsmc's history after its founding i think what happened between then and now is just as enthralling in this video we're going to look at one of the company's most dramatic events the defection of the aung mong song but first the asian army patreon i'll make it quick early access members get to see new videos and selected references for them before their release of the public it's not a lot of money and i appreciate the support thanks and on with the show liang was one of tsmc's brightest rising stars after graduating from one of taiwan's most prestigious engineering universities ncku in my family hometown of tainan he traveled to the united states to continue his studies there he attended graduate school at the university of california berkeley under the supervision of who ten-ming professor who is a tsmc legend he was one of the company's first technical hires eventually serving as their chief technology officer later on in the mid 2010s who would help bring the finfet to market helping tsmc make a transition that few other semiconductor foundries have been able to achieve liang a specialist in this technology would play a critical role in this move liang received his phd and then went to work at amd for over a decade during this period he would be named in over 180 critical semiconductor patents and published over 350 technical papers in both the united states and taiwan in 1992 at the age of 40 leon quit his job and returned to taiwan to work for tsmc in their r d department there he would join a group of incredibly brilliant semiconductor minds similarly returning from the united states to bring their talents to taiwan some of these other people include the aforementioned professor who the finfet genius from berkeley r d team leader and future cto chang yi from texas instruments and hewlett packard you're going to hear his name a lot no relation to generalissimo chiang kai-shek rick thai from cornell and also hewlett-packard he would become tsmc's ceo for a brief time and is now the ceo of mediatek douglas u from the georgia institute of technology and bell labs today a tsmc distinguished fellow and of course the most famous of these american migrants morris tang himself to leave the comfort and high salaries of the united states at that time one of the undisputed leaders in semiconductor technology so to join this growing but peculiar taiwanese company raised eyebrows together these brilliant executives would help tsmc navigate a number of technically challenging decisions time and time again and in doing so allowed the company to leapfrog its rivals one of tsmc's most famous major technical moves came about in 2003. the circuit element on a chip have to be connected together with a structure called interconnects essentially wires for decades the industry used interconnects made up of aluminium but it had long been known that copper interconnects offer tantalizingly better performance they offer 40 percent less resistance 15 percent faster speed and can be made much smaller than their aluminium counterparts chips equipped with such wires would run faster and more efficiently the catch however was that copper presented some tricky manufacturing challenges for instance copper atoms can diffuse into the silicon degrading its properties so a metal barrier has to be constructed around the interconnect which is hard in 1997 ibm invented patented and announced the industry's first copper interconnect implementation the press hailed it as a magnificent leap forward in progress but like with every new announcement of this or that battery chemistry ibm's copper interconnect technology could not leave the laboratory in the early 2000s they brought it to tsmc asking whether or not they wanted to license it tsmc's r d team believed that copper was the future but they also believed that ibm's technology would not take them there shockingly they rejected the american giant's offer and invested a great deal of resources to create their own implementation in about a year a team of six elite semiconductor tsmc r d scientists led the development of their own 130 nanometer process node with copper interconnects in 2003 they started shipping wafers with it this was a critical event in tsmc's history allowing the taiwanese company to overtake the world famous ibm the taiwan government awarded the 2003 outstanding scientific and technological worker award to a team of three men senior vp of r d chiang chang yi senior r d manager liang mong song and senior director of r d berlin berlin is also renowned for having led the industry transition to 193 nanometer emerging lithography asml adopting immersion lithography allowed them to overtake the japanese lithography makers cannon and nikon other members of the team included the aforementioned douglas you yang guang lei and sun yuan chang who goes by jack there is no disputing that liang is a technically brilliant man he is named on nearly 500 tsmc patents he has an obsessive dedication to technology and incredible knowledge of the entire advanced semiconductor manufacturing process tsmc rewarded him handsomely for his efforts commonwealth magazine reported that his total stock in cash compensation throughout his 17 years at tsmc was over 21 million usd throughout the 2000s he made over 1 million dollars a year in taiwan at a time and place when the average taiwanese made 15 to 22 000 a year yet at the same time his brilliance and stubborn nature have also led to frequent clashes with colleagues wherever he goes a friend of his described him as being very strict on technology very rigorous he is like this is the requirement you need to meet this there is no negotiation his future colleagues in china would complain that he is inflexible less than enthusiastic in anything other than technology and aloof one said we are moved by his enthusiasm for work which i find to be an amusing understatement taiwanese love to use it literary and historical metaphors and in this case liang is likened to lu bu the mighty chinese general who lived two thousand years ago during the eastern han dynasty people today know liu has been an incredible warrior but also one with a ferocious temper he is also known for freely betraying his allies which will come into play later at this point the aung mong song had risen up through the ranks in an incredible way but here things took a nasty turn the game of thrones inside tsmc had begun in 2005 morris dang retired as ceo of tsmc at the ripe old age of 74. his chosen successor was rick tai a phd with experience at hewlett-packard he had been deputy director of tsmc's early fabs and served at the company for 15 years the last four has coo four years later in june 2009 in the midst of the global financial crisis and a totally botched 40 nanometer ramp up morris would overthrow tai and return to the silicon throne to guide the company through some of its most challenging years but for now tai's ascension triggered a shuffle underneath him the aforementioned senior r d vp zhang changi also retired from tsmc at the age of 59 becoming advisor to the ceo zhang's retirement opened up a spot in tsmc's sprawling r d organization and it was decided that the position needed to be filled with two people the first position was filled by dr lo wei jen a former intel factory manager who today remains the senior vp of r d but the second position presented a bigger challenge liang thought that he was the best candidate for the job but advisor chang ended up choosing one of liang's r d rivals for the job the aforementioned jack sun jack's son was as brilliant as liang but also possess an even broader view of how everything within tsmc worked this was due to his work in process integration making sure all those process steps fit together right furthermore he was known to get along better with his colleagues with regards to diang it was said that he is very capable but his personality sometimes and i guess that says everything morris dong and tsmc decided to transfer the aung to be in charge of a new initiative called beyond more or more than more the idea behind this would be to expand tsmc's trailing edge foundry capabilities into new verticals like mems automotive sensors chiplet style advanced packaging stuff and the like today this is a growing business for tsmc but back then it was small starting off with a four person office and expanding into two small sized foundries perhaps more stang wanted to test out his prodigy scientist wanting to see whether or not he can actually manage people and grow a business liang's successor in this department cc way would rapidly grow sales and later ascend to the ceo roll having passed the test if that was the intent then liang failed the test liang's technical obsession is for the leading edge no matter where he goes he wants to as the eagle song sings take it to the limit so you can see why he would see this new position with his trailing edge process nodes and six inch wafer factories as an effective banishment to a far off province liang's resentment bubbled and grew feeling that company leadership had simply thrown him aside and like the fourth son of the hongwoo emperor founding emperor of the ming dynasty he would start a rebellion against his brothers in february 2009 several months before morris tong rejoined the company as ceo liang resigned his post after 17 years as part of his resignation agreement tsmc put on a pair of golden handcuffs holding back a significant portion of his financial payout until the fulfillment of his two-year non-compete agreement liang told the company that he was going to spend his two years taking care of his parents and teaching at national qinghua university in shinto but in october 2010 just six months into his time there he took up a visiting scholar position at the songkun kwan university in korea there he taught a simple class for three hours a week for decades soon kun kwan university has held a close association with the korean chaebol samsung samsung electronics is the biggest and most ambitious of the korean chebyl they led south korea's insurgency against the japanese chip makers eventually becoming the world's leading memory maker they then set their sights on displays and panels soon enough samsung display defeated taiwanese panel makers like aor and innolux now they sought to bring down tsmc itself but they needed some help to do so starting in 2009 about the time of liang's departure from tsmc samsung started to rapidly make up ground in the process node race first 45 nanometers then 32 nanometers and finally 28 nanometers all in just two years incredibly rapid progress in a very short period of time as early as march 2010 tsmc company members were asking liang about media reports of him working there which would be a violation of his non-compete clause liang repeatedly denied this swearing that he would never work at samsung and that he had tsmc blood in his veins then on july 2011 two months after his two-year non-compete expired and his golden handcuffs unlocked diang officially joined samsung has both the executive vice president of samsung foundry and technical director of samsung lsi he took with him a team of 10 to 20 tsmc engineers company management put two and two together and four months later tsmc filed a lawsuit in taiwan against the yang alleging that he had broken the terms of his non-compete agreement this lawsuit would drag out for over four years i cannot say for sure but it seems like leong's defection would deeply affect tsmc's work in 2009 they were preparing to bring out their 28 nanometer node but despite their claims high volume production slipped from 2010 to mid 2011. 28 nanometers and its half step sibling 20 nanometers would essentially represent the end of planar scaling as the industry had long known it after that tsmc and samsung needed to follow intel's lead and bring their own finfet gate implementations to the market a monumental undertaking tsmc named their node 16 nanometers while samsung called it 14 nanometers pause here i would like to remind viewers about the broad issues relating to process node numbering it's all marketing for additional information i have another video that you can check out when the angle arrived samsung had been trying to move on to the 20 nanometer process he promptly ended all that funny business and had them working on directly jumping from 28 nanometers to 14 nanometers adopting finfet at the same time this meant jumping three generations at the same time a huge move that few companies would be comfortable trying but liang is known for taking it to the limit and he was highly motivated to beat his former employer to the node liang ended up working miracles the 14 nanometer node smoothly came online and in 2015 samsung announced that they had successfully brought out a 14 nanometer process node ahead of tsmc 16 nanometer process it was a stunning move that broke tsmc's near complete monopoly in the advanced semiconductor foundry business and it reaped massive benefits for the korean giant having the first finfet base implementation allowed samsung to lure a sizeable chunk of tsmc's customers to defect first qualcomm announced a billion dollar deal where samsung would produce their high-end mobile chips qualcomm had always used tsmc before for these chips so this was a massive blow and then the biggest client of them all apple is tsmc's single most valuable customer having first started with them in 2014 for its a8 chip that move came in part due to apple and samsung's long-running lawsuit but a year later for the apple a9 in the iphone 6s apple decided to reconcile and split their production run between tsmc and samsung it was a warning to tsmc that samsung was going to topple them like it had toppled aol inulux and taiwan's memory makers at the shareholders meeting in january 2015 morris tang publicly admitted yes we are a bit behind i am aware that many people on the internet would see samsung's muscling into the advanced foundry space as an absolute plus more competition is a great thing save us from the tsmc monopoly so that we may have cheaper gpus i am also aware that non-compete clauses are not particularly popular in the west who tend to believe that anybody should be able to work anywhere they want at any time in my home state of california non-competes are prohibited i am sympathetic with those notions but the semiconductor world with its national security implications and government subsidies is a twisted and ruthless one none of its top companies got to where they are now without playing the game just google the amd versus intel anti-trust court battle years before tsmc sued china-based smic for patent infringement and won essentially cutting the legs off a dangerous challenger now morris tang personally pushed for a judicial pursuit to block out samsung from progressing any further but liang prevailed in the first trial defended by famous dpp aligned defense lawyer wellington ku the judge ruled in his favor tsmc was undeterred and appealed the decision so a second trial commenced in front of a new judge who was at first skeptical about its merits but this time the company brought forth evidence showing that one liang's lectures at sun kyung kwan were to samsung employees and took place in samsung's campus two technical analyses showing samsung's 45 nanometer 32 nanometer and 28 nanometer chips suddenly becoming very technically close to tsmc's after 2009 where before they more look like ibm's whose technology samsung license and three liang had started using a samsung email address as early as 2009 when he replied to a birthday email using that address judge shongsong may berkeley educated with a korean husband ruled in favor of tsmc which was then upheld by the taiwan supreme court she mandated that liang cannot work for samsung until after the end of 2015.

again we cannot say for sure because teams not people ship chips but the distraction of the aung's court battle as well as the court's final decision likely had repercussions for samsung's manufacturing progress that year in 2015 samsung encountered issues with their apple a9 chips netizens found that samsung's chips reached higher temperatures than their tsmc counterparts it also seemed to have had lower battery life though apple later put out a statement refuting this on the other side morris dong lit a fire under tsmc and they mobilized a massive r d effort to retake node leadership at the 10 nanometer seven nanometer and five nanometer process nodes apple's next chip the quad core a10 would be a tsmc exclusive and it has been as such ever since as of this writing tsmc remains the leading semiconductor foundry with samsung taking second place our story picks up again in mainland china in 2015 smic appointed the former deputy director of the ministry of the electronics industry as their chairman after losing their patent lawsuit smic stayed on trailing edge notes largely servicing customers wanting local manufacturing doll wanted to bring smic back to the leading edge in direct competition with tsmc he believed that taiwanese talents could take him there first he helped recruit tsmc's godfather a semiconductor r d zhang former manager who joined in 2016. then targeted liang himself diang said that he would only join if he got to hand-pick a team of 200 taiwanese and south korean engineers smic complied staying at a hotel in shinchu for over a year recruiting them and this time they respected the no compete clause when the samsung contract ended in 2017 liang the semiconductor liu bu broke alliances and jumped to smic with his massive team his reported salary was about two hundred thousand dollars the aung's entrance caused some tension smic had just promoted tao hai jun to the ceo role diane won't join if it isn't as ceo but parachuting someone in with a whole new team would be a great embarrassment for tao joe split the difference by making them co-ceos dao would handle the legacy trailing edge business and liang would handle the leading edge which he always wanted it worked but rumors of feuding would continually waved out of the smic offices in february 2016 smic unveiled the 28 nanometer process node and with leong now on board a year later the company was able to raise the yield from 60 to over 80 which is very good however the process was a business failure that same year the taiwanese foundry umc came out with their own 28 nanometer node and yield rates of 98 percent drinking smic's milkshake diang argued that smic wasted too much time working on 28 nanometers and advocated for another multi-generational jump to 14 and 12 nanometers he led the company to do this achieving a 95 yield in doing so for this smic raised his salary to 340 thousand dollars he and zhang attempted to leverage their connections to buy an euv machine for an asml but those efforts were blocked by the us government thusly some at smic felt it more prudent to focus on trailing edge nodes but liang is pushing ahead anyway to the seven nanometer node the last possible node achievable with older duv technology in 2018 chang left to join the ill-fated honxing semiconductor company hong xing failed that had been a real dumpster fire and jiang decided to return as vice chairman this effectively made jiang liang's manager again and it led to a hissy fit in which liang attempted to quit the story made the process and forced smic to give him a 3.3 million dollar mansion and raise his salary to 1.5 million dollars today he remains co-ceo taking it once more to the limit amidst chinese complaints of his direction and management style the 76 year old zhang retired again in november 2021 likely to rejoin his family in the united states tsmc is a ruthless place full of brilliant maniacally driven people trying to make the impossible mundane for instance take dr y l wong vice president of operations and fab ops wong worked the night shift at tsmc while simultaneously getting his phd in electrical engineering during the day his bosses never knew today he has over 283 patents and his catchphrase is as long as it's interesting you will never get tired and that is just one guy i randomly picked so the company has a dilemma their younger people need and have to be able to come up into the senior ranks but the elders already sitting there are too valuable to let go so what to do the story of the yangmong song semiconductor renegade is a teaching tale about what is actually important in the industry it is not about the million dollar euv machines it's the people all right everyone that's it for tonight thanks for watching subscribe to the channel sign up for the newsletter and i'll see you guys next time

2022-09-13 21:16

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