TSMC said it was planning to double U.S. chip factories as discussions in Europe


Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. is weighing plans to pump tens of billions of dollars more into high-end chip factories in the U.S. state of Arizona than it had previously revealed, but there are cool prospects for a developed European plant, people told Reuters.

TSMC is the world ‘s most advanced chip manufacturer, and its investment plans are being closely monitored through global chip shortages and new initiatives in the United States and Europe to support semiconductor production. Last year, TSMC announced that it would invest $ 10 billion (approximately SEK 73,320) in $ 12 billion (approximately SEK 88,000) to build a chip plant in Phoenix.

Reuters said this month that the previously unveiled plant could be the first of up to six planned plants. Now, company officials are debating whether the next plant should be a more advanced plant that can produce chips in the so-called. 3 nanometer chip technology compared to the slower, less efficient 5 nanometer technology used in the first plant.

A more advanced 3-nanometer plant could cost $ 23 billion (about SEK 1,68640) to $ 25 billion (about SEK 1.83,300), one knowledgeable person told Reuters. Details of TSMC’s plans for new plants at the Arizona plant have not been previously reported.

Officials have also outlined TSMC’s plans to make a new generation of 2-nanometer and smaller chips when the Phoenix campus is built over the next 10 to 15 years, the person said.

TSMC is likely to compete in plant construction Intel and Samsung From the US government. President Joe Biden has called for $ 50 billion (about $ 366,610) in funding to support domestic chip production, and the U.S. Senate could take action as early as this week.

Some government officials are concerned that TSMC subsidies could help Taiwan, where the company is likely to continue research and development, more than the United States. However, the U.S. support plan does not exclude foreign companies.

According to government and industry officials, a strong domestic chip manufacturing industry is critical to the economy and national security. Although US chip companies such as Qualcomm and Nvidia dominate their markets globally, most of their chips are manufactured in Asia.

Intel has also committed to two other new production facilities in Arizona, while Samsung is planning a $ 17 billion (approximately SEK 1.24,640) plant near the existing facility in Austin, Texas.

There is also a debate in the European Union on making chip production more efficient. Intel has shown serious interest in those efforts with the CEO Pat Gelsinger providing $ 9 billion (approximately SEK 66,000) in support to the proposed “Eurofab” during a trip to Brussels last month.

EU Commissioner for Industry Thierry Breton, which has defended the Eurofab idea, also spoke last month with Maria Marced, President of TSMC Europe. Although Breton publicly called the TSMC debate a “good debate,” another knowledgeable person said the TSMC negotiations in Europe have gone “very badly.”

A TSMC spokesman said the company has not ruled out opportunities, but there are no plans for a plant in Europe.

European chip and car companies, on the other hand, are mostly lined up against the idea. They would like support for the older generation of chips, which are heavily used by car manufacturers and are in short supply.

Many of TSMC’s most profitable customers, such as Apple, are in the United States, while its European customer base consists mainly of automakers who buy less advanced chips. In the first quarter, customers in Europe and the Middle East accounted for only 6 percent of TSMC’s revenue, well over 67 percent from North America and 17 percent from Asia-Pacific.

According to sources, TSMC has not ruled out the construction of an older generation chip factory in Europe for car customers.

Poaching from Intel

This year, TSMC hired Benjamin Miller, a 25-year-old Intel veteran, as Arizona’s chief human resources officer. The company says it has hired 250 engineers there and that about 100 of them and their families have been sent to Tainan, Taiwan, where they will complete a 12-18 month training program before returning to Arizona.

TSMC declined to comment on the details of its Arizona plans, but its CEO CC Wei said last month that “continued expansion is possible” after the initial phase. He said the company will evaluate the efficiency of the site and customer demand and decide on the next steps.

Last month, TSMC chairman and founder Morris Chang warned of higher operating costs and narrow talent for U.S. plans in a few public speeches attended by Wei and chairman Mark Liu.

“In the U.S., the level of professional dedication doesn’t match the level in Taiwan, at least for engineers,” Chang said. He warned that “short-term support cannot compensate for long-term disadvantages to operations.”

TSMC’s first Arizona plant is relatively small, with a projected output of 20,000 wafers – 12-inch silicon wafers, each of which can contain thousands of chips – per month. In contrast, TSMC’s “gigafabs” in Taiwan can produce 100,000 wafers per month.

But TSMC executives are looking at it for a long time, starting with mature technology and increasing volume while gradually adopting the most advanced processes, said a third person familiar with the matter. Like the others, the person refused to identify the case because of its sensitivity.

“You don’t just go to Phoenix, which is 10,000 miles away, and start preparing for the front edge,” the person said.

© Thomson Reuters 2021


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