Factories are well known to be an expensive business, so any time a new factory is slated for construction, that tends to be a big deal – especially in the midst of the current chip crisis. To that end, TSMC this week announced plans to build a new semi-specialized factory in Japan to meet the needs of its local customers. The semiconductor manufacturing plant will focus on mature and specialized manufacturing technologies used to manufacture long-life chips for automotive manufacturers and consumer electronics. The factory will be Japan’s most advanced logic factory when it becomes operational at the end of 2024 and if rumors about planned investments are correct, it could also be Japan’s largest logic chip factory.
“After performing a due diligence, we are announcing our intention to build a specialized technology factory in Japan, subject to the approval of our board of directors,” CC Wei, CEO of TSMC, told a conference. telephone with investors and financial analysts. “We have received a firm commitment to support this project from our customers and the Japanese government. “
Online at the end of 2024
TSMC’s manufacturing facility in Japan will process 300mm wafers using a variety of specialized and mature nodes, including a number of 28nm technologies as well as the 22ULP process for ultra-low power devices. These nodes are not used to make cutting edge ASICs and SoCs, but they are widely used by the automotive and consumer electronics industries and will continue to be used for years not only for chips. existing ones, but also for future solutions.
“This plant will use 20nm to 28nm technology for the fabrication of semiconductor wafers,” Wei added. “Construction of the plant is expected to begin in 2022 and production is expected to begin in late 2024, further details will be provided subject to board approval.”
While TSMC has revealed the specialized nature of the factory, its timeline, and the fact that it has garnered support from its customers and the Japanese government, the company is revealing nothing beyond that. In fact, while he confirmed that the cost of the semiconductor production facility is not included in his $ 100 billion three-year CapEx plan, he declined to give estimates on his planned investments. in the project.
Meanwhile, there are a lot of things that make this special fabulous for TSMC, Japan and the industry.
Japan’s most advanced logic factory
It was late 2005, AMD and Intel were starting to ship their first dual-core processors, and the battle for CPU speed was officially over. Intel was getting ready to introduce its first 65nm chips in early 2006 and suddenly Panasonic said it had started mass production of the world’s first application processors using 65nm technology, which it has. co-developed with Renesas, putting Panasonic a couple of months ahead of the mighty Intel. In mid-2007, Panasonic again beat Intel by several months with its 45nm manufacturing process.
But with its 32nm node, Panasonic was 9-10 months behind Intel. And while the company shrunk that process by half a knot, it ultimately ended 22nm following other Japanese conglomerates that pulled out of the process technology race even earlier. Right now, all Japanese auto and electronics companies outsource their advanced chips to foundries, which in turn manufacture the majority of them outside of Japan.
By bringing a 22ULP / 28nm compatible factory to Japan, TSMC’s plans will not only bring advanced logic manufacturing back to the country, but it would also be Japan’s most advanced factory. TSMC is also building an R&D center in Japan and cooperating with the University of Tokyo on various topics, so that its presence in the country increases, which is good news for the local semiconductor industry.
Previously, TSMC focused its factories and R&D facilities in Taiwan, but its rapid growth fueled by growing demand for semiconductors along with geopolitical issues appears to be forcing the foundry to diversify its production and R&D sites.
What’s particularly interesting is that according to a Nikkei report, the Japanese production facility will be co-funded by TSMC, the Japanese government, and Sony. This marks another major strategy change for TSMC, which tends to fully own its factories. In fact, if the Nikkei report is to be believed, the entire project will cost around $ 7 billion (although it is not said whether this is the cost of the first phase of the fab or d ‘a potential investment over several years).
To put the figure in context, SMIC recently announced plans to spend around $ 8.87 billion on a plant with a planned capacity of around 100,000 300mm unit starts per month (WSPM). The TSMC installation will likely cost less and will be built in a country with higher operating costs, so it may not be a GigaFab level installation (which has a capacity of ‘approximately 100,000 WSPM). But still, we are talking about a sizable plant that could have a capacity of tens of thousands of wafer starts per month, which would make it the largest 300mm logic facility in Japan. For comparison, the former Panasonic plant in Uozo (now controlled by Tower Semiconductor and Nuvoton) has a capacity of around 8,000 WSPM.
TSMC has not officially confirmed any figures on its Japanese plant, but the company tends to build fairly large production facilities that can be expanded if necessary. Meanwhile, a factory in Japan that caters well to the needs of local auto and electronics conglomerates promises to help them avoid chip shortages in the future. It would also leave TSMC free to allocate its Taiwanese and Chinese 28nm production lines to other applications, including PCs, which is important for the entire industry.