Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. has not yet made any final decisions about building a semiconductor factory in the U.S. There are a number of advantages in owning a factory in the USA, but there are disadvantages as well. As a result, TSMC is unsure whether it needs one or not.
“There has been no decision. Building a new fab is a big decision. A new fab now costs $5 billion. We have 20 fabs in Taiwan, and that’s an advantage because when a machine goes down in one plant we can ship one over from another. You can’t do that for a fab in the U.S.,” said Morris Chang, chief executive officer of TSMC, in an interview with EETimes web-site.
Back in November it transpired that an undefined company had hired Deloitte, a worldwide consulting and financial adviser, to scout for a location in Rensselaer, Saratoga and Utica counties with water, power and gas supply to operate a 3.2 million square feet of buildings with 1000 employees, 40% of which are college-graduated engineers. Among other locations, Deloitte also explored Luther Forest Technology Campus, where Globalfoundries’ Fab 8 is located. The buildings involved in code-named project Azalea will have a total footprint of 3.2 million square feet and be up to 180 feet tall, “with potential to expand”, according to the Business Review web-site. The project would cost several billions of dollars.
It was then revealed that at the very end of last year, Bill Owens, a congressman from upstate New York, flew to Taiwan, where he pitched upstate to the chief financial officer of TSMC. Taiwanese officials said the trip was motivated by TSMC's interest in New York. Therefore, the project Azalea could be a multi-billion semiconductor fab.
The interest of TSMC to build a semiconductor manufacturing facility in the U.S. could be very real. The company is looking forward to expand its businesses and remain competitive against Globalfoundries, Samsung Semiconductor and United Microelectronics Corp.
Numerous chips that are designed for devices to be used by various U.S. government organizations need to be made in the country. TSMC already owns WaferTech facility in Camas, Washington, but the facility processes 200mm wafers and is currently considered as outdated. Moreover, WaferTech is also a small facility that cannot produce chips in quantities required by the world’s leading fabless chip designers, such as Apple, AMD, Nvidia, Qualcomm and other.
TSMC currently makes chips for AMD, Nvidia and Qualcomm, but is also negotiating with Apple over manufacturing of next-generation system-on-chip products for Apple’s consumer electronics, such as Apple iPhone, iPad and other. Currently Samsung Semiconductor solely produces A-series SoCs for Apple in its Austin, Texas facilities. A large 300mm or 450mm fab in New York could enable TSMC to produce chips using leading-edge process technologies not only for its current clients in the U.S., but also for Apple. A contract with the latter should be a very interesting deal for the Hsinchu, Taiwan-based semiconductor manufacturer.