TSMC is planning a US wafer fab . . . again

April 20, 2020 //By Peter Clarke
TSMC is planning a US wafer fab . . . again
The world's leading semiconductor foundry Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd. has said it is "actively evaluating" whether to build a wafer fab in the US.

This development follows on from news in March 2017 that the company was considering plans to build a 3nm wafer fab in the US (see TSMC considers US for 3nm wafer fab site).

Mark Liu, chairman of TSMC, told an analyst conference last week: "We are now actively evaluating the U.S. fab plan. But as I told the investors before, there is a cost gap, which is hard to accept at this point."

Liu went on to say that if TSMC is to build a wafer fab in the US it will have to be a leading-edge or close to leading-edge fab and that it will be necessary to establish the supply chain to support such a fab, which would represent extra cost, compared with its established sites in Taiwan. "And currently, we are surveying our supply chain partners, [as to] whether they will be able to go along so that the quality of the material to support a leading-edge fab [that] can be cost-effective in US," said Liu.

The second obstacle, Liu said, was finding a sufficient density of highly-qualified people to work in such as fab. Liu said that in TSMC's Taiwanese wafer fabs all the staff are qualified to a masters degree level or higher. "And we try to duplicate that in the US; it takes a lot of planning and organization to be able to enable such a fab. But there are, as I said, opportunities for us in there. Hopefully we can better tap the global talent for TSMC for the long term, expanding a new site in US," Liu concluded.

Liu was speaking on an financial analysts' conference call to discuss TSMC's 1Q20 financial results, in which it raised sales by 42 percent year-on-year and nearly doubled profits, despite the seeing first signs of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic (see TSMC doubles profit ahead of forecasted flat 2H20).

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