TAIPEI — Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) said that it plans to build its next fab for chips made at the 5-nm to 3-nm technology node as early as 2022 as it aims for industry leadership.
As the semiconductor industry consolidates, chipmakers TSMC, Samsung, and Intel are in a tight race to lead process technology development and grab profitable business from fabless customers such as Apple and Qualcomm. TSMC is looking more than five years ahead at a fab site in a new science park planned by the Taiwan government near the city of Kaohsiung, on the southern tip of the island.
“Taiwan’s minister of science and technology (Yang Hung-duen) met TSMC a few months ago, so we took the opportunity to present to him our future plans,” said director of corporate communications Elizabeth Sun, confirming reports in the local press citing Yang. “We wanted him to know that we need a piece of land, because the other science parks in Taiwan are pretty full.”
TSMC will need 50 to 80 hectares (123 to 198 acres) of land for an investment worth about NT$500 billion ($15.7 billion). The 2022 timeframe is tentative and takes into account potentially unanticipated delays in the construction of the fab. Some of TSMC’s recent projects in Taiwan have been set back by as much as a year by public hearings on environmental impact, Sun said.
TSMC is pushing the Taiwan government to have land and supplies of electricity ready in time for the new project, according to Sun. In the past, TSMC has faced shortages of water and power in Taiwan, where the company still does most of its production.
“We presented the whole package of what the government will need to provide, infrastructure-wise,” Sun said. “All of these things require long-term planning, and the government owns all of the science parks.”
EUV Still Uncertain
The company said that it is still undecided on whether it will adopt extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography for 5 nm and 3 nm.
“Our current plan is to use EUV extensively for 5 nm,” Sun said. “That’s under the assumption that EUV can be ready.”
The company said that it will ramp 7 nm in 2017, followed by 5 nm in 2019, to support smartphones and high-end mobile products with new features, including virtual reality and augmented reality.
For now, the world’s leading chipmakers are aiming for the lead in 10 nm.
In the third quarter this year, TSMC transferred 10-nm development from R&D to production and has five tape outs lined up for mobile products. The first commercial shipments of 10-nm products are scheduled for the first quarter next year. The company predicted that high-end smartphones will move to 10 nm from 16 nm during 2017.
Samsung aims to ship before the end of the year SoCs made in a 10-nm FinFET process, beating rivals such as Intel and TSMC. Intel, earlier this year, said that its 10-nm process could outperform other foundries and will be used to make ARM-based mobile chips for companies including LG Electronics.