TSMC Rumored To Build $35 Billion 5nm Plant In The U.S. With 100k/month Wafer Output

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The Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) is planning to build a total of six factories within the United States as part of its efforts to set up a manufacturing facility in the country. These factories will be part of TSMC's planned facility in Arizona, and they will contribute to what is being termed as a 'Mega Fab' inside the U.S. according to internal rumors sourced by UDN.

TSMC's Six Factories Will Be Responsible For Producing 12-inch Wafers, With Company Incentivizing Talent To Move To The U.S.

Right now, according to publicly available details shared by TSMC's management, the plant in Arizona will enter mass production in 2024 by producing semiconductors manufactured on the 5nm process node. This node is currently TSMC's latest process and it has several variants which tweak the design parameters to offer more performance or power efficiency. It will produce 20,000 wafers/month with an investment of $12 billion.

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If today's rumors hold true, then the plant's expenditure and output will significantly increase over what TSMC is currently. planning. The details of UDN's report reveal that the six factories will be responsible for manufacturing 12-inch wafers, and total expenditure for construction will equal NT$ 1 trillion or $36 billion. Additionally, output for the plant will increase five times over the current estimate to 100,000 wafers produced per month.

The source of this rumor appears to be TSMC employees as the company is encouraging them to move to the U.S. for staffing the facilities. Should TSMC build the mega chip factory, the facility will be the largest non-American chipmaking facility in the U.S.

In a board of directors meeting held in February, TSMC's management authorized $12 billion in capital expenditure for constructing new plants and installing and upgrading advanced process node technologies amongst other uses. The chipmaker is currently not only facing a water shortage in Taiwan but is also catering to a higher demand for automotive chips in the wake of China's economic recovery from the ongoing pandemic.

TSMC's render of the 5nm chip plant in Hainan, Taiwan. Image: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company

Whether the rumored plans stem due to the recently passed CHIPS for America title in the National Defense Authorization Act 2021 (NDAA) is uncertain. The act promises up to $3 billion in funds for individual projects aimed towards increasing American capacity to manufacture chips, with higher amounts also being available with greater scrutiny. This additional funding is available if the project is capable of demonstrating that it will not only increase U.S. global chip competitiveness but also improve American national security.

TSMC is currently busy building a more advanced 3nm facility in Taiwan, which is expected to become operational next year. It is also rumored to be planning a 5nm capacity increase, beefing up output by 70% to 120,000. wafers/month by the end of this year.

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The company's plans to build the Arizona fab will be aided by $205 million in city funds, aimed mostly towards ensuring that the facility will have access to adequate water for its production. Water is a major component of the chipmaking process as wafer cleaning requirements and chemical deposits on them require regular washing.

The $12 billion capital expenditure for the fab will be spread over 12 years according to research firm TrendForce. TrendForce also believes that TSMC will post a 25% year-over-year sales increase for the first quarter of this year, with total sales standing at $13 billion for the quarter. This will enable the company to secure a 56% market share in the pure-play foundry business, and it is at the high end of TSMC's revenue estimate of $12.7 - $13 billion for the quarter. The 5nm node will account for 20% of this revenue and the older 7nm node will lead through 30% share believes the research firm.