Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. could bring production of chips on its leading-edge N3 (3nm-class) fabrication technology to its Arizona camp as part of its expansion, according to a report by Reuters. The company is already building a fab shell at the site and, if it thinks there is enough demand for N3 in the U.S., will install appropriate production relatively quickly.
“In light of the strong customer demand we are seeing in TSMC’s advanced technology, we will consider adding more capacity in Arizona with a second fab based on operating efficiency and cost economic considerations,” TSMC said in a statement to Reuters.
The Wall Street Journal, citing “sources familiar with the matter,” claims that TSMC is considering equipping the new building with tools advanced enough to make chips on the foundry’s leading-edge fabrication technologies from its N3 family, which includes N3, N3E, N3P, N3S, and N3X.
When TSMC establishes a new site for a fab, it buys enough land to build multiple phases of this fab, which will share common fab utilities such as gas storage or water purifiers. This is the case with the foundry’s Arizona camp, which can host up to six fab buildings (phases) and which currently accommodates one topped-out fab that will come online in 2024. But apparently the company is already building a shell for another one.
Keeping in mind that companies based in the U.S. design around 47% of chips sold worldwide, and that the vast majority of chips made using advanced manufacturing technologies are developed by American companies, demand for TSMC’s services in the U.S. is expected to be strong.
|N3E vs N5||N3 vs N5|
|Speed Improvement @ Same Power||+18%||+10% ~ 15%|
|Power Reduction @ Same Speed||-34%||-25% ~ -30%|
|HVM Start||Q2/Q3 2023||H2 2022|
Whether it will be strong enough to bring N3 to the U.S. in the next couple of years remains to be seen. But because there are a bunch of U.S.-based companies planning to use N3 nodes in the coming years (AMD, Apple, Intel, MediaTek, Nvidia, Qualcomm, just to name a few), it certainly makes sense for the company to expand its N3 production capacity in general.
If TSMC proceeds with its N3-capable fab in the U.S., the facility will likely come online in late 2024 — or, more likely, early 2025. The foundry plans to start production on its N2 (2nm-class) process technology in the second half of 2025.
Therefore, while the Arizona site might get N3, TSMC’s fabs in Taiwan will still be somewhat more advanced. But the gap between TSMC’s capabilities in Taiwan and the U.S. will likely shrink in the coming years (though this is our speculation rather than the foundry’s official plan).