Building more semiconductor foundries in the midst of a global chip shortage sounds like great news. However, it’s a very expensive process that takes years, which is made clear in a report from Reuters about TSMC’s plans to built more factories.
Last year it announced a $10-12 billion investment to build one chip factory in Phoenix, Arizona (first of up to six). It will be producing chips on a 5 nm process with a relatively low target of 20,000 12” wafers a month (compared to 100,000/month that the factories in Taiwan are churning out). Now the company’s leadership is considering a more advanced 3 nm foundry that will cost a whopping $23-25 million.
Initially, TSMC was looking at sites in Europe to build its advanced factory, but according to the report the focus has shifted to building the factory in Phoenix, next to the first one. The site there will continue to be developed over the next 10-15 years, including building a 2 nm foundry sometime in the future.
The European Union has been trying to court the Taiwanese chip maker, but there is internal conflict. Car makers want subsidies for older semiconductor nodes as they are the ones used in cars and the ones that are currently in short supply. The bleeding edge nodes are for smartphone and computer chips and there are no EU companies making those.
TSMC will be seeking subsidies from the US government and so will Intel and Samsung as each company wants a portion of the $50 billion in funding that President Biden is looking to pump into the industry. For their part, Intel and Samsung will be building new factories too (in Phoenix and Austin, Texas, respectively).
As for Europe, the Taiwanese company may build a factory based on older tech that will suit EU’s auto industry, but for now there are no official plans to do so.