TAIPEI — Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) will build the world’s first 3-nm fab in the Tainan Science Park in southern Taiwan, where the company does the bulk of its manufacturing.

The announcement lays to rest speculation that the company might build its next chip facility in the U.S., attracted by incentives offered by the administration of President Donald Trump to bring more manufacturing to America.

About a year ago, TSMC said it planned to build its next fab at the 5-nm to 3-nm technology node as early as 2022. The more recent one-paragraph announcement from TSMC on Sept. 29 didn’t provide a timeframe for the opening of the 3-nm fab.

“TSMC recognizes and is grateful for the (Taiwan) government’s clear commitments to resolve any issues, including land, water, electricity and environmental protection,” the statement said.

TSMC previously estimated it would need 50 to 80 hectares (123 to 198 acres) of land for an investment worth about NT$500 billion ($15.7 billion). The company’s earlier 2022 timeframe for the fab takes into account potentially unanticipated delays in construction. Some of TSMC’s recent projects in Taiwan have been set back by as much as a year by public hearings on environmental impact.

TSMC has also faced shortages of water and power in Taiwan, where the company does most of its production.

Process Leaders
TSMC, Samsung and Intel have been in a tight race to lead process technology development and grab profits from fabless customers such as Apple and Qualcomm.

This year, the leading-edge pure-play foundry market in sub-40-nm nodes is expected to surge by a hefty $3.3 billion, market research firm IC Insights said in a Sept. 19 report.  Almost all of the pure-play foundry growth is forecast to come from leading-edge production in 2017, and most of the foundry profits will also come from the finer feature sizes, the report said.

(Source: IC Insights)
(Source: IC Insights)

Earlier this year, TSMC logged its first revenue from 10nm products, trailing Samsung, its main rival in the foundry business, by nearly four months.

TSMC said its 7-nm yield is ahead of schedule and it expects a fast ramp in 2018. The company plans to insert several extreme ultraviolet (EUV) layers at 7 nm, but declined to provide details. The company plans to offer a 7-nm plus node that it expects will allow customers easy migration from 7 nm.

TSMC has also said its 5-nm roadmap is on track for a launch in the first quarter of 2019.

—Alan Patterson covers the semiconductor industry for EE Times. He is based in Taiwan.