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November 21, 2022

TSMC will make 3nm chips at new factory in Arizona

The Taiwanese chipmaker is bringing its most advanced technology to the US, with customers such as Apple keen to take advantage.

By Matthew Gooding

TSMC says it will bring its most advanced three-nanometre chip production technology to its new factory in the US state of Arizona, the company’s founder has said. The news will be welcomed by customers such as Apple, which is looking to reduce its reliance on chips made in Asia.

TSMC
TSMC will make 3nm chips at its plant in Arizona, US, the company’s founder says (Photo Michael Vi/Shutterstock)

The Arizona fab is due to come online next year as part of TSMC’s global expansion plans. It had previously been suggested that the $12bn facility would produce chips based on the older 5nm process node, but speaking to reporters in Taiwan earlier today Morris Chang said the facility would feature a 3nm line, too.

TSMC to bring 3nm chips to the US at Arizona fab

TSMC is the world’s largest contract chipmaker, meaning it produces semiconductors for third parties rather than selling them itself.

Chang, who has retired from the company but remains an influential figure, said that the Arizona fab would open with a 5nm production line, with a 3nm line to follow in “phase two”.

“Three-nanometre, TSMC right now has a plan, but it has not been completely finalised,” he said. “It has almost been finalised – in the same Arizona site, phase two. Five-nanometre is phase one, 3-nanometre is phase two.”

He did not put a timescale on when the line might open, but the company is due to start delivering 3nm chips to customers in the first half of next year, according to its product roadmap. The process innovation will deliver a 10-15% performance boost compared to 5nm, and be 25-30% more efficient, TSMC says.

TSMC will not be the first company to reach the milestone. Rival manufacturer Samsung started producing 3nm chips earlier this year, though it has yet to start making the semiconductors at large scale.

Apple is looking to use chips made in the US

Chipmakers have been rushing to open new factories in the US after the global chip shortage of 2020 highlighted the industry’s reliance on South East Asia, with TSMC and Samsung the only companies capable of building advanced chips. Tensions between the US, China and Taiwan have only exacerbated the need for more chip production to take place in other parts of the world.

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Earlier this year the US government approved the Chips and Science Act, which makes up to $50bn available to subsidise new chipmaking facilities, and this has led to companies including Intel and Samsung, as well as TSMC, planning new factories. Some of these plans could be scaled back, however, as the economic downturn hits demand.

Demand does remain high from some customers including Apple, which is reportedly looking to reduce its reliance on manufacturers in Asia. According to a report from Bloomberg last week, Apple CEO Tim Cook told an internal meeting that Apple “already made a decision to be buying out of a plant in Arizona”, suggesting its devices will be produced at the new TSMC facility. Apple already uses TSMC to produce its custom silicon, such as the M2 chips that power its latest iPhones and MacBooks.

Europe is also investing in chipmaking through the European Chips Act, with Intel planning a major new factory in Germany. Cook reportedly said Apple hopes to “source from Europe as those plans become more apparent”.

Read more: Newport Wafer Fab – Whitehall’s Nexperia snub is shortsighted

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