TSMC receives the green light for 2nm fab and plans to operate in 2024

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The big picture: Just days after Intel said it was optimistic to regain the leadership position in process technology by 2025, TSMC comes out with an announcement that casts doubt on that possibility. Competition in the semiconductor industry is intensifying, even leading to weird partnerships where Intel will make chips for Qualcomm while TSMC struggles to beat Samsung on its way to make 2nm chips.

This week, Intel shared further insight into its strategy to catch up with the rest of the semiconductor industry in terms of process technology and the role of the new Intel Foundry Services subsidiary in achieving that goal. Unfortunately for Intel, which is hoping to catch up by 2025 and then surpass TSMC, GlobalFoundries, Samsung and others, this uphill battle is getting tougher over time.

Nikkei reports today that TSMC is planning to build a 2nm chip factory in Hsinchu, one of Taiwan’s major chip manufacturing centers.

The company received the green light from the country’s environmental assessment committee on Wednesday to start construction in early 2022. The second phase, in which the foundry equipment will be installed, could begin as early as 2023.

The new facility will occupy 50 acres of land in Hsinchu Science Park and is expected to begin manufacturing 2nm chips in 2024. TSMC will gradually ramp up production as demand for the new process node grows, but the typical goal for a GigaFab is 100,000 wafers starts per month.

TSMC also has plans for a second 2nm GigaFab that could be built in Kaohsiung in the Ciaotou Science and Industrial Park. The secret of TSMC’s N2 process technology is the use of gate-all-around (GAA) transistors, but the company does not want to reveal any further details yet.

A more pressing problem is the water requirements of the new facility in Baoshan, which is expected to use no less than 98,000 tons of water per day. To this end, TSMC has set a goal of using 10 percent recycled water by 2025 and 100 percent recycled water by 2030.

In the meantime, TSMC’s N5 facility is being built in Arizona and its 28 nm fab is being expanded in Nanjing, China. In addition, the company is evaluating the construction of further fabs in Germany and Japan.

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