This development follows on from news in March 2017 that the company was considering plans to build a 3nm wafer fab in the US (see TSMC considers US for 3nm wafer fab site).

Mark Liu, chairman of TSMC, told an analyst conference last week: “We are now actively evaluating the U.S. fab plan. But as I told the investors before, there is a cost gap, which is hard to accept at this point.”

Liu went on to say that if TSMC is to build a wafer fab in the US it will have to be a leading-edge or close to leading-edge fab and that it will be necessary to establish the supply chain to support such a fab, which would represent extra cost, compared with its established sites in Taiwan. “And currently, we are surveying our supply chain partners, [as to] whether they will be able to go along so that the quality of the material to support a leading-edge fab [that] can be cost-effective in US,” said Liu.

The second obstacle, Liu said, was finding a sufficient density of highly-qualified people to work in such as fab. Liu said that in TSMC’s Taiwanese wafer fabs all the staff are qualified to a masters degree level or higher. “And we try to duplicate that in the US; it takes a lot of planning and organization to be able to enable such a fab. But there are, as I said, opportunities for us in there. Hopefully we can better tap the global talent for TSMC for the long term, expanding a new site in US,” Liu concluded.

Liu was speaking on an financial analysts’ conference call to discuss TSMC’s 1Q20 financial results, in which it raised sales by 42 percent year-on-year and nearly doubled profits, despite the seeing first signs of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic (see TSMC doubles profit ahead of forecasted flat 2H20).

Next: Staying home

TSMC has generally preferred to keep chip manufacturing in Taiwan claiming it provides advantages of economies of scale. But it TSMC gone abroad to build wafer fabs before. It has a 200mm and 300mm wafer fabs in China. And in 1996 TMSC helped establish a joint venture wafer fab called WaferTech in Camas, Washington. TSMC has subsequently bought back the shares to make the wafer fab wholly-owned subsidiary.

The company has also looked at building additional wafer fabs in US. In 2012 under a project codenamed Azalea, TSMC considered whether it would be worthwhile taking the funds being offered by the state of New York to follow in the footsteps of Globalfoundries Inc. and locate in up-state New York (see TSMC next for New York fab?).

At the time, it was reported that Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd. had been retained to scout for a location for a 3.2 million square foot production facility and had considered multiple sites in upstate New York as well as possibilities in California and Texas.

Related links and articles:

News articles:

TSMC considers US for 3nm wafer fab site

TSMC next for New York fab?

TSMC doubles profit ahead of forecasted flat 2H20

TSMC says not fazed by lowering of ‘dual-use’ threshold

Semiconductor industry pushes back against US export controls

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