Biden touts TSMC’s Arizona investment as bolstering U.S. manufacturing

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.’s (TSMC) investment in Arizona could be “a gamechanger,” United States President Joe Biden said Wednesday (Taipei time) during a visit to the site of TSMC’s first chip plant in the state, hailing it as bolstering manufacturing in the U.S.

“TSMC is investing US$40 billion dollars here in Arizona, the largest foreign investment in the history of this state,” Biden said after making a tour of TSMC’s 4-nanometer wafer fab that is still under construction.

TSMC, the world’s largest contract chipmaker, began construction of a US$12-billion plant in Arizona about 18 months ago with the aim of having it begin commercial production in 2024 using the 5nm process.

Just hours before Biden’s visit, however, TSMC announced that it had started the construction of a second fab in Phoenix, Arizona, that will use more advanced 3nm process technology when production begins in 2026.

It also said it intended to make 4nm chips at the first plant instead of 5nm chips as originally planned.

According to reports by international media, the shift to slightly more advanced chips in the first fab was made at the request of TSMC customers such as Apple Inc., whose CEO Tim Cook attended Wednesday’s event marking the installation of the facility’s first batch of equipment.

With the addition of a second plant, TSMC will increase its investment in Arizona to a total of US$40 billion, with annual combined production output of the planned two fabs expected to be more than 600,000 12-inch wafers.

“These are the most advanced semiconductor chips on the planet, chips that will power iPhones and MacBooks, as Tim Cook can attest … it could be a gamechanger,” Biden said.

“American manufacturing is back, folks. American manufacturing is back,” he said.

TSMC’s investment came at a time when the Biden administration has been pushing for more high-tech production in the U.S.

In August, Biden signed into law the CHIPS and Science Act, which authorizes the government to provide a total of US$52.7 billion in funding for semiconductor research, development, manufacturing, and workforce development in the U.S.

“Federal investment attracts private sector investment [and] creates jobs,” Biden said of the legislation, while noting that over 10,000 construction jobs and 10,000 high-tech jobs would be created due to TSMC’s investment.

In addition to TSMC, Micron Technology, Inc. and International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) were also pouring billions of dollars into building more semiconductor factories in the U.S., Biden said.

“These investments are helping us build and strengthen the supply chain here in America. I want to be clear, as we build a stronger supply chain, our allies and partners are building alongside us as well,” Biden said.

Speaking ahead of Biden, TSMC Chairman Mark Liu (???) said there had been “a growing consensus” about revitalizing semiconductor manufacturing, which he said is vital to the modern economy, in the U.S.

Liu said the 4nm wafer plant under construction would show “that TSMC is also taking a giant step forward to help build a vibrant semiconductor ecosystem in the United States.”

The project has been challenging for the Taiwanese company, however, encumbered by the potentially high costs of operating in the U.S. and a lack of suitable workers.

TSMC’s founder Morris Chang (???) said at a press conference in Bangkok last month that “the costs in the U.S. will be about 55 percent higher than in Taiwan.”

He also told U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi when she visited Taiwan in early August that U.S. efforts to rebuild chip manufacturing at home were “doomed to fail,” according to the Financial Times.

The Wall Street Journal also cited people familiar with TSMC’s plans as reporting that the company has had to invest more in recruiting after struggling to find new engineering graduates in the U.S.

While TSMC is stepping up the diversification of its chip production, Taiwan’s Economic Affairs Minister Wang Mei-hua (???) said the company would keep its latest technology at home.

TSMC’s 3nm process is scheduled to begin mass production in Tainan later this year, and the chipmaker is also developing the more sophisticated 2nm process in Hsinchu, with production likely to begin in 2025.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel