Japan's Rapidus shares views on TSMC competition and 2nm progress

Misha Lu, DIGITIMES Asia, Taipei 0

Credit: AFP

Rapidus, Japan's newly created semiconductor champion that seeks to reach 2nm production by 2027, indicated that it has completed the preparatory work of its first EUV lithography machine. The EUV equipment will be in place before Rapidus' trial production begins in 2025. Meanwhile, preparatory work to obtain another EUV machine is already underway.

Talking to Nikkei, Rapidus president Atsuyoshi Koike claimed that Rapidus has introduced AI and automation to the production process.

According to the Rapidus leader, about 1000 engineers are required to bring the most cutting-edge process into volume production. With the aid of automation, however, Koike claims that only approximately 500 engineers are needed by Rapidus. Koike expects 2nm volume production to begin on time in 2027, with revenues reaching JPY1 trillion in 2030s.

Regarding competition with TSMC, the Rapidus president believes that Rapidus will focus on AI and super-computing chips, while TSMC covers a wide range of sectors. Consequently, he believes the competition wouldn't be very fierce.

Rapidus was formed in August, backed by leading Japanese technology and financial firms such as Softbank, Toyota Motor, Denso, Sony, NTT, NEC, Kioxia and Mitsubishi UFJ Bank. In December, Rapidus also formed partnerships with IBM and Belgium-baded IMEC to jointly develop 2nm.

Koike previously indicated that Rapidus wouldn't seek to catch up with TSMC and Samsung in terms of production scale, and would instead explore a different business model focusing on speedy production.

In the interview with Nikkei, Koike doesn't rule out taking Rapidus public to raise more funds, but also indicates the possibility of getting more corporate investors on broad, including those from Europe. According to an earlier report from Kyodo News, the Rapidus president estimated R&D expenditures to reach JPY2 trillion, making medium and long-term governmental assistance crucial. He therefore expects an annual subsidy of JPY300 billion. Apart from R&D spending, however, JPY3 trillion is also needed to support factory operation and volume production - making IPO an attractive venue for further fundraising.

Back in April, the Japanese government announced that it will subsidize JPY260 billion for the 2nm capacity that Rapidus plans to build in Chitose, Hokkaido. The site will also host Rapidus' future 1nm manufacturing process. Koike previously indicated optimism for bringing 2nm and 1.4nm into volume production, but deems 1nm a major challenge.