TSMC Kumamoto fab progress on schedule, reflecting Japan's efficiency

Chiang, Jen-Chieh and Judy Lin, DIGITIMES Asia, Taipei 0

Japanese trade minister Yasutoshi Nishimura with TSMC chairman Mark Liu. Credit: X

Several suppliers have received notification from TSMC to start installing equipment at its Kumamoto fab in October. The fab may even start mass production ahead of previous plans. This is in stark contrast to the challenge TSMC faces at its Arizona site; TSMC announced its investment in Arizona earlier than the Kumamoto project, but it has now fallen behind schedule by one year.

Nikkei Asia quoted industry executives briefed on the matter saying that TSMC has told several suppliers that installation of chip production tools will start in October and be completed in the first quarter of 2024. Therefore, it is likely to meet the schedule of mass production by the end of 2024 and may even achieve that goal earlier than expected.

Japan's Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry, Yasutoshi Nishimura, posted a photo with TSMC chairman Mark Liu on social media on October 1 and emphasized that JASM, the joint venture between TSMC, Sony, and Denso, is an essential project for Japan in the revitalization of its semiconductor industry. He said the Japanese material and equipment companies are also embarking on new investments in Kumamoto to work together and collaborate with JASM on future innovations. The Japanese government has set aside US$3.5 billion worth of subsidies for the US$8 billion JASM project.

TSMC's other strategic projects in Japan have also gone smoothly. The company completed the construction of the clean room of its Japan 3DIC R&D Center in the Tsukuba Center of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in June 2022. The TSMC Japan 3DIC R&D Center will support research and development of state-of-the-art 3D IC packaging material in collaboration with Japanese partners, domestic research institutes, and universities possessing strengths in semiconductor materials and equipment, according to a company press release. The project also received substantial financial backing from the Japanese government, subsidizing half of the JPY37 billion (US$338 million) cost, and support from companies like Asahi Kasei, Mitsui Chemicals, and Sumitomo Chemical.

TSMC has repeatedly expressed that the projects in Japan, the US, and the fab it is planning to build in Germany are inherently incomparable due to their differences in location, setup, and scope. However, it is undoubtedly the efficiency and the readiness of the chip ecosystem and infrastructure of Japan and its competitiveness in semiconductor materials and equipment that are likely to create greater synergy than places that lack similar mechanisms.