TSMC to Expand R&D Capacity in Taiwan

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the world's largest contract chip maker, will spend US$5 billion to expand a manufacturing plant in Hsinchu, Taiwan, using the new production lines as a research and development center, a company spokesman said Tuesday.

"When complete, this will be our main R&D center for the next six years," said J.H. Tzeng, a TSMC spokesman.

The company will use the expanded Fab 12 plant in Hsinchu, Taiwan, to research and develop 32-nanometer, 22-nm and 15-nm process technologies, and to provide additional manufacturing capacity, Tzeng said.

Last year TSMC began producing chips using its most advanced manufacturing technology yet, in which the smallest features on the chips measure just 45 nm on average. Smaller is generally better, allowing chip makers to shrink the size of a chip and reduce unit production costs, for example. More advanced process technology can also speed the performance of chips, or allow chip makers to add new features, such as more memory capacity.

Tzeng did not say when TSMC expects to put the 32-nm process technology into volume production, but TSMC is on pace to introduce a new process technology every other year, he said. With the 45-nm process entering production last year, the company should be using the 32-nm process in 2009. The 22-nm process would then enter production in 2011, to be followed by the 15-nm process in 2013.

When fully operational, the new production lines in phases four and five of Fab 12 will employ up to 3,000 workers, Tzeng said.

Tzeng declined to say what the monthly production capacity of the new production lines will be, saying the main focus of the facility will be R&D. At the end of 2007, Fab 12 had a quarterly production capacity of 212,000 wafers 300 mm in diameter, while Fab 14 had a capacity of 176,000 wafers.

Once new process technologies have entered production at Fab 12, they will then be brought online at the company's other 300-millimeter wafer plant, Fab 14 in Tainan, Taiwan, he said.

Editor's Note: This article was updated on March 11 to clarify the capacity of the manufacturing plants, and to make it clear that the new lines will be used as an R&D facility.