The European edition of the TSMC Symposium 2022 provided interesting insights into the chip industry this week. ComputerBase was present and met an extremely relaxed CEO who is aware of the company’s current position in the world. In addition to the CEO of NXP, the VW boss, who is by no means a customer, also came to Amsterdam.
CC Wei, CEO of TSMC, visibly reveled in his company’s success at the European edition of the TSMC Symposium 2022. He also has every reason to do so: A few years ago, the contract manufacturer was only known to the industry, but now he is become much more well-known and powerful and the influence has continued to increase in parallel: today, in some areas, almost nothing works without TSMC.
From 258 to 70,000 employees
Some numbers make it clear: 35 years ago, in 1987, there were 258 employees making 28 products possible in three technologies. Ten years later, 5,600 employees and 915 products across 20 technologies. According to the CEO, there will be around 70,000 employees by the middle of this year and the company has produced over 12,000 products in 300 different technologies. TSMC exhibited 15 million 300mm wafers last year, enabling chips for countless markets. North America accounted for 7 million wafers and over 5,500 products last year, while Europe only had 1.8 million wafers and 1,205 products. When it comes to outages for innovations, Europe is also clearly in the shadow with 168 to more than 700.
Also in the future “La Fonderia per tutti”
Wei repeated TSMC’s famous motto: “Foundry for all”. The company still wants to be today. The manufacturer particularly highlighted startups, and TSMC has served more than 1,000 in the past few years. Some just want a single wafer for the first trials, the TSMC CEO explained, but even they are being served because a follow-up order could always develop. However, they then try to sell at least three wafers directly to such start-ups, Wei jokes a little, because in the end the company is even after: technology brings money, which in turn is invested – for new technologies.
Speaking of investments: the CaPEX theme was obviously of interest to those present. When he took over as CEO in 2018, the investment was $ 10 billion, and then steadily growing to reach the $ 40-44 billion projected this year. What about next year? “I’m not saying 50 billionTSMC CEO joked again. “If you write it down, we’ll dismiss it as rumors. ” The truth will become clear towards the end of the year, but the goal is clear: for the moment it should not be outdone, because the producer does not see any slowdowns.
First massive expansion of old production technologies
Because even the previous years’ planning showed that in some areas it was miscalculated. The main focus here is on “mature knots”, ie those older but mature production technologies that are still the basis of even the most modern devices today. And here, as in many areas, the focus is no longer just on performance, but above all on energy needs.
For the first time, TSMC will therefore expand the capacity for old nodes: ComputerBase informs you regularly. The industry is currently at 55 and 65 nm in many areas, but it will take up to three years for the newly planned and currently under construction plants to go online. Here TSMC believes that they have all moved to 28nm over time or that they simply need to change direction with a little extra push.
What TSMC is playing cards here: After the introduction in 2011, the process became cheaper in the following years, even for customers. Since last year, however, prices have risen again, and significantly. With the then indirect coercion that even major customers could spend there in three years, TSMC sees no problems in using the plants for years to come.
One of the plants to be expanded is Fab 14 Phase 8 in Tainan, Taiwan: at TSMC, each phase represents a new plant that is part of the overall complex. Fab 16 in China gets the P1B extension. The new Fab 22 in Kaohsiung will also be destined for the “Specialty Processes” and N28 in phase 2, as well as the joint venture with Sony in Japan, the new Fab 23, which was last updated before the start of construction and is now from 28 nm it can produce up to 12 nm. Overall, TSMC will expand the capacity of “Mature Nodes” by nearly 50% in the next few years until 2025.
The question “Fab in Europe?” it’s complicated
The public’s mandatory question about a factory in Europe followed the talk on new factories. TSMC was obviously prepared for this during its event in one of the European metropolises. Ultimately, however, what TSMC president Mark Lui recently said: There is still no decision on a factory in Europe. When asked in Amsterdam, Kevin Zhang of the business development department explained that there simply is and needs to be much more in sight than many are aware of. It’s an overall economic issue – in terms of configuration, but also flexibility for the future and much more. Furthermore, a fairy tale alone is not enough: exposing only the wafers in the EU and then sending them all to Asia for packaging is not a gimmick, Zhang explained. So the Fab might be somewhere nearby. Ultimately, TSMC is still spinning around this point – the CEO hasn’t come up with a counterword against the president.
Volkswagen CEO Diess was also there
In Europe, it’s the car manufacturers, among others, that are now pawing because they don’t have enough chips. But this is partly the result of bad planning, which has become very clear over the past couple of years. Without a doubt, Volkswagen is one of them – they’ve been missing out on quite a few trends recently, even though Herbert Diess, the CEO of Volkswagen AG, would never officially say so at an event. Interestingly, it was still there, even though VW isn’t even one of TSMC’s customers, but they probably want to become one as soon as possible. After all, he explained that two product cycles in the automotive industry take about 15 years. The acceleration of the last few years has literally “overwhelmed them” – obviously he didn’t say it even in this form.
NXP CEO Kurt Sievers, on the other hand, was very pleased as a regular customer of TSMC. 16nm products are already rolling off the line with no problems and N5 chips will be available for their products soon. These are high-performance and at the same time energy-saving chips, among other things for in-car radar solutions that are becoming more and more intelligent. The entire S32 platform will be further expanded in the future.