Taiwan’s TSMC to build $12 billion semiconductor plant in U.S.

Electronic circuit board (© Shutterstock)
Five-nanometer chips are used for both mobile and high-performance computing, according to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company. (© Shutterstock)

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) announced that it intends to spend $12 billion to build and operate a semiconductor factory in Arizona.

“These chips will power everything from artificial intelligence to 5G base stations to F-35s,” Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo said in a May 14 statement.

He called the deal “a game changer for the U.S. semiconductor industry that will bolster American national security and our economic prosperity.”

A vital technology

Building with 'TSMC' logo seen thorough trees (© Shutterstock)
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company offices are seen in San Jose, California, in 2020. (© Shutterstock)

Semiconductors are “the backbone to the entire digital industry,” explained Mung Chiang, the science and technology adviser to Pompeo, at a May 15 State Department briefing.

TSMC said construction is expected to start in 2021 and chip production to start in 2024. The plant will create over 1,600 high-tech professional jobs directly and thousands of indirect jobs. TSMC will also train hundreds of U.S. employees on its most advanced process technologies in Taiwan and expand its research efforts in the United States as part of the investment.

“The strong investment climate in the United States and its talented workforce make this and future investments in the U.S. attractive to TSMC,” the company said in a statement.

The Arizona facility would be TSMC’s second factory in the United States alongside the one it operates in Camas, Washington. TSMC also has design centers in Austin, Texas, and San Jose, California.

5G national security

Fighter jet flying over ocean (U.S. Navy/Chief Petty Officer Shannon Renfroe)
Semiconductor chips are an integral part of modern aircraft like this U.S. Navy F-35C Lightning II in Florida in 2019. (U.S. Navy/Chief Petty Officer Shannon Renfroe)

This decision to build a factory in the United States comes at a time when “China is competing to dominate cutting-edge technology and control critical industries,” Pompeo said.

Manufacturing this technology in the United States will “help ensure American leadership in technologies of the future,” said Keith Krach, under secretary of state for economic growth, energy, and the environment.

Once built, Krach said, the factory will be the world’s most advanced five-nanometer chip fabrication facility.

The plant is also one part of a “5G national security trifecta,” because it means that “chips critical to our lives and national security will once again be made in America,” Krach said.

The other parts of the 5G national security trifecta, Krach explained, are the tightening of export rules for untrustworthy Chinese companies, such as Huawei Technologies Company, and the 5G Clean Path initiative.

Pompeo said building semiconductors in the United States “will increase U.S. economic independence, bolster our safety and competitiveness, and strengthen our leadership in high-tech manufacturing.”