Taiwan Maker’s Semiconductor Plant: Build Up Production Base for Advanced Products

A global semiconductor manufacturer in Taiwan will build its second plant in Japan, following the first one in the country. The maker said it will also produce high-performance semiconductors. This move should steadily lead to the strengthening of the foundation of Japan’s semiconductor industry.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), the world’s top contract chipmaker, has announced that it will establish its second semiconductor plant in Kumamoto Prefecture.

TSMC has already begun construction on its first plant in Kikuyo in the prefecture, with the aim of starting mass production by the end of this year. The total investment for the two plants is said to exceed $20 billion (about ¥3 trillion).

The thinner a semiconductor chip’s circuit line width, the higher its performance. The second plant will likely produce chips with 6-nanometer to 7-nanometer line widths. (A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter.) The maker plans to produce a wide range of semiconductors with up to 40-nanometer line widths in both the first and second plants.

Japan has never had a plant capable of producing semiconductors with thinner than 40-nanometer line widths. Currently, the most advanced level that can be mass-produced in the world is a 3-nanometer circuit chip, thus it is significant that infrastructure will be built to manufacture semiconductors including advanced products.

Although semiconductors are an essential material for industrial products, there have been global shortages mainly due to the supply network disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. With the United States and China at odds and geopolitical risk on the rise, Japan, the United States and Europe have begun to rebuild their supply networks.

Securing semiconductors is an extremely important issue in terms of economic security.

Japan has strengths in the fields of semiconductor manufacturing equipment and materials. Companies in these fields have moved to the Kyushu region one after another. It is desirable to strengthen related industries as a whole by increasingly developing industrial clusters, fostering human resources and accumulating technologies.

Once dominating the world, Japan’s semiconductor industry has declined partly because domestic electronics manufacturers, which mainly develop home appliances, lagged behind in global competition, resulting in a decrease in demand for semiconductors.

In addition to inviting factories to this nation, Japanese manufacturers, who are buyers of semiconductors, need to create attractive new products.

In addition to Sony Group Corp. and Denso Corp., Toyota Motor Corp. has decided to invest in a TSMC subsidiary that will operate the plants. It is hoped that advanced semiconductors will be utilized in electric vehicles and autonomous driving technology to help raise the overall level of the Japanese manufacturing industry.

The government has prepared about ¥4 trillion in subsidies to support the semiconductor industry. In Hokkaido, construction has begun for a factory of Rapidus Corp., in which Toyota and NTT Corp. among others have invested as a public-private project with the aim of producing state-of-the-art semiconductors in Japan.

In addition to providing financial support to Rapidus, the government plans to provide substantial subsidies to TSMC’s two plants. As it invests a huge amount of money, verifying its effectiveness is also essential.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 19, 2024)