Although TSMC has never formally introduced its post-N3 (post-3nm) fabrication process, sometimes called N2 (or 2nm), it has outlined rather aggressive plans for its 2nm wafer processing facilities that include two GigaFabs. The first 2nm-capable fab will be built in the Hsinchu Science Park, but it looks like the company may be re-evaluating plans for the second 2nm fab after facing water shortages earlier this year.
TSMC’s first fab capable of producing chips using its N2 manufacturing technology will be located at the company’s site near Baoshan, Hsinchu County, northern Taiwan. Last year the company built its new R1 R&D facility that will be used both for N3 and N2 nodes (according to media reports). There were no reports about a TSMC groundbreaking ceremony in the Hsinchu Science Park, but the company has announced that the fab will be built in four phases.
The foundry planned to build its second N2-capable fab in the Central Taiwan Science Park near Taichung. TSMC already has production facilities near Taichung. But central Taiwan is among the areas that suffered the most from the recent drought in Taiwan, which forced TSMC to supply water to its fabs using trucks.
In an attempt to ensure consistent water supply to its upcoming leading-edge fab, TSMC is reportedly evaluating a site near Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan, in the recently established Ciaotou Science & Industrial Park, reports Focus Taiwan citing local media.
In a statement sent to the press, TSMC reaffirmed its plan to build its second N2-capable GigaFab (a fab that features a capacity of at least 100,000 wafer starts per month) near Taichung in central Taiwan, but admitted that it had not yet acquired land for the facility. The company also added that it considered multiple factors before making its final decisions.
The main takeaway is that TSMC still plans two GigaFabs capable of processing wafers using its N2 fabrication technology.
In any case, TSMC’s N2 is still in pathfinding mode, and at its recent technology symposium, the world’s largest contract maker of semiconductors did not make any formal announcements about this node. Furthermore, keeping in mind that the company’s N3 is on track to hit volume production only in late 2022, and there will likely be various iterations of N3 in 2023 ~ 2024 time-frame, the company’s N2 fabrication process will only arrive in late 2024 or sometime in 2025.
After TSMC starts volume production using N2 at its initial fab in the Hsinchu Science Park several years from now, it will take some time for the company to fully ramp that four-phase facility. To that end, it is not going to need another N2-capable GigaFab until sometime in the second half of the decade. That said, TSMC has plenty of time to make its decision about the location of its second N2-capable chip plant.