The big picture: The Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) factory project in Arizona has become more apparent in recent weeks. The company intends to move some of its most advanced node processing to the United States, much of it for Apple’s iPhones. The company will announce an upgrade of its plans shortly.
According to Bloomberg sources, TSMC will begin manufacturing in Arizona in 2024 on a 4nm process. The decision marks an upgrade from the 5nm wafers the company previously intended to manufacture there.
The silicon manufacturer’s largest customer – Apple – is said to have persuaded the chipmaker to make the decision. The Cupertino-based tech titan usually gets the first share of TSMC’s semiconductors for products like the iPhone. The iPhone 14 runs on the Taiwanese manufacturer’s 4nm silicon. The iPhone 15 – which is expected to launch in late 2023 – will use a 3nm process, which TSMC will also make at its Arizona site sometime after the 4nm factory launches in 2024, according to the US.
Apple and TSMC confirmed initial plans for the factories last month, but have not officially announced 4nm manufacturing plans for Arizona. The fab could also increase its capacity from the previously planned 20,000 wafers per month. Sources expect TSMC will officially announce the new roadmap when US President Joe Biden and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo attend a Phoenix ceremony next Tuesday.
The developments fit with US plans to reduce chip reliance on imports from China and Taiwan. Most of the world’s semiconductors come from Taiwan’s TSMC factories, but China’s threats to annex and potentially invade the country have recently intensified.
Meanwhile, industry sources indicate that TMSC’s biggest competitor, Samsung, will manufacture 3nm chips for several hardware companies. After Samsung started 3nm manufacturing in June, it will be the silicon for Nvidia’s future graphics cards (after the RTX 4000 series), IBM’s upcoming CPUs, Qualcomm’s Arm smartphone chips, and the cloud -Supply Baidu data centers.
However, TSMC will still be the largest provider of 3nm technology and could suffer price increases from the node process. Recent reports indicate that TSMC will sell 3nm wafers at a unit price of $20,000 versus $16,000 per wafer for 5nm wafers.
The price increases are mainly due to the rising cost of manufacturing tooling – another sign of the current situation in the global supply chain and the changing nature of Moore’s Law. These factors, combined with iPhone chips made by high-paid American workers, could increase future iPhone prices.