Instead of building a fourth 12-inch (300mm) fab, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) might prefer to have its first 18-inch (450mm) production fab to be called "Fab 16" equipped for 20nm and below processes, according to Nobunaga Chai, analyst for semiconductor sat Digitimes Research. However, it all depends on whether fab tool suppliers are willing to devote their resources to supporting a limited number of players who can afford the costly investment necessary to build the next-generation facilities, said Chai.
The market has to be big enough to encourage them to produce equipment for 18-inch facilities, and ultimately begin shipping in volume, Chai continued. If Intel and Samsung Electronics make their 18-inch fab plans more practical, TSMC might have a chance to receive full support from its tool providers.
Around mid-2008, before the credit crunch, TSMC along with Intel and Samsung announced they had reached an agreement on the need for industry-wide collaboration to target a transition to larger, 450mm-sized wafers starting in 2012. Some believe that the target to begin the transition may have revised to a later year.
At an annual supply chain management forum held earlier in December, TSMC's presentation materials mentioned that construction on a new 12-inch fab called Fab 16 is scheduled to kick off in 2014. But the foundry has not yet announced plans for Fab 16.
A recent EETimes report quoted an executive at Intel as saying that the chip giant is building a new fab that will be 450mm compatible but could also support 300mm tools. To be known as D1X, the fab is slated for R&D startup in 2013.
TSMC now runs two 12-inch fabs, Fab 12 and Fab 14, where the foundry continues to expand advanced process capacity. Fab 15, which is under construction at the Central Taiwan Science Park (CTSP), will commence volume production in the first quarter of 2012.