TSMC to start work on Fab 15

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TSMC is to break ground on its third major 300mm (12in) fab in the middle of this year, the company said as it released slightly better than expected results for the first quarter of 2010. With the existing 300mm plants, Fab 12 and Fab 14, nearing their planned maximum capacity of 100 000 wafers per month, it’s time for a new one.

As it will take at least a year to build the shell, Fab 15 - which was originally earmarked for Tainan rather than its revised location of Taichung, roughly midway between TSMC HQ in Hsinchu and Tainan, before the chip market imploded in 2001 - will not play much of a role in TSMC’s production before 2012.

When it gets going, chairman and CEO Morris Chang, said Fab 15 will support capacity expansion for the 40nm process and will add 28nm before moving onto the 20nm technology and beyond.

In the meantime, TSMC is rushing to get more equipment into Fab 12 and Fab 14, pushing 300mm production up by 35 per cent by the end of the year. However, Chang said these fabs are nearing their planned maximum capacity of 100 000 wafers per month. The company plans to use the majority of its capital expenditure for 2010 in the first half of the year to ensure much of the extra capacity is in place by the end of 2010.

Older 200mm fabs are not to be left out of the expansion - Shanghai, in particular will see new equipment for the “more than Moore” programme the company adopted to keep its older fabs running.

TSMC saw a modest rise in sales from the fourth quarter of last year to the first quarter of 2010 rather than the expected post-Christmas dip.

CFO Lora Ho said: “Contrary to expectations, first quarter revenues and wafer shipments slightly increased.” The growth was driven by communications and consumer products, coupled with stronger demand on the recently introduced 40nm process, helped by improving yields.

Chang said yields on the 40nm are now as good or better than those encountered on the previous 65nm process at the same stage of its development. In the first quarter, the foundry sold $411m worth of wafers to customers made using the 40nm process – revenues from the 65nm process passed the $400m point two years ago.

“Combined revenue from 40nm and 65nm processes accounted for 41 per cent of total wafer sales,” said Ho.