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Apple chips likely to be made in the US, in the 2nd TSMC Arizona plant


Update: TSMC has now confirmed the earlier report; Reuters reports a statement by the company’s founder, added at the bottom of the piece.

It’s looking increasingly likely that some future Apple chips will be made in the US, following a new report about A-series and M-series chipmaker TSMC.

The report says that TSMC plans to build a second plant in Arizona, and that this one will use the company’s most advanced tech…

Background

The Taiwanese Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) announced back in 2020 that it would be building a $12B chipmaking plant in Arizona. Construction of the main chip facility was completed in August, with production scheduled to begin in 2024.

It has so far been unclear whether the plant would make Apple chips. Apple helped lobby for subsidies for the plant, suggesting that this was indeed the plan, while TSMC’s limited statements indicated that the fab would be for 5nm chips. This would put it out of the running for future Apple chips, as the company is expected to switch to a 3nm process a year before the plant becomes operational.

Subsequent reports have suggested that the first plant will be upgraded to 4nm, but this would still leave it unable to make the Apple chips expected in 2023 and beyond.

Apple chips likely to be made at the second plant

A report last year suggested that TSMC was actually planning to build multiple plants in Arizona, not just one, and a new report today says that a second one will be announced in the coming months.

The WSJ reports:

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the world’s largest contract chip maker, is preparing another multibillion-dollar factory investment in Arizona, people familiar with the plans said.

TSMC plans in the coming months to announce that it will build a cutting-edge semiconductor plant north of Phoenix.

TSMC has not directly confirmed the report but did say that construction was underway on a building that would “potentially” serve as a second fab.

The report specifically says that the new plant would use the latest 3nm technology.

TSMC’s new facility would manufacture so-called 3-nanometer transistors, some of the tiniest and most lightning-fast currently possible, the people said.

The long lead times on new plants mean that Apple and TSMC may well have moved onto 2nm processes by the time the plant opens, but the fact that it is gearing up for the most advanced current tech does suggest that the plan is to have Arizona keep up to date with the latest chip development.

Given the uncertain political future of Taiwan, and the PR points Apple would win for US chip production, the idea of ​​future Apple chips being made in Arizona seems more likely than not.

3nm Apple chips expected from next year

TSMC began pilot production of 3nm chips at the end of 2021, and is expected to enter volume production sometime this quarter.

An August report said that, unsurprisingly, Apple would be the first TSMC customer for 3nm chips.

The report suggests Apple’s M2 Pro chip will be the first product to feature this 3nm technology and will be available in the second half of this year. After introducing the M2 chip with the 13-inch MacBook Pro and redesigned MacBook Air earlier this year, the company is expected to unveil new variants of this processor with a new M2 Pro, M2 Max, and even M2 Extreme variants.

The M2 chip is expected to be the first to be upgraded to 3nm, in the form of M2 Pro and M2 Max variants for the upcoming MacBook Pro models. An all-new Mac Pro is expected to get an M2 Extreme chip, with a 48-core CPU and 160-core GPU.

It’s anticipated that the iPhone will follow, with the 3nm process used for the A17 chip in the iPhone 15.

Update: TSMC confirms 3nm plans

Reuters reports that the company has now confirmed the plans, but says that these are not yet finalized.

Taiwanese chipmaker TSMC is planning to produce chips with advanced 3-nanometer technology at its new factory in the US state of Arizona, but the plans are not completely finalized yet, the company’s founder Morris Chang said on Monday.

“Three-nanometer, TSMC right now has a plan, but it has not been completely finalized,” said Chang […] “It has almost been finalized – in the same Arizona site, phase two. Five-nanometer is phase one, 3-nanometer is phase two.”

As noted above, this does not necessarily mean that the company will make A-series and M-series chips in the US, as its Arizona plants would still lag behind those in its home country of Taiwan. One recent report suggested that less cutting-edge chips for Apple devices could be made in these plants, but that this would be mostly for PR purposes.

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Naveen Kumar

Friendly communicator. Music maven. Explorer. Pop culture trailblazer. Social media practitioner.

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