Building fabs in Arizona ‘old dream revived’: Morris Chang

Morris Chang (???), founder of the world's biggest chipmaker Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.(TSMC), said in the United States Tuesday that establishing chip plants in Arizona is a dream -- he first had 25 years ago -- revived.

"When I started TSMC back in 1987 (in Taiwan), I had a dream," Chang told the tool-in ceremony at the company's Arizona semiconductor factory Tuesday, attended by U.S. President Joe Biden and a large delegation of top chip and tech industry CEOs, including Apple CEO Tim Cook and AMD CEO Lisa Su (???).

"Partly because of my background, my dream was to build fabs in the United States," said Chang, who was educated and worked in the U.S. for decades from 1949 when he left China to 1985 when he was recruited by the Republic of China government to lead the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) based in Hsinchu.

On the eve of Tuesday's ceremony, TSMC announced it would increase its planned US$12 billion complex in Arizona to US$40 billion to build a 4-nanometer fab, instead of using the 5nm process as previously decided, scheduled to begin production in 2024 and a 3-nm fab expected to open in 2026. No explanation was given for the change in the investment plan.

The Arizona project is TSMC's first advanced chip plant in the U.S., 25 years after the company built WaferTech, its first fab in the U.S. in Camas, Washington, outside Portland, Oregon, in 1996, which Chang said was a dream fulfilled that became a "nightmare."

The WaferTech plant ran into many problems ranging from costs, personnel, and culture. It took several years to untangle from the nightmare and it was decided to postpone the dream, according to Chang.

Over the past 27 years, the semiconductor industry has witnessed a big geopolitical change in the world, said the 91-year-old Chang.

Because of the changing political situation and with the help of the U.S. government, "the new dream, [is] actually the old dream revived," Chang said.

"Not only that, we did learn from our experience earlier and we are far more prepared now," Chang said, adding that the dream that he had 25 years ago was now fulfilled by Mark Liu (???), who succeeded Chang as TSMC chairman in 2018.

However, speaking on the Brookings Institution's podcast in April, Chang expressed a different point of view, noting that the Arizona investment by TSMC was made at the insistence of the U.S. government.

Chang expressed skepticism about Washington's push to boost domestic semiconductor manufacturing in response to concerns that Taiwan may not be safe as a war between China and Taiwan could erupt in the Taiwan Strait and disrupt chip supplies, saying that if there was no war, then this would be a wasteful and expensive exercise in futility.

In his speech delivered at the ceremony, President Biden thanked everyone at TSMC, Chang and Liu for fulfilling the company's commitment to the Arizona project.

Biden recalled that Chang's wife Sophie Chang (???) worked in his campaign office when he first ran for the U.S. Senate. He was first elected to the Senate in 1972 from Delaware.

"I tell you, believe it or not, Sophie worked in my first senatorial campaign when I ran for the Senate. True story. So I owe an awful lot to this company," Biden said.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel