TSMC To Build Second Japan Chip Factory, Raising Investment To $20 Billion

Taiwanese chipmaker TSMC announced plans to build a second chip factory in Japan by the end of 2027, bringing total investment in its Japan venture to more than $20 billion. “Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co announced plans in 2021 to build a $7 billion chip plant in Kumamoto in southern Japan’s Kyushu,” notes Reuters. From the report: In a statement, TSMC, the world’s largest contract chipmaker, said its majority-owned unit Japan Advanced Semiconductor Manufacturing in Kumamoto would build a second fabrication plant, or fab, in response to rising customer demand. The second fab will begin construction by the end of this year and with both factories the site is expected to have total monthly capacity of more than 100,000 12-inch wafers to be used for automotive, industrial, consumer and high performance computing-related applications, TSMC said. The capacity plan may be further adjusted based upon customer demand, it added.

TSMC’s expansion in Kyushu is central to the Japanese government’s efforts to rebuild the country’s position as a leading chip manufacturing centre and ensure the stable supply of chips amid trade tensions between the United States and China. The decision to build a second fab is a vote of confidence by TSMC in Japan where construction of the first fab has run smoothly and which, Reuters has reported, it sees as a source of diligent workers with a government that is easy to deal with.

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Japan Seeks Power To Turn Down Private Home Air Conditioners Remotely, Report Says

Japan Today reports: As reported by Japan’s Nihon Keizai Shimbun, in a meeting on Nov 2, the Energy Conservation Subcommittee of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry resolved to begin working group discussions with the aim of gaining the ability to remotely turn down privately owned air conditioner/heater units. The goal would be to decrease energy usage during expected power shortages, which the committee feels are a growing concern as Japan attempts to shift towards renewable energy sources such as solar power, where the amount generated can be affected by day-to-day climate, making it difficult to stabilize the amount of total power available. The ministry says that AC unit usage accounts for roughly 30 percent of household electricity consumption in Japan.

From a technical standpoint, the plan wouldn’t be particularly difficult to implement. Japanese air conditioner units have long had remote controls, so external inputs aren’t a problem, and many models now allow the owner to turn the system on and off or adjust temperature settings through the internet. By asking manufacturers to extend such access to government regulatory organizations, and granting those organizations override functions over other inputs, the plan could easily be put into practice for internet-connected AC units, and water heaters are another home appliance the committee is looking to gain the ability to throttle back. […] According to Nihon Keizai Shimbun, the committee is currently working under the concept that the government would only be able to turn down AC units if their individual owners have agreed, in advance, to grant that authority.

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Canon Is Building Its First Lithography Plant In 21 Years

Canon is about to begin constructing a new $345 million plant to build the equipment used in a crucial part of semiconductor manufacturing called lithography. PetaPixel reports: Lithography is the first step in building chips for everything from microwave ovens to defense systems. The machines involved in this process require incredibly precise steps and equally precise accuracy. It is part of what most people think of when they envision the large white clean rooms in processor manufacturing. According to Nikkei Asia, which covers the industry and economics of Japan, Canon is expected to invest more than $354 million in this new plant in the Tochigi prefecture, a sum covering the facility’s construction and the equipment to produce these lithographic machines.

The company currently operates two other plants in Japan, mainly for the production of chips for the automotive industry, and anticipates that this new facility will double the production capacity. According to Nikkei Asia, sales of semiconductor lithography equipment are “expected to rise 29%, year on year, in 2022 to 180 units, a fourfold increase versus ten years ago.” Currently, Canon produces 30% of the world’s lithography equipment, which is about half of the closest competitor, ASML. Intel and Taiwan Semiconductor have said they will expand their operations as well.

Nikkei Asia also notes that Canon will “develop next-generation technology called nanoimprint lithography” due to the high cost and high energy consumption of current equipment, and nanoimprint lithography will handle “finer line widths,” which means more capacity and reduced processing time per chip. Canon is reported to expect 40% lower costs for the new process, as well as a reduction in power consumption by 90%. The new plant is expected to come online in 2025 and will be built adjacent to an existing plant. Canon has not created a new lithography plant in 21 years.

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Japan To Allow Visa-Free Travel After 2 1/2 Years of Mostly Closed Borders

Japan will allow visa-free, independent tourism and abolish a daily arrival cap as of Oct. 11, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Thursday, marking a major policy shift after nearly 2 1/2 years of strict COVID-19 restrictions. The government will also launch a nationwide travel discount program, which had been shelved due to the spread of COVID-19 infections. The Japan Times reports: Kishida made the long-awaited announcement during his visit to New York for the U.N. General Assembly. “I hope many people will utilize it,” Kishida said at a news conference. “I want to support the travel, entertainment and other industries that have been struggling during the coronavirus pandemic.” Japan has been allowing tourists since June, starting with people on guided tours. On Sept. 7, the government allowed those on nonguided tours who had booked their flights and hotels through registered travel agencies. But those measures have been unpopular with many foreign tourists who want greater freedom during their trips.

Tourists will need to be vaccinated three times or submit a negative COVID-19 test result ahead of their trip, Kyodo News reported, citing government sources. A nationwide domestic travel program offering discounts for travel, entry to theme parks, and for sporting events and concerts is also set to start on Oct. 11. People who have been vaccinated three times or submit a negative test result will be eligible for the discounts, according to the report. The program offers financial assistance of up to $77 per person for a one-night stay. The moves will be welcomed by the nation’s tourism sector, which has been hit hard by the pandemic. “In 2019, a record 31.88 million foreign travelers visited Japan, but the figure plummeted to about 250,000 in 2021 due to the closed borders,” notes the report. “The daily arrival cap has been raised gradually over the past six months, first to 5,000 on March 1 and eventually to the current 50,000.”

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Yahoo Tells Japan Employees They Can Work Anywhere, Commute By Plane When Necessary

Yahoo Japan is telling its 8,000 employees they can work anywhere in the country — and even be flown into work when the job requires it — bucking the trend of companies looking to return workers to offices in the third year of the coronavirus pandemic. The Japan Times reports: The program takes effect April 1 and allows employees to commute by plane, which wasn’t previously an option, the company said in a statement Wednesday. While Yahoo is best known for its internet portal in Japan, it’s a unit of SoftBank Group’s Z Holdings, which also owns the Line messaging app and PayPay mobile payments service. Ninety percent of the company’s employees are now working remotely, according to President Kentaro Kawabe, who tweeted that an overwhelming majority of them said their performance has held steady or improved at home. “So we’re allowing Yahoo employees to live anywhere in Japan. This doesn’t mean we’re denying the benefits of the office — you’ll be able to fly in when needed,” he added.

Yahoo is setting a commuting budget of $1,300 per month per worker and lifting its previous daily cap. In-person communication will still be encouraged as the initiative is also aimed at bolstering morale and well-being, with social gatherings to be subsidized by [$44] per employee a month. The company has had an “office anywhere” remote work system in place since 2014, however it had capped the number of work-from-home days before the virus took hold to five days a month.

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