Japanese semiconductor company Rapidus expects that the cost of its 2nm chips will be ten times that of standard chips currently made by other Japanese companies.
Rapidus CEO Junyoshi Koike said in an interview with Nikkei and Tokyo Economic News that Rapidus’ 2nm chips are crucial for Japan, as some will be used in high-performance computing applications that are critical to national security, while others will be used in innovative civilian applications such as self-driving cars and robots.
According to official plans, Rapidus’ factory in Wakkanai (Chitose), Hokkaido is scheduled to start trial production of 2nm chips in April 2025.
The factory is expected to start trial operation of water, electricity, gas and ventilation systems in September 2024 in preparation for the installation of production tools in December of the same year, and the large-scale production line is expected to be put into operation in early 2027.
Koike said Rapidus has recruited 100 semiconductor engineers by April 2023 and plans to double that number by the end of the year. The first engineers are currently being trained at IBM’s Albany NanoTech Complex. The company believes it will need 300 to 500 engineers to enter trial production in 2025.
The 2nm plant in Wakkanai is said to be divided into three or four phases, which the company calls an “Innovative Integrated Manufacturing” (IIM) unit. The IIM-1 unit will manufacture 2nm chips, while the IIM-2 will handle more advanced chip processes than 2nm.
Rapidus was established in August 2022 and was jointly funded by 8 Japanese companies including Toyota, Sony, NTT, NEC, Softbank, Denso Denso, Kioxia, and Mitsubishi UFJ Bank. It is estimated that Rapidus needs a budget of 5 trillion yen from R&D to mass production.
The Japanese government has agreed to subsidize the company for two years totaling $2 billion. However, other Japanese companies seem reluctant to invest in Rapidus. But because the company needs a lot of money, its CEO is considering raising more money through an initial public offering (IPO), but nothing has been announced yet.