AppleQualcomm and Mediatek escape unscathed despite 90 percent voltage drop at TSMC state-of-the-art factory

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The lower the process node, the higher the number of transistors that can fit into a chip. And that is important because the higher a chip’s transistor count, the more powerful and energy-efficient that chip is. Had the power completely stopped and not returned, processing on the wafers could have halted and a whole day’s worth of wafers would have had to be tossed leading to millions of dollars in losses.

The leading independent semiconductor foundry in the world, TSMC, has encountered a problem that has hampered its plant, 18A, which produces chips using the most advanced technology available. The voltage at the fab, which is in Taiwan’s Nan-ke city, dropped by as much as 90%. There were rumours that the disruption would require TSMC to temporarily halt wafer production at its most cutting-edge process nodes, 4nm and 5nm.

Highlights

  • TSMC corporate headquarters – TSMC’s cutting-edge fab is hit by 90% voltage drop; Apple, Qualcomm, Mediatek end up unscathed. The advanced chips that are produced in 18A using the 4nm and 5nm process nodes are shipped to some of the most well-known and important names in mobile technology such as Apple, Qualcomm, and Mediatek.

  • When producing chips, the process requires individual complex tasks to be handled one after the other without delay. The voltage drop could have made this impossible if not for the fab’s backup system which took over as soon as the voltage drop was detected. TSMC and Taiwan’s government have been at each other’s throats over the foundry’s demands for uninterrupted power leaving Taiwan with a choice to make between supplying more power to TSMC and other companies or generating more power for consumers.

Samsung this past week beat TSMC to the draw and started shipping 3nm chips (for cryptocurrency miners). Later this year, TSMC will also start delivering 3nm integrated circuits and it has already started to plan the facilities in Hsinchu, Taiwan that will churn out 2nm chipsets starting in 2026. The facility will use billions of kilowatts hours of electricity in a year, some of which will be generated by wind power. The reports of the voltage drop were first published by China’s United Daily News (via wccftech).

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