TSMC Can Control U.S. Plant Remotely From Taiwan With AI Help

Water tankers exit TSMC's fab in Taiwan as it navigated a historic drought and chip demand last year. Image: CNA

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The Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) extensively uses modern computing technologies such as artificial intelligence for manufacturing its semiconductors, outlined an executive yesterday. TSMC is the world's leading contract chip manufacturer as it is responsible for providing products to a variety of companies, including big ticket technology names.  The company's representatives were invited to the Taiwan Semiconductor Industry Association's annual conference, which took place virtually, and at the event, they shared insights into TSMC's operations and future expectations.

TSMC Now Relies On Artificial Intelligence To Control Its Chip Manufacturing Machines

According to an executive quoted by the United Daily News (UDN), TSMC extensively uses artificial intelligence to manage its semiconductor manufacturing facilities. He explained that the data generated by advanced semiconductor manufacturing has significantly increased alongside technological advances. According to the executive, from 40-nanometers (nm) to 5nm, the data produced has increased by 275 times, particularly due to the 7 billion different monthly production combinations which TSMC has to account for.

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Additionally, according to TSMC, artificial intelligence is playing a major role in modern day chipmaking. The fab has now started to rely on the technology to the effect that it does not need many engineers at its manufacturing plants. The executive outlined that TSMC has between 2,000 to 5,000 machines at every plant which produce thousands of products and dispatch orders daily.

Subsequently, the scope of operations is beyond what humans can control and therefore, TSMC now relies on artificial intelligence to manage its machines. Sharing his company's post-pandemic plans, he outlined that only equipment engineers needed to be present in the facilities during the pandemic, and others could oversee operations from Taiwan and even the U.S.

TSMC's Senior Vice President of operations, Mr. Y.P. Chin, revealed during an event earlier this year that TSMC has increased its capacity for EUV pellicles and the time duration that a mask can be used. Image: TSMC 2021 Online Technology Symposium/Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company

For the latest 5nm node, all production and machine adjustment is handled with artificial intelligence, and TSMC added that while 5nm and 7nm were crucial for AI, now AI is proving crucial for manufacturing them.

This layout can enable TSMC to control global facilities from its hometown Taiwan, including the new chip plant the company is building in Arizona.

Additionally, TSMC's chairman Dr. Mark Liu shared that he believed Taiwan's chip output would grow by 24.7% by the end of this year to cross at NT$4 trillion. This growth will be higher than the 20.9% rate achieved by the industry last year.

To account for the growth, he urged Taiwanese officials to plan for land, electricity and water supplies for the future. Taiwan was at the center of a major drought earlier this year, which saw TSMC shift its strategy to procure water through tankers. This shortage came as the global chip sector faced a historic shortage, with chipmakers adjusting their output to mitigate this.

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Dr. Liu also cautioned against trade tensions between the U.S. and China, arguing that they posed uncertainty for all industries, including semiconductors.

The sector is still navigating supply chain constraints, with companies such as Advanced Micro Devices, In (AMD) and NVIDIA Corporation struggling to ship an adequate amount of products to their customers. Most of the world's biggest technology firms rely on either TSMC or Samsung Group's chipmaking arm Samsung Electronics for their needs, and the growing demand for gadgets and computers continues to push chipmakers to their manufacturing limits.

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