TSMC’s Leading-Edge Chip Plant Suffers 90% Voltage Drop – Production Unaffected Says Firm

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The Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company's (TSMC) chip making facilities in Taiwan's Nan-ke city were at the center of a major voltage drop earlier today in the evening time Taiwan. The facility, officially dubbed 18A, is responsible for manufacturing semiconductor on some of TSMC's most advanced chip technologies, and soon after the drop, the company was quick to clarify that production had not stopped. TSMC's response came as the industry began to speculate on the impacts of a power outage and some quarters feared that TSMC's production of wafers on the advanced process nodes might have stopped. Such unplanned stoppages can cause fabrication companies losses to the tune of millions of dollars as the chip wafers under processing have to be wasted.

Backup Power Saves The Day For TSMC's Advanced Chip Plant

Reports of a power outage at TSMC's Nan-ke facilities started making rounds in Taiwan's chipmaking industry in the evening local time and they were picked up by the United Daily News. In its brief average of the event, the publication described that the voltage drop was one f the mere severe ones that TSMC has had to face recently, as the voltage dropped by a painful 90% at the chipmaking facility.

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Consequently, industry sources began to speculate whether chip production had stopped due to the low voltage. Had this happened, then TSMC would have had to scrap the wafers that were under processing at the time of the power outage since the chip manufacturing process consists of several complex stages which have to be performed in succession and without interruption.

TSMC has backup power at all its facilities due to these exacting requirements, and the company was quick to clarify that these had come to its aid and enabled it to continue its operations despite the accident.

Reuters/Ann Wang

Power supply has been a consistent thorny point between TSMC and Taiwan's government as the former requires consistent, uninterrupted supplies and the latter has to deal with expanding its power generation capacities and strike a balance between industrial and consumer usage.

TSMC is also investing heavily in renewable energy, and the company has plans to raise more than a billion U.S. dollars in debt to fund these efforts. As chip-making technology progresses, and circuit size becomes smaller, their manufacturing becomes more energy intensive since high-powered machines are required to precisely print the designs on silicon.

The 18A fabrication facility which saw its voltage drop earlier today is responsible for manufacturing semiconductors on TSMC's most advanced processes. These are the N5 and N4 process technology nodes, and these chips are used by only a few companies in the world, such as the Cupertino, California consumer electronics giant Apple, Inc

Power consumption for TSMC's planned facilities is also a crucial topic that sees the company submit detailed usage estimates to city governments in the areas where it plans to build the new plants.

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While the fab is currently accelerating to produce chips on the 3nm node, it is already planning its facilities for 3nm's successor. Unofficially dubbed the 2nm process, this will be produced in Hsinchu, Taiwan and TSMC is also planning a second 2nm facility. Reports for the latter, submitted to the Taichung city officials late last year revealed that the plant will consume billions of kilowatts hours of electricity in a year. TSMC also signed a deal for 1.2 GW wind power generation in December last year, with the deal the largest of its kind in Asia.

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