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Old 04-03-2024, 01:34 PM   #1
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Default How Taiwan earthquake puts world’s most advanced chips at risk Updated

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How Taiwan earthquake puts world’s most advanced chips at risk
Updated

TAIPEI - Taiwan’s biggest earthquake in 25 years has disrupted production at the island’s semiconductor companies, raising the possibility of fallout for the technology industry and perhaps the global economy. The potential repercussions are significant because of the critical role Taiwan plays in the manufacture of advanced chips, the foundation of technologies from artificial intelligence (AI) and smartphones to electric vehicles.


What happened in Taiwan?

The 7.4-magnitude earthquake led to the collapse of dozens of buildings, at least nine deaths and injured more than 900 people across Taiwan, with much of the fallout still unknown. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), the world’s largest maker of advanced chips for customers like Apple and Nvidia, halted some chipmaking machinery and evacuated staff. Local rival United Microelectronics Corp also stopped machinery at some plants and evacuated certain facilities at its hubs in Hsinchu and Tainan.


Why is that important for tech?

Taiwan is the world’s leading producer of the most advanced semiconductors, including the processors at the heart of the latest iPhones and the Nvidia graphics chips that train AI models like OpenAI’s ChatGPT. TSMC has become the tech linchpin because it is the most advanced in producing complex chips. Taiwan is the source of an estimated 80 per cent to 90 per cent of the highest-end chips – there is effectively no substitute. Mr Jan-Peter Kleinhans, director of the technology and geopolitics project at Berlin-based think-tank Stiftung Neue Verantwortung, has called Taiwan “potentially the most critical single point of failure” in the semiconductor industry.


What are the implications for AI?

AI is the hottest sector in tech at the moment, and leaders from OpenAI’s Sam Altman to Nvidia’s Jensen Huang have warned about shortages in the chips needed for training new AI services. All of Nvidia’s AI orders now go to TSMC so even brief disruptions to the company’s high-end output is likely to have repercussions. A lot will depend on which plants the company has evacuated and how quickly it can resume normal operations. Any impact on Taiwan’s logistics and power infrastructure would also affect deliveries of the latest chips. TSMC and other chipmakers have not yet detailed what the quake’s impact will be.


Why is production so concentrated?

Making chips is extremely complicated and, for decades, TSMC opted to concentrate its fabrication facilities on the island, so engineers could work together to fine-tune machines and share their expertise. The company was so successful that it raced ahead of rivals such as Intel and Samsung Electronics. Yet, with rising national security concerns and Covid-19 supply chain disruptions, governments in the United States, Europe and Japan urged TSMC to diversify geographically. As a result, TSMC is now building chip plants in Japan and the US, but those production lines will not be for the most advanced chips.


Is Taiwan vulnerable to disruption?

Taiwan is prone to earthquakes because it is near the convergence of two tectonic plates. It is also a political flashpoint. Beijing considers Taiwan as its territory to eventually be reunified. The island of about 23.5 million people is among Asia’s most vibrant democracies and voters this year backed a candidate from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party who ran on maintaining the status quo. The Biden administration has also warned Beijing about trying to take control of Taiwan by force.
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Old 04-03-2024, 05:27 PM   #2
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Thoughts go out to the Taiwanese people.

The new TSMC and other Fabs around the globe can't go online fast enough. Such a major single point of failure.
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Old 04-03-2024, 05:45 PM   #3
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Aaaaaand here comes MORE inflation...
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Old 04-03-2024, 06:31 PM   #4
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Aaaaaand here comes MORE inflation...
Those market adjustment fees are so hot right now
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Old 04-04-2024, 11:36 AM   #5
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Those market adjustment fees are so hot right now
fees like that are so damn annoying.

I just reserved airport parking the other day, and there was a "living wage" surcharge that they state is because of an increased minimum wage. Just charge more for the damn reservation, don't tag on some bull***** fee because they raised the minimum wage. All so they could advertise a lower price. Should be illegal. I reserved elsewhere that did not have that fee.
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Old 04-04-2024, 01:16 PM   #6
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...and yet no mention that there was no damage at TSMC. TSMC is nearly quake-proof.

This comes up every time there is a major catastrophe like it's a new concept. Customers pound their chests, ask what mitigation plans that we have, and then scream that they want additional sources. However, when the bill comes...everything goes quiet. Been there, done that.

You want inflation? Think about what it would cost to build a TSMC twin elsewhere in the world that runs at partial capacity all of the time? An under-utilized fab is ridiculously expensive.
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Old 04-09-2024, 08:00 PM   #7
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...and yet no mention that there was no damage at TSMC. TSMC is nearly quake-proof.

This comes up every time there is a major catastrophe like it's a new concept. Customers pound their chests, ask what mitigation plans that we have, and then scream that they want additional sources. However, when the bill comes...everything goes quiet. Been there, done that.

You want inflation? Think about what it would cost to build a TSMC twin elsewhere in the world that runs at partial capacity all of the time? An under-utilized fab is ridiculously expensive.
We live in Hsinchu (my wife is on an ex-pat assignment supporting TSMC). You could barely tell our 10th floor apartment went through an earthquake - a few of my kid's toys fell over, that was about it. We suspect our building has earthquake mitigation, which TSMC has of course.

The news shows the same building falling over in every report - for a 25-year event it was not a big deal and will have no effect on TSMC.

You're right about the US TSMC fab, it's a joke, it's just a political action forced on TSMC. Cost estimates are running at 4X per chip compared to Taiwan fabs.

TSMC is willingly building a fab in Japan, that makes much more sense, since the cost of labor is cheaper than Taiwan.
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