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TSMC’s cutting-edge fab is hit by 90% voltage drop; Apple, Qualcomm, Mediatek end up unscathed

TSMC, the world’s top independent semiconductor foundry, has run into an issue that affected its factory known as 18A which churns out chips based on the company’s most cutting-edge technology. The fab, located in Taiwan’s Nan-ke city, suffered a drop in voltage of as much as 90%. There was speculation that the outage might force TSMC to temporarily stop production of wafers using its most advanced process nodes at 4nm and 5nm.
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.
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.


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.

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.


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