The Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) is one of the world’s largest contract chip makers. It’s also one of the most advanced. TSMC competes with Samsung and Intel for the best processes. So it was bad news for consumers when it was discovered that a bad batch of chemicals has adversely affected TSMC yields, particularly to Nvidia and Huawei products.
TSMC announced that one batch of photoresist chemicals used in chip manufacturing was out of specification. This meant that the number of viable chips resulting from the use of these chemicals has dropped compared to the norm. To put it simply, it means that a larger number of chips from each (very expensive) silicon wafer are unusable due to flaws and imperfections.
The Nikkei Asian Review reports that only one production fab has been affected. However the fab supplies some rather large companies; Nvidia, Huawei and Mediatek. It’s unknown which products have suffered the drop in TSMC yields or how bad the drops are.
For its part, the company has not issued any statements pointing to a significant revenue or profit drop. But it hasn’t yet worked out the scale of the problem. It has confirmed that the good chips from the affected batches will still be shipped to customers, though some shipments might be delayed.
With no figures on the drop in yields or confirmation on which products have been affected, we might not see the effects of this issue until later on in the year. If the street value of Nvidia RTX graphics cards rise in the coming weeks and months, then it might be a sign of just how significant the issue was. Don’t take this as encouragement to rush out to the shops and just buy stuff. Last time we checked, Nvidia was having trouble moving its very expensive new graphics cards…