A chemical contamination at semiconductor maker TSMC’s Fab 14 B has resulted in the creation of at least 10,000 defective wafers, Taiwanese news site ETtoday reported today. TSMC has ceased production in response, which will allow it to investigate the extent of the problem, but it could also lead to significant delays for the company's many customers.
Many enthusiasts are probably familiar with TSMC and understand the ripple effect this problem could have. For others, here's the gist: semiconductors are made of wafers, so if there isn't a steady supply of wafers, there isn't a steady supply of semiconductors. One thing leads to another and suddenly the graphics card, game console, or other product you wanted to buy jumps in price and/or is in short supply.
The issue is said to affect TSMC's wafers for 12nm and 16nm products. Nvidia relies on those wafers for its Turing and Pascal architectures. AMD uses them too, for chips in the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One X. Other customers include Huawei, Mediatek and other tech industry bigwigs. 7nm products like the upcoming Radeon VII shouldn’t be affected.
Companies already struggle to get enough wafers to make their products. A defective batch and the production delay it causes just exacerbates the issue. It might not be a complete disaster—that depends on the extent of whatever caused the delay—but it's going to be a problem no matter what.
ETtoday reported that 10,000 wafers are known to be affected by the contamination. TSMC hasn't said anything about the issue on its site, but ETtoday said the company confirmed its reporting. Fab 14 as a whole is said to make 100,000 wafers each month; it’s not clear how much of that production comes from Fab 14 B.
If TSMC can identify and fix the problem quickly, even assuming the 10,000 wafers have to be scrapped entirely, that means it's three days behind.