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AMD, Nvidia GPUs at Risk as TSMC Halts Production Amid Chemical Contamination

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.

  • mspencerl87
    Glad i already got my Ryzen 5. Another shortage similar to the GPU shortage we had for 2 YEARS?
    Reply
  • spentshells
    I don't believe this news.not that it's being reported incorrectlybut rather this is a way for chip makers namely gpu to keep prices inflated as they are. These folks need to let go of the mining pricing, it's over they need to face that fact.
    Reply
  • mspencerl87
    21719939 said:
    I don't believe this news.not that it's being reported incorrectlybut rather this is a way for chip makers namely gpu to keep prices inflated as they are. These folks need to let go of the mining pricing, it's over they need to face that fact.

    Let it go Nvidia. Let it go.
    JUST BUY IT!
    Reply
  • thelazy_1
    Maybe the chemicals were the result of an experiment to radically induce the clock cycle.
    Reply
  • denan.hajrovic
    Dear Toms Hardware , I think you need to change that title of yours because it IMPLIES that amd Dgpu-s are at risk when they are not.
    Reply
  • blufgan
    Sounds kind of fishy especially Nvidia coming up short in their earnings and these wafers are "Contaminated" sounds like a good reason to recoup some lost revenue. Just MHO! No skin off my back bought a RTX 2080 and 2070 last month and have plenty of CPUs to keep me happy.
    Reply
  • InvalidError
    21719939 said:
    I don't believe this news.not that it's being reported incorrectly but rather this is a way for chip makers namely gpu to keep prices inflated as they are.
    TSMC doesn't care what GPU prices are, chip fab prices are based on how many wafers you want and how many deposition-resist-etch steps are required per wafer, doesn't matter what the wafer is for and those contract prices are usually agreed for several months to over a year beforehand. If TSMC makes 10k defective wafers due to an internal fab issue, that loss comes out of their pocket. TSMC would likely much prefer selling 10k extra wafers to Spreadtrum, MediaTek, Qualcomm and whoever else its other major clients might be or just not start them in the first place than scrap them - a blank wafer is worth over $1000, 10k partially processed wafers is well over 10M$ down the drain plus additional losses from downtime as the incident is being investigated, corrected and production gets restarted which can take a while depending on how much re-calibration will be required for restart.

    If Nvidia wants to jack up prices by lowering supply, Nvidia can simply cancel any non-committed wafer starts it may have, sell a chunk of their wafer commitment to someone else who wants to have their wafers earlier and ship fewer completed chips.

    Scrapping 10k wafers (plus production delays for everything else) just for the heck of it makes no sense.
    Reply
  • none12345
    "Glad i already got my Ryzen 5. Another shortage similar to the GPU shortage we had for 2 YEARS?"

    Ryzen(zen1/zen2 based chips, first and second gen, and all the apus) are produced at global foundries. So it wont affect ryzen at all.

    Polaris is also global foundries, 590s 580s 570s, etc, all of that wont be affected.

    zen2/gen 3 ryzen chips will be fabed at TSMC, but they are 7nm, and they said nothing about the 7nm fab being affected. It could be, but they didnt say anything yet.

    Same with 7nm vega, and navi(which i dont think is in production yet), shouldnt be affected. Unless this is a more widespread issue.

    -------------------

    Nvidia....16 nm TSMC is pascal. 12nm TSMC is turing. So, all of nvidia's productions are potentially affected.

    However....with an oversupply of pascal, and slow sales for turing.....this could be a blessing in disguise. If they are under contract to take wafers they dont need right now....it could be a good thing that some of them got destroyed.
    Reply
  • spentshells
    I wasn't serious, I was just in the mood for a conspiracy, but on the other hand. For a few dollars... Some people will say anything.
    Reply
  • alextheblue
    21720963 said:
    I wasn't serious, I was just in the mood for a conspiracy, but on the other hand. For a few dollars... Some people will say anything.
    Wouldn't a better conspiracy theory involve a competing fab? Samsung? Intel! They didn't want to be the only ones having shortages. They've got the motive, the money, and they've got agents everywhere. I mean, you don't see them pairing up 10nm chips with defective GPUs or KBL-G with Nvidia chips, do you? It's almost like... they knew this would happen.
    Reply