Technology, Top News

AMD, Nvidia GPUs at risk as chemical calamity borks thousands of TSMC chips

BOTH NVIDIA AND AMD are riding high on new graphics card hype, but semiconductor manufacturer TSMC almost inadvertently shanked them in the back as it’s had to can a load of chips due to chemical contamination.

According to Taiwanese news site ETtoday, TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) had its chip making borked after receiving imported chemicals that weren’t as pure as they should be for semiconductor manufacturing, leading to chip wafers getting contaminated and rendered unusable.

“TSMC has discovered a shipment of chemical material used in the manufacturing process that deviated from the specification and will impact wafer yield,” the company said, according to a statement obtained by Nikkei Asian Review.

Some reports suggested that TSMC has been forced to halt its chip making, which included manufacturing semiconductors based on the 16 nanometre and 14nm process nodes, which are used by the likes of Nvidia and MediaTek in their GPUs, and by AMD in its accelerated processing units (APUs) for the Xbox One X and the PlayStation 4.

But a TSMC told the INQUIRER that wasn’t the case: “On January 19, TSMC discovered yield problems in 12/16 nanometer production at its Fab 14B facility. After investigation, TSMC found that the issue was caused by a shipment of photoresist material. This shipment was provided by a vendor with many years of experience and a good track record in supplying to TSMC. However, it shipped a batch of material that is significantly below the quality of its previous shipments.

“We immediately stopped using this batch of material and notified all affected customers.

“Since the discovery of the problem, we have communicated closely with all affected customers on the details of replacement and delivery schedules.

“Given our current capacity utilization rate for 12/16 nanometer technology, we expect that most of the affected wafers can be made up in the first quarter of 2019, and any remainder can be made up in the second quarter.” 

It’s worth noting that AMD’s new 7nm-based Radeon VII won’t be affected, which could give Team Red some scope to nip at the heels of Nvidia if its supplies of the latest Turing-based graphics cards dry up.

Some 10,000 wafers were affected by the contamination, according to ETtoday but the full impact of such damage is yet to be made clear.

But TSMC looks to have shrugged off the damage a tad and will make up for any lost ground the chemical conundrum may have caused. 

Such disruptions in chip manufacturing are a noteworthy concern as they could have the knock-on effect of leaving OEMs short of chips on which to create their takes on say Nvidia graphics cards, which could, in turn, lead to a shortage of some graphics cards in the market.

So far everything looks to be ok though, which probably means there won’t be a shortage of new graphics cards in the PC market across 2019, but for a moment TSMC had us worried. µ

Further reading

Source : Inquirer

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