Apple’s central chip plant contaminated with gas


Production had to be stopped at Fab 18 in Taipei, where the “A15” chips are to be produced, among other things. Experts were called in.

Apple’s only chip manufacturer, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, Limited (TSMC), had problems in its most modern plant. Production at the so-called Fab 18 in Taipei had to be halted Friday night because of contamination with an unnamed gas, reports the Nikkei business daily published in Japan.

It is about “certain gases”

According to industry sources, Fab 18 is where the latest SoCs for iPhones and Macs are created, so probably the new “A15” in the upcoming “iPhone 13” and the successor to the M1 chip in Mac and iPad Pro (“M1X” or “M2”), among others. TSMC was tight-lipped about the incident to Nikkei. Employees were apparently not affected. It said only that “some TSMC production lines in South Taiwan Science Park” had received “certain gases from suppliers that are believed to be contaminated.” Therefore, these were “quickly replaced by other gas suppliers”.

“Stringent follow-up”

TSMC had to call back employees who had already been off work to deal with the incident “in order to bring the situation under control,” the statement added. Sources familiar with the situation said the contamination affected chip manufacturing “to a limited extent.” TSMC itself does not expect the incident to have “a significant impact on operations,” but the company is monitoring the situation. It will also ensure through “stringent follow-up” that there are no problems with production quality.

TSMC also wants to go abroad

The incident shows how sensitive Apple’s chip supply chain is. Production for all major devices here hangs on a single location – Taiwan. Thus, 100 million “A15” SoCs are apparently to be built here. TSMC is planning to locate chip production abroad, including in the US state of Arizona, in a few years, but Apple will remain dependent on Taiwan until that happens. Most recently, there were COVID-19 cases at TSMC in the spring in the vicinity of the fab, which led to the company being shut down so as not to jeopardize production.


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