Taiwan’s TSMC begins mass production of 3-nanometer chips

Taiwanese tech giant TSMC announced Thursday that it has begun mass production of its 3-nanometer chips, which are among the most advanced to hit the market.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company operates the world’s largest silicon wafer fabs, making high-performance chips used in smartphones, cars and rockets. It is also Apple’s main chip supplier.

Its 3 nm process chips are said to have more computing power with less power consumption and increase battery performance.

“Our 3nm technology will be used massively in future cutting-edge technological products, including supercomputers, cloud servers, high-speed internet and many, many mobile devices,” Chairman Mark Liu said at a ceremony announcing mass production at a plant in the southwestern city of Tainan.

He added that the company plans to build even smaller 2nm devices in the Taiwanese cities of Hsinchu and Taichung.

TSMC’s South Korean rival Samsung began mass-producing its 3nm chips in June. Taiwan plays a paramount role in the global chip industry.

TSMC alone accounts for almost 50 percent of the global production of chips below 10 nm.

The concentration of such a crucial industry in one place has begun to cause geopolitical jitters, particularly as China increasingly threatens Taiwan, a self-governing democracy that the Chinese Communist Party claims and will one day take.

The global chip shortage during the coronavirus pandemic compounded these concerns.

TSMC has been pushed by Western powers to build more foundries overseas, which they have agreed to do.

The company is building a massive $40 billion plant in Arizona that will eventually produce its own 4nm and 3nm chips, part of a US effort to ensure a stable supply of semiconductors on its soil.

President Joe Biden attended a ceremony earlier this month to announce a mammoth expansion of the Arizona plant, which represents one of the largest foreign investments in the United States.

TSMC has also agreed to set up foundries in Japan and is reviewing Germany as a possible location.

At the same time, Taiwan’s tech companies and government are keen to ensure that the bulk of cutting-edge manufacturing stays at home, partly because the island’s industry offers some protection.

Any invasion or blockade of Taiwan by China would be disastrous for the global economy because so many important semiconductors are made there – a buffer analysts call Taiwan’s “Silicon Shield.”

President Tsai Ing-wen has downplayed concerns that Taiwan risks losing that protective shield — and jobs — by building foundries abroad, and has instead portrayed the investments as a sign of the island’s technological prowess.

“TSMC Founder Morris Chang has repeatedly said that Taiwan remains the best place for TSMC to invest because of Taiwan’s rich ecosystem and excellent workforce,” Tsai said earlier this week. “He said we don’t have to worry about Taiwan’s chip industry.”

© 2022 AFP

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