TSMC delays chip production at Arizona plant

2023-07-21 11:38:45China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) — the world's largest chipmaker — will delay mass production of chips at its new Arizona-based chip plant until 2025 due to a shortage of skilled labor, the company's chairman said Thursday.

TSMC Chairman Mark Liu told analysts on an earnings call Thursday that the company doesn't have enough skilled workers to install advanced equipment at the facility on its initial timeline. Liu said the company is working to bring trained technicians from Taiwan to train local workers to help accelerate installation.

The company had anticipated that it would begin making 5-nanometer chips in 2024. While TSMC has revised its estimate for when the Arizona plant will mass-produce 4-nanometer processors, the company is already making 3-nanometer ones that are expected to be in the iPhone 15 Pro and M3 Macs.

TSMC began work on a first factory in Arizona in 2021. Since then, the plant has seen safety concerns, complaints from TSMC about U.S. taxation and a claim that U.S. staff don't work hard enough.

"We are encountering certain challenges, as there is an insufficient number of skilled workers with the specialized expertise required for equipment installation in a semiconductor-grade facility," said TSMC chair Mark Liu. "Consequently, we expect the production schedule of N4 [4-nanometer] process technology to be pushed out to 2025," continued Liu.

The company posted a second-quarter profit plunge Thursday as demand for consumer electronics continues to slump.

The pandemic highlighted the significant dependence the U.S. has on Asia, like Taiwan to develop computer chips, which the U.S. said creates a national security risk and gives the U.S. less control over the supply chain.

The U.S. is making a major push to bring semiconductor manufacturing back stateside, including through funding the multi-billion-dollar CHIPS and Science Act.

But companies like TSMC and Samsung have said it is challenging to operate chip factories in the U.S. because it's difficult to secure sufficient technical talent in the U.S.. Chip manufacturing requires highly skilled workers who can't be trained in a short period of time.

According to a report from Deloitte, the U.S. semiconductor industry could face a shortage of about 70,000 to 90,000 workers over the next few years.

The U.S. current "schooling and training is up to snuff at scale", said Penny Pritzker, former U.S. secretary of commerce, during the Aspen Security Forum on Wednesday.

Another thing that is to blame is the "broken immigration system", which she said has made it difficult, and even impossible, for foreign skilled workers to stay in the U.S.

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