TSMC’s Arizona fab reportedly experiencing construction delays

TSMC’s new chip factory in Arizona has been delayed in construction, according to a new report from Nikkei Asianoting that work is three to six months behind schedule due to a combination of labor shortages, COVID-19 spikes and complexity in obtaining construction permits.

According to Nikkei AsiaIn TSMC’s report, TSMC originally hoped that facility construction would have reached the point where it could begin commissioning chip-making equipment in September. It now expects to push that to early 2023 instead.

It’s important to note that the delays here aren’t directly related to chip making – it’s not that TSMC can’t get enough semiconductor manufacturing equipment. Rather, it appears that the delay is more mundane, centering on the difficulties of building a gigantic industrial facility. The fact that TSMC is in somewhat unfamiliar territory (the Arizona plant is expected to be the first state-of-the-art location in the US) will likely be a factor here as well.

That timeline is key: if Nikkei Asia explains that once the chip-making equipment is installed, it can still take up to a year for everything to be certified and production to start. In comparison, TSMC typically takes two years to move from groundbreaking manufacturing to factories in Asia; the Arizona plant, which began construction in June 2021, may not begin production of chips until early 2024.

That said, the report notes that TSMC still hopes to make up for lost time and stick to its schedule, the company says. Nikkei Asia that the production schedule had remained unchanged from the original plan.

Still, the TSMC slowdown – especially as other companies like Intel want to ramp up their own production in the US – is a reminder of the difficulties of starting a fab, even for the most experienced companies. And it’s a striking example of how solving the ongoing semiconductor shortage by expanding chip-making capacity is easier said than done.

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