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Taiwan quake shakes up TSMC, UMC foundry production

Posted: 09 Feb 2016 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Taiwan quake? foundry? semi-conductor manufacturing?

Two of the world's three largest foundriesTaiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) and United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC)are assessing the impact of last Feb. 6's 6.4 magnitude earthquake in southern Taiwan. TSMC stated that no more than 1 per cent of its production will be affected by the quake, and both foundries expect to be operational within two to three days.

An earthquake of a large magnitude such as Saturday's tremor automatically triggers a shutdown and evacuation of fabs in affected areas, according to TSMC Director of Corporate Communications Elizabeth Sun and UMC spokesman Richard Yu in phone interviews with EE Times.

Taiwan makes nearly a third of the world's semiconductors. An earthquake exceeding 7.3 magnitude in Taiwan on September 21, 1999, caused widespread power outages and curtailment of chip production for nearly a week. Taiwan lies in an earthquake-prone region on the rim of the Pacific Ocean, known as the Ring of Fire.

All of TSMC's personnel at its two fabs in the Southern Taiwan Science Park returned to work at 6:30 a.m., about three hours after the 4 a.m. quake, Sun said. All of UMC's employees are safe, according to Yu.

The quake came just as the people in Taiwan started a week-long holiday to celebrate the Chinese New Year. At least three people on the island died as a result of the tremor, according to early press reports.

The epicentre of today's tremor was about 48 kilometres (30 miles) east-southeast of the southern Taiwan city of Tainan, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The impact to the chipmakers' operations was limited to the Southern Taiwan Science Park, where TSMC has its Fab 14 and Fab 6, and UMC operates its Fab 12a. The fab buildings and equipment did not sustain any material damage.

The two companies said that work in progress on wafers at the fabs was halted following the quake, very likely damaging a significant portion of that production. TSMC said it will move engineers from its operations in the northern Taiwan city of Hsinchu to help with recovery. TSMC will inform its customers of affected wafers as soon as the information becomes available, according to Sun.

Rival foundries such as Global Foundries and Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC) have sprung up in locations outside Taiwan in part to allay concerns about the risks of manufacturing in a location that's prone to earthquakes, typhoons and power outages. Still, Taiwan has risen to the challenge, holding on to its place as the world's largest source of foundry production.

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