Apple chipmaker prepares to build 5nm chips as manufacturers get back to work

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Apple chipmaker racing ahead with its next next-gen nanometer process
TSMC is making the A-series chips for the next iPhone.
Photo: Apple

The COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak may be continuing apace, but Apple manufacturers are getting back to work.

According to two new reports published Wednesday, Apple contract manufacturers Compal Electronics and Wistron are joining Foxconn in planning for production levels to return to normal by the end of March. Apple’s A-series chipmaker TSMC is also gearing up to start producing its new 5-nanometer chips.

Both reports come from DigiTimes. The TSMC report claims that the firm is set to “kick off” volume production of chips built using 5nm process technology in April.

It doesn’t name TSMC’s client, but says that the process capacity has already been “fully booked” up. The A-series chips in Apple’s late 2020 iPhones will reportedly take advantage of TSMC’s 5-nanometer production process.

Manufacturers get back to work

A second report focuses on Compal Electronics and Wistron. Compal, the second-largest laptop manufacturer in the world, builds MacBooks for Apple. Wistron also builds laptops, alongside other devices, including iPhones. Both feature on Apple’s current suppliers list.

The report notes that both Compal and Wistron continue to see capacity recovery in China. More employees are returning to work for the companies, and the firms think they can hit “the usual slow-season level by the end of March.” Currently, most original design manufacturer (ODM) factories building laptops in China are running about 60% capacity.

Both Compal and Wistron shipped fewer than the normal numbers of laptops in February. They also reported reduced revenues. Both are likely to recover somewhat in March.

However, both Compal and Wistron are “concerned” about tight component supplies. That is because, while they are getting back on track, they rely on component makers which are still posting less than 50% capacity recovery rates.

Supply chain problems

The impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus are already hitting Apple. Production of the next-gen 5G iPhone may face delays due to the effects of the outbreak. Apple’s forthcoming iPhone SE 2 has reportedly been delayed indefinitely as well. Current devices are affected too. Apple has supposedly informed staffers at Apple Stores to expect delays of two to four weeks for replacement phones and individual parts.