Taiwan earthquake seems unlikely to seriously disrupt Apple chip production


Taiwan earthquake affects TSMC
TSMC appears to have successfully ridden out the earthquake in Taiwan.
Image: TSMC/Cult of Mac

A 7.4-magnitude earthquake that hit Taiwan on Wednesday — the worst in 25 years — killed at least nine people, injured more than 900 and toppled buildings. It also reportedly forced Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company to stop chip production, at least temporarily.

TSMC makes the processors that go into iPhone, Mac and other Apple products.

TSMC seems to safely ride out Taiwan earthquake

After the earthquake, which hit at 7:58 a.m. local time, authorities scrambled to rescue people and deal with buildings rendered unsafe by the shaker.

“At present the most important thing, the top priority, is to rescue people,” said Taiwan’s President-elect Lai Ching-te outside a severely damaged building in Hualien, where the earthquake was centered, CNN reported.

While Apple designs the A-series and M-series processors that go into its various computers, TSMC produces the chips in its home country. The TSMC fabs were affected by the serious earthquake that struck Taiwan, but luckily, they don’t appear to have been badly damaged.

The company evacuated the production plants in the quake’s aftermath, according to The Wall Street Journal. However, that appears to have been out of caution, not immediate necessity. As CNBC reported:

“A TSMC spokesperson said construction sites were normal upon initial inspection, but the company decided to suspend work at the sites for the day. The person said work will resume after further inspections and that TSMC is still evaluating details of the earthquake’s impact.”

A very short disruption at TSMC caused by the earthquake might not delay any upcoming product. And company employees are already returning to its buildings, reported Bloomberg.

That said, chip production is a delicate operation. Either the shaking from the quake or being left alone while a fab plant is hastily closed could damage the fragile wafers.

But that’s still a very different situation from a worst-case scenario that didn’t take place — one in which TSMC building or equipment were damaged by the earthquake, and its employees injured or killed.

Apple chips in production?

TSMC is the world’s largest independent semiconductor foundry. It produces chips for a range of companies, with Apple among the most prominent.

The company almost certainly is making processors for some Apple devices now. However, which one(s) is the sort of information that’s kept hush-hush. It might be M3 Ultra chips for the Mac Studio expected to launch in June. And preliminary work is likely ongoing for the A18 chip headed for this autumn’s iPhone 16.


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