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Taiwan’s TSMC, other chipmakers face long equipment delays

TSMC concerned long lead times could affect production timelines for upcoming fabs

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TSMC. (Reuters photo)

TSMC. (Reuters photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) and its major rivals are facing increasingly long wait times for crucial chip fabrication equipment.

Semiconductor tool makers, including Applied Materials, KLA, Lam Research, and ASML have told chipmakers they may have to wait up to 18 months for certain machinery, Nikkei reported. Sources told the outlet toolmakers are facing shortages of lenses, microcontroller valves and pumps, engineering plastics, and electronic modules.

Demand for chip machines is strong as TSMC, United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC), Samsung Electronics, and Intel all have plans for new fabs in the works. Chipmakers are now concerned long equipment lead times could affect construction plans, with TSMC, UMC, and Samsung all sending executives abroad to talk to equipment makers, per the report.

Wait times, which were around three to four months on average in 2019, before the pandemic, stretched to 10 to 12 months in 2021, Nikkei said.

Some extreme examples include more than 20 months of lead time for some testing equipment supplied by KLA, the report said. Meanwhile, deliveries of substrate equipment can now take up to as long as 30 months, said the chairman of Unimicron, the world’s largest maker of chip substrates.

TSMC is worried equipment delays could affect its production timelines for upcoming fabs in Taiwan, the U.S., and Japan, sources told Nikkei. The Taiwanese chipmaker’s procurement team has been flying overseas to meet with suppliers in an attempt to shorten delivery times.

UMC has also sent people to equipment makers in the U.S. and Europe but noted it will be difficult to speed up machine deliveries.

The lengthy lead times come at a time when the world’s largest chipmakers are pushing to expand capacity amid a continuing global chip crunch. Shortages are also being exacerbated as countries increasingly look to bolster their domestic chipmaking abilities.