In dominating the fabrication of the most advanced semiconductors, the giant Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Ltd (TSMC) has captured a technology that’s crucial to the cutting-edge digital devices and weapons of today and tomorrow. TSMC accounts for more than 90% of global output of these chips, according to industry estimates.How did such an innovation take place in a tiny island?
Here’s an interesting background story:
A Chinese-born executive from a leading U.S. tech company, Radio Corporation of America, discussed a bold idea with Taiwanese officials: Build a semiconductor industry from scratch on the island. Taipei struck a tech-transfer agreement with RCA and sent engineers to work there. Chang made a decision that reshaped the global industry: He decided that TSMC would be a pure foundry, making chips for other companies. Orders poured in from Western makers who wanted to focus on design and cut costs.
Much has been made about the outsourcing and the complex supply chains. I don’t understand most of it, but I am at it. I have written about the vulnerabilities in the supply chain (as potential “backdoors”) and therefore, for healthcare, it will be critical to have some degree of certification to safeguard privacy (and more importantly, security).
Why isn’t it feasible to set up the “fab” from ground up?
Advanced chip making is among the most complex manufacturing processes yet devised, they say. Fabricating chips takes three to four months and over a thousand manufacturing processes. It must be done in a pristine environment and requires precision equipment that manipulates particles on sub-atomic levels.(emphasis mine)