2nm chip for iPhone 17 Pro on track | Silicon wafer close-up

Apple chipmaker TSMC appears to be on track with its work on a 2nm chip destined for the iPhone 17 Pro and Pro Max in 2025 – as well as for the 1.4nm chips beyond that.

A new supply-chain report said TSMC has faced two challenges, but indications are that neither of them will significantly impact on its production schedule …

A few hundred thousand chips lost to earthquake

The largest earthquake in Taiwan in 25 years – which resulted in nine deaths and more than 1,000 injuries – hit TSMC’s 2nm plant hardest. The plant was said to have sustained water damage, with some equipment needing to be replaced. This plant is currently only creating low volumes of chips for test purposes.

Digitimes reports that no more than 10,000 wafers were lost across all process sizes.

The earthquake may have damaged fewer than 10,000 wafers across numerous TSMC fabs in Taiwan, but insurance will cover the damages. 

Neither Apple nor TSMC discloses the chip yield per wafer, but industry estimates suggest that for a chip the size of the A17 Pro powering the iPhone 15 Pro models, the yield is likely around 440 chips per wafer. This would suggest the loss of no more than a few hundred thousand chips, which could be quickly made up.

High startup cost for 2nm plant in Arizona

One way TMSC can reduce its exposure to earthquakes and other natural disasters is to build more advanced plants overseas. The company this week announced that it will be building a 2nm plant in Arizona, in addition to the two larger-process plants already under construction.

While the company was given $6.6B in US government grants to help with the cost, the total investment across the three plans is expected to exceed $65B, with the 2nm plant accounting for a disproportionate slice of this.

The company is also seeking to fund additional advanced plants in Germany and Japan.

But schedule unaffected

The site says its sources have indicated that neither issue is expected to impact on 2nm schedules.

TSMC is making progress toward entering the A14 [1.4nm] and 2nm process generations as planned, according to sources at fab toolmakers.

The market views TSMC’s operations outlook as uncertain in light of recent challenges such as the earthquake in Taiwan, client order transfers, and the high costs involved with developing fabs offshore.

[But] sources in the semiconductor equipment industry are optimistic about TSMC’s capability. Unlike its competitors, who have always been unable to commit to mass production timelines, TSMC can debut on time, whether it is the officially published process node plan or the roadmap released to the supply chain, sources said […]

Trial production will begin in the second half of 2024, followed by small-scale production in the second quarter of 2025.

This would allow mass production to begin in the third quarter, for the two iPhone 17 Pro models.

Photo by wu yi on Unsplash

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