Major Taiwan earthquake temporarily halts production at Nvidia and AMD chipmaker

The Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. logo atop a building at the Hsinchu Science Park in Hsinchu, Taiwan, on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023. TSMC is scheduled to release earnings results on Oct. 19.
(Image credit: An Rong Xu/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

A ~7.4 magnitude earthquake that struck Taiwan on Wednesday morning has left many injured and at least seven dead in official reports. The earthquake, one of the strongest to hit the island in decades, also led to TSMC, the largest manufacturer of computer chips in the world, closing its doors temporarily.

TSMC, the primary manufacturer of many of today's leading performance computer chips, including those from Nvidia, AMD, and Apple, had reportedly halted production and evacuated some locations, according to a report from Bloomberg

The Guardian has confirmed with TSMC that workers are now returning to its many fabs in the area, though further inspections of the highly sensitive equipment used in the production of computer chips is still ongoing.

Here's the statement in full:

"TSMC’s safety systems are operating normally. Preventive measures were initiated according to procedure and some fabs were evacuated. All personnel are safe, and those evacuated are beginning to return to their workplaces.

The company is currently confirming the details of the impact. Initial inspections show that construction sites are normal.

However, the Company has decided to suspend work at construction sites for today, and work will resume following further inspections."

The impact from the temporary shutdown on the global semiconductor supply chain will take a while to be assessed and understood, though even a brief momentary closure could have lasting effects on the market. Digitimes reports that the Taiwan's Hsinchu Science Park administration, covering the area where much of Taiwan's technology companies' operations are located, expects no major impact and says operations remained stable.

The eastern side of Taiwan was closest to the epicentre of the earthquake. However, the earthquake was felt across the entirety of the island. Many of TSMC's fab locations are on the western side of the island and have earthquake protection measures in place.

Japan has offered assistance to Taiwan, as the country rushes to help those still trapped by the violent shake.

The world's semiconductor production is largely located within Taiwan, though the few companies involved in chip production—TSMC, Intel, and Samsung—are looking to locate production facilities further afield. Intel is expanding its US, Israel and Ireland facilities, alongside a wholly new fab facility in Germany. Both TSMC and Samsung are building new capacity in the US, with the former also building out capacity in Japan.

Update: Analyst firm TrendForce has published a report on the impact of the earthquake on production lines in Taiwan. 

TrendForce confirms that some TSMC facilities were shutdown temporarily, though notes the 4nm process responsible for Nvidia's graphics cards did not have to evacuate personnel, due to its location in the Southern Taiwan Science Park. The analyst firm expects a minimal impact on supply. 

DRAM supply, namely Micron's, may have been affected by the powerful quake, though long-term impact is expected to be minimal.

According to TrendForce, no "significant equipment damages" have so far been reported following inspections at foundries.

Jacob Ridley
Senior Hardware Editor

Jacob earned his first byline writing for his own tech blog. From there, he graduated to professionally breaking things as hardware writer at PCGamesN, and would go on to run the team as hardware editor. Since then he's joined PC Gamer's top staff as senior hardware editor, where he spends his days reporting on the latest developments in the technology and gaming industries and testing the newest PC components.