Intel Corp has talked with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) and Samsung Electronics Co about the Asian companies making some of its best chips, but the Silicon Valley pioneer is still holding out hope for last-minute improvements in its own production capabilities.
After successive delays in its chip fabrication processes, Santa Clara, California-based Intel has yet to make a decision less than two weeks ahead of a scheduled announcement of its plans, people familiar with the deliberations said.
Any components that Intel might source from Taiwan would not come to market until 2023 at the earliest and would be based on established manufacturing processes already in use by other TSMC customers, said the people, asking not to be identified because the plans are private.
Photo: Ashley Pon, Bloomberg
Talks with Samsung, whose foundry capabilities trail TSMC’s, are at a more preliminary stage, the people said.
TSMC and Samsung representatives declined to comment, while an Intel spokesperson referred to previous comments by CEO Bob Swan, who has promised investors he would set out his plans for outsourcing and putting Intel’s production technology back on track when the company reports earnings on Thursday next week.
TSMC, the largest maker of semiconductors for other companies, is preparing to offer Intel chips manufactured using a 4-nanometer process, with initial testing using an older 5-nanometer process, the people said.
The company has said it would make test production of 4-nanometer chips available in the fourth quarter of this year and volume shipments the following year.
TSMC expects to have a new facility in Hsinchu County’s Baoshan Township (寶山) operational by the end of this year, which can be converted to production for Intel if required, one of the people said.
TSMC executives previously said the Baoshan unit would house a research center with 8,000 engineers.
Intel’s strategic shifts are happening at a time of booming demand, as well as technological change in the chip industry.
The traditional method of improving performance by shrinking and cramming more transistors into each package is being supplanted by more sophisticated techniques that include stacking processor and memory components into single chips and the introduction of more tailored designs for tasks like artificial intelligence.
Separately, United Microelectronics Corp (UMC, 聯電) on Saturday had power-supply disruptions at two plants in Hsinchu that temporarily affected production, UMC chief financial officer Liu Chi-tung (劉啟東) said.
“The company will discuss with customers, and try its best to make up for lost production,” Liu said by telephone. “No major financial impact is expected.”
The overall impact of the incident was “quite minor,” Liu said.
Power was being gradually restored, he said.
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