A Single Company in Taiwan Makes 92% of the World’s Most Sophisticated Chips

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Apple, Qualcomm, and Intel design chips, but when it comes to making them, the World Relies on One Chip Maker in Taiwan, Leaving Everyone Vulnerable.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. TSM’s chips are everywhere, though most consumers don’t know it.

The company makes almost all of the world’s most sophisticated chips, and many of the simpler ones, too. They’re in billions of products with built-in electronics, including iPhones, personal computers and cars—all without any obvious sign they came from TSMC, which does the manufacturing for better-known companies that design them, like Apple Inc. and Qualcomm Inc.

Its technology is so advanced, Capital Economics said, that it now makes around 92% of the world’s most sophisticated chips, which have transistors that are less than one-thousandth the width of a human hair. Samsung Electronics Co. makes the rest. Most of the roughly 1.4 billion smartphone processors world-wide are made by TSMC.

While the U.S. still leads the world in chip design and intellectual property with homegrown giants like Intel Corp. , Nvidia Corp. and Qualcomm, it now accounts for only 12% of the world’s chip manufacturing, down from 37% in 1990, according to Boston Consulting Group.

Other countries would need to spend at least $30 billion a year for a minimum of five years “to have any reasonable chance of success” in catching up with TSMC and Samsung, wrote IC Insights, a research firm, in a recent report.

Dimitris Dotis, the Audi brand specialist at Audi Tysons Corner dealership in Virginia, summed up the situation to customers. “Almost all microchips that go into all new vehicles including Audi come from TSMC in Taiwan,” he wrote. “They expect bottlenecks in the supply chain to last through 2022.”

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Trump promised TSMC $3 billion in incentives to build a factory in Arizona, but no funding was allocated.

The newest chip designs will still be made in Taiwan.

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