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  • - [Narrator] This chip controls your car,

  • stores data about what you bought and runs the software

  • on your laptop.

  • These chips have come to power our lives, and only a handful

  • of fabrication plants or fabs in the world have the know-how

  • and infrastructure to make them.

  • So most of the chips are produced outside of the US

  • like at this fab in Singapore

  • - The bill of fab is a big investment.

  • - [Narrator] And now the world is running out of chips

  • because companies can't make them fast enough.

  • - When order really flooding in.

  • We had to turn on every single piece

  • of machine that we can find in the factory.

  • - [Narrator] The pandemic rattled supply chains

  • and led to a surge in demand for electronics

  • when people were stuck at home.

  • While a perfect storm of natural disasters,

  • a fire at one of the world's leading auto chip makers

  • and the ongoing US-China trade war disrupted the production

  • and distribution of semiconductors.

  • This shortage has affected whether you can drive a Jeep

  • off the lot or buy a new PlayStation 5.

  • We visit one of the world's largest contract chip makers

  • to see the complex process

  • and why there's no quick fix to the supply crunch.

  • - Chip usually it takes about two to three months to make.

  • - [Narrator] Daniel Rajkumar is a manufacturing manager

  • at one of the fabs at Global Foundries.

  • The American company is the third largest contract

  • chip manufacturer in the world.

  • Companies like Intel, AMD and Bosch

  • give some of their circuitry designs to Global Foundries.

  • And then it's fabs like this one in Singapore

  • manufacture the chips.

  • - Once we finish the fabrication of the circuitry,

  • it has to go for testing.

  • It has to go for repackaging.

  • - [Narrator] Altogether it could take as much as six months

  • before a chip is ready to go into your tech.

  • This long process starts here,

  • at the center of the fab called the clean room.

  • - Before going into the clean room,

  • we need to gown up.

  • - [Narrator] Because chips can be as small as a fingernail

  • and crammed with billions of components,

  • they have to be handled with great care.

  • - Any form of dust that falls onto the wafers

  • you will cause the chip to be the defective.

  • And then now we are able to go into the air shower.

  • Okay.

  • - [Narrator] Global Foundries says this clean room

  • is a thousand times cleaner than an operating room.

  • And it also takes up a lot of space.

  • - Two footballs field.

  • That's how big it is.

  • We have about seven to 800 machines.

  • - [Narrator] It's also yellow in here

  • because chips are sensitive to UV rays.

  • And this lighting has none of that.

  • - This is always the first step.

  • - [Narrator] The starter material for any chip

  • is here in this room.

  • These super thin disks are called wafers

  • and made from silicon.

  • Eventually one of these will produce about 1000

  • to 1500 individual chips.

  • But before it does, the wafer is placed

  • in a special container.

  • - We have the raw silicon.

  • We are now trying to register this material

  • and translate into our wafer carrier.

  • - [Narrator] Each carrier can hold up to 25 wafers

  • and there are about 4,000 of these

  • moving around the facility at one time.

  • - We are also the source of particles

  • when we go into the clean room.

  • - [Narrator] So never once during manufacturing

  • does the wafer come in contact with any of the workers.

  • - You will bring the wafers directly to the machine.

  • And in this foundry, basically 95%

  • of all processing jobs is fully automated.

  • - [Narrator] These raw wafers are cleaned

  • before starting a process that Rajkumar describes

  • as similar to making layered cake.

  • - The main function of diffusion cleaners

  • is basically to go layers of oxide or to dap the nitrite

  • onto the silicon.

  • - [Narrator] That creates a protective coating.

  • Next is a layer that makes the wafer light-sensitive.

  • So it's ready for one of the most important steps

  • called lithography.

  • - This is the most expensive module in any wafer foundry.

  • The number of lithography machine

  • will define how many wafers you can produce

  • in a month or a year.

  • - [Narrator] One lithography machine can cost anywhere

  • between 25 million to over 100 million dollars.

  • And that's because it's responsible

  • for adding layers of the circuitry.

  • Basically electronic components like transistors

  • and diodes that allow the chips eventually store data

  • or run apps.

  • - What I'm holding here is basically a (indistinct) design

  • of a circuitry.

  • - [Narrator] Inside this pink box is a photo mask,

  • which is like a glass stencil.

  • And clients send these directly to Global Foundries.

  • The lithography machine blasts UV light

  • through the photo mask and prints patterns

  • on the wafer over and over again.

  • The difference between an advanced chip for a 5G smartphone

  • versus one for your credit card comes down

  • to the type of wavelength that's used.

  • Shorter wavelengths mean you can edge finer features

  • and get more performance out of the chips.

  • Some of these transmitters are so small

  • that they're measured in nanometers

  • and compared to DNA strands.

  • Once the circuitry pattern is imprinted,

  • the wafer has to be charged.

  • - These machines use a lot of energy

  • to produce electrical charge

  • that allows the electrical to flow to the chip

  • and also creates the different type of function

  • for your electrical chips.

  • - Rajkumar says many of these steps are repeated

  • hundreds of times before the fabrication is complete.

  • And to get to this point,

  • these orders have to be made at least a year in advance.

  • - I have a demo wafers here.

  • - [Narrator] The finished wafers are tested

  • then finally sliced into individual chips.

  • - One is this small die wafers,

  • which is mainly useful bank cards or chips.

  • And then you have the other one

  • which is the bigger die wafers

  • which can go into other kinds of applications

  • like computer processing chips or electrical appliances.

  • - [Narrator] Global Foundry says it's fab at Singapore

  • typically makes about 600,000 wafers a year.

  • But with the recent surge in demand,

  • it's making around 120,000 more.

  • - This whole year is fully booked out.

  • We don't have any more space for new customers.

  • - [Narrator] Tan Yew Kong is the vice president

  • and general manager of Global Foundries Fab 7 in Singapore.

  • And he says, there's no quick solution.

  • - There's no space that you can house

  • another lithography tool or any other tools

  • that you'd like to buy.

  • It is a (indistinct) easily, a one year to 15 months

  • before you can see a tool that is coming into your factory.

  • - [Narrator] It's not just a backlog of equipment,

  • but Tan says expanding or building a fab

  • from the ground up would require deep investments.

  • More than the $1.4 billion that Global Foundries

  • has already committed to spend this year

  • on expanding its three fabs around the world.

  • - You easily need to spend 7 billion to 15 billion

  • depending on the size of the factory you want to build

  • and the technology that you're gonna develop

  • can easily take you decades to build the foundations.

  • - [Narrator] So to fill as many orders

  • as quickly as possible,

  • the company turned on idle machines

  • and opened this factory control tower.

  • Engineers here have a bird's-eye view of the entire fab.

  • And the green boxes show which machines are running

  • at max capacity.

  • Before this control tower

  • when there was a problem,

  • engineers had to sort through data

  • and piece together information themselves.

  • - Compared to today, just looking at the screen

  • you already know that this is a piece of machine.

  • You need to pay attention now.

  • - [Narrator] Tan says any time saved is precious

  • but to truly address the shortage,

  • the company is working more closely with its clients,

  • suppliers and the government.

  • - We're going to continue seeing more government support

  • because it is becoming such an important part

  • of the entire global supply chain.

  • - There's no reason why Americans should wait.

  • We're investing aggressively

  • in areas like semiconductors and batteries.

  • - [Narrator] The Biden administration

  • has proposed $50 billion

  • to boost America's chip production.

  • That's because while the US is one of the largest

  • semiconductor markets, the majority of the complex

  • and expensive manufacturing happens at a few companies

  • based in China and East Asia.

  • - That's because the world's biggest foundry in the world,

  • TSMC is located in Taiwan.

  • Samsung also has a sizeable foundry

  • as well as some Chinese players.

  • - [Narrator] This concentration of fabs means any disruption

  • to the supply chain, like a drought in Taiwan.

  • Or political tensions with China

  • can have big ripple effects.

  • Especially when global demand is expected to grow

  • by more than 12% this year.

  • - We have technologies like 5G and artificial intelligence.

  • And these types of advanced technology

  • means that more chips would be needed

  • to operate the devices that we use every day

  • - [Narrator] To meet that demand,

  • the Chip Industry Association

  • says it will require an investment of $3 trillion globally

  • over the next three decades.

  • So for us to buy new devices, Tan says his fab will work

  • around the clock

  • as it turns this challenge into a business opportunity.

  • - From the ambitions of wanting to grow the company,

  • this is definitely a positive point for us.

  • This over demand is gonna be around for a while.

- [Narrator] This chip controls your car,

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Why the Global Chip Shortage Is Hard to Overcome | WSJ

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    joey joey posted on 2021/06/05
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