TSMC CEO Details How Long Rampant Chip Shortages Could Last And It's Not Pretty

TSMC Wafers
A global shortage of semiconductors used to power a range of electronics, including PCs and game consoles, could not only linger for the rest of 2021, but throughout all of next year and perhaps even part of 2023, TSMC boss Dr. C.C. Wei warned. That's a bummer for consumers, though if putting a positive spin on things, it means technology in general is still trending in the right direction (up and to the right, folks).

Be that as it may, Dr. Wei's recent comments are a tough pill to swallow. Several of the products we cover here at HotHardware, like the newest generation graphics cards from AMD (RDNA 2) and NVIDIA (Ampere), as well as high-end processors and game systems like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S, have been extremely difficult to find in stock.

There are multiple factors at play, one of which simply boils down to capacity. To that end, TSMC anticipates investing $30 billion into expanding capacity and other upgrades this year. It has already spent around $8.8 billion since January. That $30 billion figure is up from TSMC's previous forecast of $25-$28 billion in investments.

"We see the demand continue to be high," Dr. Wei told Bloomberg. "In 2023, I hope we can offer more capacity to support our customers. At that time, we’ll start to see the supply chain tightness release a little bit."

Talk about a gut punch. It's not all bad news, though. The chip shortage has also affected the production of automobiles from heavy hitters like General Motors and Ford. However, TSMC expects supplies will improve within the auto sector starting next quarter. So while you may still have a hard time finding a graphics card this year or next, at least you'll be able to buy a car infused with fancy technology.

As for TSMC's bottom line, it's selling wafers as fast as it can make them. The company generated $12.92 billion in revenue during the first quarter of 2021, which represents a 1.9 sequential increase, and a sizable 25.4 percent year-over-year gain. Its profit for the quarter tallied around $5 billion.

Interestingly, TSMC's 7-nanometer production accounted for 35 percent of its total wafer revenue, while 5-nanometer production accounted for 14 percent. So half of its wafer revenue came on 7-nanometer and 5-nanometer, combined.

Looking longer term, TSMC plans to spend over $100 billion to bolster its chip fabrication capacity. Intel, meanwhile, is pouring $20 billion into the construction of two new fabs at its Arizona campus, which will bring some 15,000 jobs to the area. So there is relief to the shortage in sight, it just might be a little further down the line than we hoped.