IC Manufacturing, Package&Test


2022-01-14

Heterogeneous Integration Expected to Become Key Part of Packaging Technology Thanks to Development from EDA Companies

Although current semiconductor process technologies have evolved to the 3nm and 5nm nodes, SoC (system on a chip) architecture has yet to be manufactured at these nodes, as memory and RF front-end chiplets are yet to reach sufficient advancements in transistor gate length and data transmission performance. Fortunately, EDA companies are now attempting to leverage heterogeneous integration packaging technologies to link the upstream and downstream semiconductor supply chains as well as various IP cores. Thanks to this effort, advanced packaging technologies, including 2.5D/3D IC and SiP, will likely continue to push the limits of Moore’s Law.

While SoC development has encountered bottlenecks, EDA tools are the key to heterogeneous integration packaging

As semiconductor process technologies continue to evolve, the gate length of transistors have also progressed from μm (micrometer) nodes to nm (nanometer) nodes. However, the more advanced process technologies are not suited for manufacturing all semiconductor components, meaning the development of SoC architectures has been limited as a result. For instance, due to physical limitations, memory products such as DRAM and SRAM are mostly manufactured at the 16nm node at the moment. In addition, RF front-end chiplets, such as modems, PA (power amplifiers), and LNA (low noise amplifiers) are also primarily manufactured at the 16nm node or other μm nodes in consideration of their required stability with respect to signal reception/transmission.

On the whole, the aforementioned memory, and other semiconductor components cannot be easily manufactured with the same process technologies as those used for high-end processors (which are manufactured at the 5nm and 3nm nodes, among others). Hence, as the current crop of SoCs is not yet manufactured with advanced processes, EDA companies including Cadence, Synopsys, and Siemens (formerly Mentor) have released their own heterogeneous integration packaging technologies, such as 2.5D/3D IC and SiP (system in package), in order to address the demand for high-end AI, SoC architecture, HPC (high performance computing), and optical communication applications.

EDA companies drive forward heterogeneous integration packaging as core packaging architecture and integrate upstream/downstream supply chain

Although the current crop of high-end semiconductor process technologies is still incapable of integrating such components as memory, RF front-end, and processors through an SoC architecture, as EDA companies continue to adopt heterogeneous integration packaging technology, advanced packaging technologies, including 2.5D/3D IC and SiP, will likely extend the developmental limitations of Moore’s Law.

Information presented during Semicon Taiwan 2021 shows that EDA companies are basing their heterogeneous integration strategies mainly on the connection between upstream and downstream parts of the semiconductor supply chain, in addition to meeting their goals through chip packaging architectures. At the moment, significant breakthroughs in packaging technology design and architecture remain unfeasible through architectural improvements exclusively. Instead, companies must integrate their upstream chip design and power output with downstream substrate signal transmission and heat dissipation, as well as other factors such as system software and use case planning. Only by integrating the above factors and performing the necessary data analysis can EDA companies gradually evolve towards an optimal packaging architecture and in turn bridge the gap of SoC architectures.

With regards to automobiles (including ICE vehicles and EVs), their autonomous driving systems, electronic systems, and infotainment systems require numerous and diverse semiconductor key components that range from high-end computing chips to mid-range and entry-level MCUs. As such, automotive chip design companies must carefully evaluate their entire supply chain in designing automotive chip packages, from upstream manufacturers to downstream suppliers of substrates and system software, while also keeping a holistic perspective of various use cases. Only by taking these factors into account will chip design companies be able to respond the demands of the market with the appropriate package architectures.

(Image credit: Pexels)

2022-01-05

Fire at ASML’s Berlin Plant May Impact EUV Optical Component Supply, Says TrendForce

A fire occurred at ASML’s factory in Berlin, Germany on January 3, according to TrendForce’s investigations. ASML is the largest supplier of key equipment (including EUV and DUV) required for foundry and memory production. According to TrendForce’s preliminary inquiry, approximately 200m2 out of a factory floor covering 32,000m2 was affected by the fire. This factory primarily manufactures optical components used in lithography systems such as wafer tables, reticle chucks, and mirror blocks. Reticle chucks used for affixing photomasks are in short supply. Currently, the majority of components produced at this factory go towards supplying EUV machines while the lion’s share of demand for these products come from foundries. If the fire delays component delivery, it cannot be ruled out that ASML will prioritize the allocation of output towards fulfilling foundry orders.

Lead time for this exclusive supply of key EUV machines has been long and may affect the timeframe of advanced manufacturing process transition  

In terms of foundries, EUV is primarily used in advanced manufacturing processes smaller than the 7nm node. Currently, the only companies in the world using this equipment for manufacturing are TSMC and Samsung including TSMC’s 7nm, 5nm, 3nm nodes, Samsung’s EUV Line (7nm, 5nm and 4nm) built in Hwaseong, South Korea, and 3nm GAA node. However, due to factors such as the shortage of global foundry production capacity and the active expansion of manufacturing, semiconductor equipment lead times are also stretching further into the future.

In terms of DRAM, Samsung and SK Hynix are already using EUV in their 1Znm and 1alpha nm processes, while US manufacturer Micron is expected to introduce EUV to their 1gamma nm process in 2024. According to TrendForce’s current information, the lead time on ASML EUV equipment is approximately 12 to 18 months. Due to this long equipment lead time, ASML is at liberty to wait for the completion of replace components for those lost in the fire during the time necessary for equipment assembly.

Overall, the ASML Berlin factory fire will have a greater impact on the manufacturing of EUV lithography equipment when it comes to foundries and memory. According to TrendForce’s information, it cannot be ruled out that ASML will obtain necessary components from other factory campuses. In addition, the current lead time for EUV equipment is quite long. Therefore, the actual impact on EUV supply remains to be seen.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at lattechung@trendforce.com

2021-12-06

2021 Annual Global Power Management IC Prices Jump 10%, Supply Remains Tight for 1H22, Says TrendForce

Due to material shortages caused by insufficient semiconductor supply, to date, power management IC (PMIC) prices remain on an upward trend, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. Average selling price (ASP) for 1H22 is forecast to increase by nearly 10%, reaching a record six year high.

In terms of the global supply chain, in addition to the production capacity of major IDM manufacturers including TI, Infineon, ADI, STMicroelectronics, NXP, ON Semiconductor, Renesas, Microchip, ROHM (Maxim has been acquired by ADI and Dialog by Renesas), IC design houses such as Qualcomm and MediaTek (MTK) have obtained a certain level of production capacity from foundries. Of these, TI is in a leadership position and the aforementioned companies possess a combined market share of over 80%.

In terms of product structure, unrelenting demand from the consumer electronics, telecommunications, industrial control systems, and automotive end-user sectors and product innovation driven by industrial transformation will push a dramatic increase in global market demand for PMICs. The largest application for PMICs is consumer electronic products and there are near term rumblings in demand for notebooks, Chromebooks, smartphones, and televisions. In addition, restocking impetus for a small number of structurally simple items such as low drop-out regulators (LDO) has encountered a real slowdown. However, since the demand placed on PMICs by electronic products is a structural increase, certain models are still experiencing shortages. Qualcomm and MTK are limited by a shortage of mature production capacity on the foundry end, even resulting in a tightening of inventory for PMICs earmarked for self-use.

Furthermore, recovery in the automotive market and rapid growth in electric vehicles, automotive electronics, and advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) have increased demand in power source control and management and charging technology. In addition, automotive-use ICs are required to pass a number of inspections and must guarantee consistency and a zero failure rate. Currently, IDM companies’ automotive IC order backlog stretches until the end of 2022. Due to factors such as production running at full capacity and a shortage of raw materials, PMIC suppliers have currently announced longer lead times with consumer electronic IC lead times increasing to 12~26 weeks, automotive IC lead times reaching 40~52 weeks, and a cessation of orders for certain exclusive production models.

TrendForce expects 4Q21 demand for PMICs to remain strong with shortages in overall production capacity. Led by IDM companies, PMIC pricing will remain high. Despite variables related to the pandemic and the difficulties of greatly increasing 8 inch wafer production capacity, TI’s new fab RFAB2 will begin mass production in 2H22. In addition, due to the plans of foundries to carry forward a portion of 8 inch wafer PMIC manufacturing to 12 inch, there is a high likelihood of a moderation in PMIC shortages. However, close attention must still be paid to changes in future market supply.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at lattechung@trendforce.com

2021-09-15

Revenue of Top 10 IC Design (Fabless) Companies Reaches US$29.8 Billion for 2Q21, Though Growth May Potentially Slow in 2H21, Says TrendForce

In view of the ongoing production capacity shortage in the semiconductor industry and the resultant price hike of chips, revenue of the top 10 IC design companies for 2Q21 reached US$29.8 billion, a 60.8% YoY increase, according to TrendForce‘s latest investigations. In particular, Taiwanese companies put up remarkable performances during this period, with both MediaTek and Novatek posting YoY growths of more than 95%. AMD, on the other hand, experienced a nearly 100% YoY revenue growth, the highest among the top 10.

TrendForce indicates that the ranking of the top five companies for 2Q21 remained unchanged from the previous quarter, although there were major changes in the 6th to 10th spots. More specifically, after finalizing its acquisition of Inphi, Marvell experienced a major revenue growth and leapfrogged Xilinx and Realtek in the rankings from 9th place in 1Q21 to 7th place in 2Q21.

Thanks to strong demand for major smartphone brands’ flagship and high-end 5G handsets, revenue leader Qualcomm’s processor and RF front-end businesses underwent remarkable growths, while its IoT business also benefitted from WFH and distance learning demands generated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Qualcomm’s revenue from its IoT business reached nearly US$1.4 billion, making IoT one of the major growth drivers for the company. For 2Q21, Qualcomm’s revenue reached US$6.47 billion, a 70.0% YoY increase. On the other hand, Nvidia’s revenues from gaming graphics cards and data center solutions each grew by 91.1% YoY and 46% YoY, respectively, in 2Q21. Strong demand from cryptocurrency miners for Nvidia’s high-end gaming graphics cards, along with the data center segment’s demand for Nvidia’s HPC products, propelled the company’s revenue for 2Q21 to US$5.84 billion, a 68.8% YoY growth, and secured the second place for Nvidia on the top 10 list.

Broadcom, which took third place on the top 10, attributed most of its revenue to wired connectivity and wireless products. Regarding wired connectivity products, the continued build-out of 5G base stations worldwide resulted in increasing demand for Broadcom’s high-speed Ethernet controller ICs, whereas for wireless products, the release of certain high-end 5G smartphones also created high demand for Broadcom’s Wi-Fi 6E chips. Similarly, Broadcom’s broadband and industrial solutions businesses both underwent double-digit growths in 2Q21, thereby driving the company’s revenue for 2Q21 to US$4.95 billion, a 19.2% YoY growth. Turning to AMD, the company’s revenue for 2Q21 reached US$3.85 billion, a staggering 99.3% YoY increase, owing to the following: first, the bullish gaming console market; second, massive earnings growths from enterprise, embedded, and semi-custom solutions; third, increased client adoption of AMD’s server CPUs (it should be noted that AMD’s server processor business grew by 183% YoY in 2Q21). AMD took fifth place in the top 10 list for 2Q21.

Regarding Taiwanese companies, MediaTek was able to sustain the momentum it gained in 1Q21 throughout 2Q21. MediaTek’s smartphone chip business, which generated the bulk of the company’s revenue, registered a 143% growth in 2Q21. At the same time, its revenues from other businesses also saw an overall double-digit growth. Hence, MediaTek posted a revenue of US$4.49 billion for 2Q21, a 98.8% YoY growth, and reached fourth place on the list. Finally, Novatek’s SoCs and display driver ICs both performed well in the market primarily due to its close partnerships with major foundries, including TSMC, UMC, and VIS. Revenue from display driver ICs, which had traditionally been Novatek’s primary revenue source, grew by 81% YoY in 2Q21.

Certain rumors in the end-devices markets indicate that demand will likely undergo a slowdown in 3Q21 and lead to decreased orders for certain components. However, given that foundries’ newly installed wafer capacities have yet to kick off mass production, the ongoing chip shortage is expected to persist for now. In addition, as some IC design companies’ client orders still remain unfulfilled, these companies’ revenues will likely experience further growths in 2H21, albeit to a relatively limited extent. It should also be pointed out that Marvell is expected to benefit from Inphi’s earnings for the next two quarters and increase its own revenue by more than 50% YoY in 2H21. Even so, Novatek’s sixth-place ranking is unlikely to be threatened by Marvell in the short run since Novatek will continue to benefit from the ongoing chip shortage and price hikes for the time being.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at lattechung@trendforce.com

2021-09-11

Chipbond and UMC will likely strengthen their product R&D and market penetration via strategic partnership

Leading driver IC OSAT company Chipbond and major foundry UMC announced on September 3 that the two companies established a strategic partnership via a stock swap, through which UMC (and its subsidiary UMC Capital) will hold 9.09% of Chipbond’s equity, while Chipbond will hold 0.62% of UMC’s equity. TrendForce believes that this strategic partnership will not only strengthen the two companies’ presence throughout all parts of the driver IC supply chain, but also kick-start a business model that involves the simultaneous development of RF front-end ICs and power devices in the third-generation semiconductor industry.

TrendForce further indicates that, although Chipbond has traditionally dominated the panel driver IC OSAT package and test industry along with ChipMOS, recent aggressive attempts at seizing market share by major OSAT companies from China have persuaded Chipbond to expand its business to other markets, such as PA (power amplifier) or electronic filter packaging, in order to diversity its previously specialized operations. The strategic partnership between Chipbond and UMC is also noteworthy because demand has been constantly growing in the third-generation semiconductor market.

Most of the predominant companies in the third-generation semiconductor industry are major IDMs based in Europe, the US, and Japan. As for foundries, they generally play the role of fulfilling excess client orders outsourced by IDMs whose capacities are fully loaded.

Regarding the technological competencies of foundries in the power devices industry, Taiwanese foundries (including TSMC, VIS, and EPISIL) possess the competitive advantage in terms of manufacturing processes, while WIN and AWSC are also among the most representative foundries in the RF front-end segment.

Although UMC slightly lags behind some of its other competitors in the aforementioned markets, its subsidiary Wavetek has been actively strengthening its competencies. For the RF front-end segment, Wavetek is making strides towards 5G PA manufacturing by leveraging its existing 4G PA successes. On the other hand, Wavetek is also in the midst of developing its own GaN on Si power devices.

It should be pointed out that the production of back-end components such as power devices and RF front-end remains relatively low in scale. Hence, in consideration of order volumes, profitability, and equipment costs, major OSAT companies such as ASE and Amkor generally are unwilling to fulfill package and test orders for these components, most of which subsequently fall to either foundries or IDMs.

For Chipbond, which is attempting to enter the power devices and RF front end markets, the aforementioned situation spells good news, as Chipbond has to compete with only mainstream foundries and IDMs. In spite of the relatively low volume of client orders, the room for profitability is still there. Second of all, by partnering with major upstream foundry UMC, Chipbond’s third-generation semiconductor packaging and testing capacities can be secured and stabilized.

On the whole, TrendForce believes that the strategic partnership between Chipbond and UMC can be said to result in a win-win situation with regards to both revenue and industrial integration, since Chipbond now receives an infusion of cash that can facilitate its R&D into third-generation semiconductor, while UMC on the other hand also benefits from the partnership as upstream IDMs may now be incentivized to input wafers at UMC’s fabs.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at lattechung@trendforce.com

(Image credit: UMC)

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