Wafer Foundries


2021-05-12

Despite Domestic Drought, Taiwan Remains King in the World of Semiconductors

A small subtropical island off the coast of southeast China, Taiwan is subject to certain cyclical weather changes throughout the year, the most notorious of which is its yearly typhoons that at different times benefit its agricultural industry and cause various natural disasters.

Much like everything else that happened in 2020, last year marked a stark exception for the island’s climate, which saw no typhoons, resulting in a relatively dry year. Compounding the issue is the current season of low precipitation. Taken together, these factors have since resulted in a significant drought that required an all-hands-on-deck approach from the government, such as rationing water on specific weekdays and advising industries to cut down on water consumption.

Meanwhile, a similar drought has been taking place in the global semiconductor world. As the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic last year brought fundamental changes to the way we work, study, and live, so too has the general public’s consumption of electronic devices – and, in turn, the worldwide demand for chips used in these devices – risen.

If there are bumps in the road to Taiwanese foundries’ continued dominance, lack of rain certainly isn’t one.

Seeing as how Taiwan is the central hub of the world’s advanced semiconductor technologies, acts as home to industry leader TSMC (which is the exclusive supplier of Apple’s M1 processors), and accounts for more than half of the world’s chip manufacturing capacity, industries and media alike are fearing that the domestic drought will exacerbate the current global chip shortage, since chip fabrication processes require enormous amounts of clean water.

However, true to its market leadership, the Taiwanese semiconductor industry has so far remained unaffected, at least on the supply side, by the water shortage. This is in part due to the fact that domestic foundries (i.e., chip manufacturers) have previously completed numerous drills related to worst-case scenarios of long droughts and are accordingly well prepared in these extenuating circumstances. Furthermore, the foundries also signed contracts with utility companies to ensure an ample supply of water to keep fabs (semiconductor fabrication plants) running via water tank trucks.

TrendForce therefore expects domestic foundry operations to continue unabated for the time being. Case in point, on April 15, TSMC announced an increased capital expenditure of US$30 billion for 2021. The foundry is also actively expanding its production capacity of mature technology processes in response to the growing demand from clients worldwide.

In the world of semiconductors, advancements in process technologies occupy merely one part of the equation when it comes to long-term success. Other requirements pertain to governmental, infrastructural, climate, procedural, and talent-related dimensions, just to name a few.

While Taiwanese foundries look for a way out of the ongoing drought, they are not only acing these requirements in spades, but also staying in the spotlight of the electronics supply chain in light of geopolitical tensions, oligopolistic market trends, and the persistent global health crisis. If there are bumps in the road to Taiwanese foundries’ continued dominance, lack of rain certainly isn’t one.

(Cover image source:Taiwan Water Resources Agency)

2021-04-28

Impact of Power Outage on TSMC Fab14 P7 Still Remaining Under Assessment, with Production of Automotive MCU and CIS Logic Products Hit Hardest, Says TrendForce

TSMC’s Fab14 P7 in the Southern Taiwan Science Park suffered a power outage on April 14th. The cause of the power outage was an accidental severing of an underground power cable during construction work nearby. According to TrendForce’s latest investigations, the facility accounts for around 4% of TSMC’s total 12-inch wafer foundry capacity and around 2% of the global 12-inch wafer foundry capacity, and TSMC is still assessing the exact figures for the wafers that have to be scrapped and the wafers that can be reworked.

According to the latest available information, power was fully restored to the fab site at 7:30 p.m. on April 14th. The diesel uninterruptible power supply (DUPS) of the facility kicked in instantly when the power cable was cut, but there was still a short period of power interruption and voltage drop. As a result, some of the equipment systems in the facility temporarily experienced operational irregularity or malfunction. Based on past experiences with this type of incident, TrendForce believes that it will take 2-7 days to recalibrate the equipment systems so that they can return to normal operation.

For TSMC, this power outage incident has had implications on both revenue and production. With respect to revenue, TrendForce’s own analysis indicates that the disposal of the wafers that are too damaged for rework will bring about a revenue impact of US$10-25 million. This amount represents less than 0.1% of TSMC’s annual total revenue.

On the other hand, with respect to production, the Fab14 P7 facilities contain 45/40nm and 16/12nm production lines, and the outage will primarily impair end products including smartphones and automobiles, since automotive chips, which are in extreme shortage at the moment, are manufactured at the 45/40nm nodes, and 45/40nm capacities are among the most insufficient among all foundry capacities.

TrendForce further indicates that clients whose wafer inputs for automotive MCU and CIS logic products (manufactured at the 45/40nm nodes) are bearing the brunt of the outage’s impact mainly include NXP, Renesas, and Sony. In particular, Sony CIS 40nm Logic products are primarily supplied for high-end smartphones. However, as Sony manufactures these products in its in-house facilities as well, even if TSMC were to fully discard this batch of wafers, Sony’s supplies will remain relatively unaffected in the short run.

On the other hand, after the automotive market entered a gradual recovery in 2H20, automotive MCUs have been in shortage due to automakers’ insufficient inventory. Furthermore, a fire broke out at Renesas’ Naka-based 12-inch fab on March 19, and the fab’s cleanrooms were severely damaged as a result.

As of now, manufacturing operations at the Naka fab have yet to resume. Since TSMC has been allocating some of its production capacities in Fab14 to these products as a substitute for the Naka fab, TrendForce believes that the power outage incident will likely exacerbate the shortage of automotive MCUs going forward.

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

2021-04-28

Foundry Revenue Projected to Reach Historical High of US$94.6 Billion in 2021 Thanks to High 5G/HPC/End-Device Demand, Says TrendForce

As the global economy enters the post-pandemic era, technologies including 5G, WiFi6/6E, and HPC (high-performance computing) have been advancing rapidly, in turn bringing about a fundamental, structural change in the semiconductor industry as well, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. While the demand for certain devices such as notebook computers and TVs underwent a sharp uptick due to the onset of the stay-at-home economy, this demand will return to pre-pandemic levels once the pandemic has been brought under control as a result of the global vaccination drive.

Nevertheless, the worldwide shift to next-gen telecommunication standards has brought about a replacement demand for telecom and networking devices, and this demand will continue to propel the semiconductor industry, resulting in high capacity utilization rates across the major foundries. As certain foundries continue to expand their production capacities this year, TrendForce expects total foundry revenue to reach a historical high of US$94.6 billion this year, an 11% growth YoY.

TrendForce’s latest analysis also finds that shipments and production volumes of end products will continue to grow in the post-pandemic period. Regarding host computers, the total (or global) shipments of servers and workstations are forecasted to undergo a yearly growth mainly driven by applications that are enabled by 5G and HPC. As for various types of client (or end-user) devices, the annual total production volume of 5G smartphones, in particular, is forecasted to increase by around 113% YoY. The penetration rate of 5G models in the smartphone market is also forecasted to rise to 37% in the same year. Turning to notebook (or laptop) computers, their total shipments in 2021 will register a YoY growth rate of about 15% thanks to the proliferation of the stay-at-home economy.

Finally, the governments of many countries introduced consumption subsidies during the pandemic so as to stimulate the domestic economy. Video streaming services have also grown dramatically with respect to content and demand because of the pandemic. As a result, the TV market is seeing a wave of replacement demand as consumers want to purchase the latest models that offer higher resolutions (e.g., 4K and 8K) and network connectivity (i.e., smart TVs). The total shipments of digital TVs in 2021 are forecasted to undergo a YoY growth rate of around 3%.

The high demand for the aforementioned end devices has therefore resulted in a corresponding surging demand for various ICs used in these devices, including CIS, DDI, and PMICs. In addition, the increasing adoption of cloud services, including IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS, has also generated a massive demand for various high-end CPUs and memory products used in the HPC platforms that power said cloud services.

On the whole, TrendForce believes that, with demand maintaining a healthy growth momentum for many kinds of end products, semiconductor components that are manufactured with the same foundry nodes will be competing for production capacity. Some categories of ICs will therefore experience a more severe capacity crunch due to the product mix strategies of respective foundries. In the short term, no effective resolution is expected for the undersupply situation in the foundry market.

Certain foundries will continue to expand their production capacities in 2021 as the semiconductor industry undergoes a structural change

With regards to the expansion plans of various foundries this year, tier-one and tier-two foundries will prioritize the development of different process nodes. More specifically, tier-one foundries, including TSMC and Samsung, will focus on the R&D, fab build-out, and capacity expansion for the 5nm and below nodes in response to the growing chip demand for HPC-related applications. On the other hand, tier-two foundries, including SMIC, UMC, and GlobalFoundries will primarily focus on expanding their production capacities of the 14nm to 40nm mature process nodes in order to meet the massive demand for next-gen telecom technologies (such as 5G and WiFi6/6E) and other diverse applications (such as OLED DDI and CIS/ISP).

Incidentally, it should be pointed out that SMIC’s capacity expansion plans have been constrained after the US Department of Commerce added SMIC to the Entity List, which prohibited the company from procuring US semiconductor equipment. However, SMIC still possesses enough funds for procuring non-US equipment and building new fabs, as the company is not only actively expanding its existing 8-inch and 12-inch wafer capacities, but also proceeding with the construction of its new fab in Beijing.

Apart from the aforementioned companies, other foundries, including PSMC, Tower Semiconductor, Vanguard, and HHGrace, will prioritize the capacity expansion of their 8-inch wafers (which are used for the 55nm and above nodes) to meet the demand for large-sized DDI, TDDI, and PMICs. These foundries, in contrast with their larger competitors, are primarily focusing on 8-inch capacity expansion due to the relatively high cost of DUV immersion systems used for the 40/45nm and below processes. For these companies, it is much more economically feasible to instead undertake capacity expansions for the 55/65nm and above nodes.

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

2021-03-23

Fire at Renesas’s 12-Inch Wafer Fab Projected to Exacerbate Tight Supply of Automotive MCUs, Says TrendForce

A fire broke out at the 12-inch wafer production line of Renesas’s Naka Factory on March 19 due to an overcurrent in the plating equipment. Renesas said that the fire burned about 5% of the total area of the first floor. The Naka fab mainly manufactures MCUs and SoCs for automotive, industrial, and IoT-related applications. While Renesas officially aims to get the fab back to full operation within one month, TrendForce expects the immediate task of restoring the cleanroom and installing new equipment systems to take much longer than that. The repair of the production line will have to proceed meticulously so as to avoid the risks of manufacturing-related problems in the mass production of automotive chips later on. Three months is TrendForce’s conservative estimate for the fab to regain its former level of wafer-start capacity, meaning the tight supply of automotive MCUs will be further exacerbated going forward.

The Naka incident is not expected to result in additional orders for other foundries, given the current tight wafer-start capacity across the foundry industry

TrendForce indicates that the 12-inch Naka fab’s process technologies likely range from the 90nm node to the 40nm node. With regards to Renesas’s production lines for automotive chips, TrendForce expects the fire to impair the fab’s wafer-start capacities for products including automotive PMICs, certain V850 automotive MCUs, and first-generation R-Car SoCs. Other foundries, in particular TSMC, are able to support some of Renesas’s production, since 2/3 of their technologies are interoperable. However, it is exceedingly difficult for other foundries to allocate spare wafer-start capacities to make up for Renesas’s shortfall due to the existing wafer-start capacity crunch across the foundry industry.

Ranked third among automotive semiconductor suppliers in 2020, Renesas is also currently one of the top five largest automotive MCU suppliers at the moment. Other automotive MCU suppliers include STMicroelectronics, Infineon, NXP, TI, and Microchip. Although most of STMicroelectronics’ automotive MCUs are manufactured in-house, TrendForce believes that the Naka fire will not result in additional orders for Renesas’s competitors, including STMicroelectronics, since automotive semiconductors are currently in extreme shortage.

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

2021-03-12

Impaired Shipment of Qualcomm 5G RFIC Expected to Lower 2Q21 Smartphone Production by About 5%, Says TrendForce

The Line S2 fab of Samsung in Austin, Texas sustained a power interruption, which has forced it to suspend operation since mid-February, under the impact from the winter storm. TrendForce’s latest investigations indicate that the capacity utilization rate for the entire fab is not expected to climb back to over 90% until the end of March. In particular, Samsung manufactures several products that are highly important for the production of smartphones, including the Qualcomm 5G RFIC, Samsung LSI OLED DDIC, and Samsung LSI CIS Logic IC. Supply-wise, the first two products sustained the brunt of the winter storm’s impact, and global smartphone production for 2Q21 is therefore expected to drop by about 5% as a result.

According to TrendForce’s investigations, Samsung was able to prepare for the power interruption ahead of time as the company had been forewarned by the local utility. Hence, the loss of WIP (work in progress) wafers caused by the incident was minimal. However, the delay in the resumption of full operation at the plant is expected to last more than two weeks, during which the fab will suspend its wafer input. The incident on the whole will have a definite impact on the global foundry industry that is already experiencing a serious capacity crunch. In terms of wafer input, the Qualcomm 5G RFIC, Samsung LSI OLED DDIC, and Samsung LSI CIS Logic IC account for 30%, 20%, and 15% of the Line S2’s monthly production capacity, respectively.

Of the three aforementioned products, the Qualcomm RFIC is primarily supplied to smartphone brands to be used in 5G handsets. This product is delivered to clients as part of either AP bundles or 5G modems. The winter storm’s impact on the production of the Qualcomm RFIC is expected to take place in 2Q21, resulting in a 30% decrease in 5G smartphone production for the quarter. However, TrendForce expects this incident to impair the 2Q21 production of all smartphones by only about 5%, given smartphone brands’ existing inventory of 5G AP bundles and 5G modems, in addition to the fact that smartphone brands are likely to keep up their quarterly smartphone production by increasing the production of 4G handsets to make up for the shortfall in 5G handsets. Furthermore, TrendForce expects the Line S2 fab to prioritize resuming the production of RF products ahead of other products, in turn further mitigating the winter storm’s impact on global smartphone production.

On the other hand, the Samsung LSI OLED DDIC is primarily used in Apple’s iPhone 12 series. The winter storm’s impact on these DDICs will similarly take place by the end of 2Q21. Even so, Apple likely possesses sufficient DDIC inventory, at least in the short term, since the period of peak DDIC demand for the company’s existing smartphone models has already passed. Moreover, the iPhone 12 mini may reach EOL earlier than expected due to disappointing sales. Should Apple decide to cut iPhone 12 mini production, the company will be able to further minimize the impact of OLED DDIC undersupply. Finally, as sales of the iPhone 11 (which is equipped with an LCD, instead of OLED, panel and therefore does not require OLED DDIC) have been resurging recently, Apple may increase the share of iPhone 11 in its total smartphone production in order to keep up its quarterly production volume. In light of these factors, TrendForce believes that the production volume of iPhones in 2Q21 will suffer only limited impact from OLED DDIC supply disruptions.

On the whole, although the production of 5G smartphones will face a relatively considerable challenge in 2Q21, smartphone brands will be able to keep up their quarterly production volume by raising the production share of 4G smartphones instead. TrendForce thus projects the winter storm to impair smartphone production for 2Q21 by no more than 5%, while maintaining the previous forecast of 1.36 billion units produced for 2021. However, TrendForce also does not rule out the possibility that the winter storm will lower the penetration rate of 5G smartphones in 2021 from 38%, as previously forecasted, to 36.5%.

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

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