Having experienced in worldwide lockdown caused by COVID-19 and rising geopolitical worries in recent years, governments of various countries hope to have wafer manufacturing plants in their own territories to reduce the possible impact of supply chain disconnection; however, building and operating a semiconductor wafer manufacturing factory is not an easy task. In addition to the extremely high cost, high labor demand, and environmental conditions are also a threshold. Therefore, TSMC, the leader in foundries, has naturally become the target of active invitations by governments to set up factories. In addition to Japan, after evaluating customer needs, cost, and environmental resources (including water, electricity, land) and other conditions, TSMC doesn’t rule out the possibility of setting up factories in other countries if it is cost-effective.
Japan, once the world’s largest semiconductor cluster, still occupies a very important position in some semiconductor equipment, raw materials and packaging materials, and technologies. TSMC has previously announced the establishment of a 3DIC material R&D center in Japan, and this time it announced the establishment of a wafer manufacturing plant. In addition to deepening the streamlined process of customer products from manufacturing to packaging, it can also cooperate closely with upstream equipment vendors, chemical raw materials factories, such as TEL, SCREEN, SUMCO, Shinetsu, etc.
The panic buying of chips persisted in 2Q21 owing to factors such as post-pandemic demand, industry-wide shift to 5G telecom technology, geopolitical tensions, and chronic chip shortages, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. Chip demand from ODMs/OEMs remained high, as they were unable to meet shipment targets for various end-products due to the shortage of foundry capacities. In addition, wafers inputted in 1Q21 underwent a price hike and were subsequently outputted in 2Q21. Foundry revenue for the quarter reached US$24.407 billion, representing a 6.2% QoQ increase and yet another record high for the eighth consecutive quarter since 3Q19.
Revenue growths of TSMC and Samsung were slightly hindered by power outages at their respective fabs
For 2Q21, TSMC once again comfortably dwarfed other foundries with a revenue of US$13.3 billion, a 3.1% QoQ increase. TSMC’s relatively muted growth can be attributed to several factors, the most prominent of which was a power outage that occurred in TSMC’s Fab14 P7, located in the Southern Taiwan Science Park, in April. The power outage subsequently caused some wafers at the 40nm and 16nm nodes to be discarded. TSMC’s fab in the Southern Taiwan Science Park suffered yet another disruption when Taipower’s Kaohsiung-based Hsinta Power Plant temporarily went offline in May. Although the fab immediately resumed operations via its emergency power generators so that no wafers in the production lines were discarded, certain wafers still needed to be reworked. Finally, TSMC maintained its longstanding strategy of giving consistent price quotes for its foundry services. Hence, although the foundry’s revenue for 2Q21 exceeded the upper end of its prior financial guidance, its revenue for the quarter underwent a slightly lower QoQ growth compared to other foundries, and it also lost some market share to competitors.
Samsung’s revenue for 2Q21 reached US$4.33 billion, a 5.5% QoQ increase. After recovering from the winter storm that swept Texas in February, Samsung’s Austin-based Line S2 fab fully resumed its manufacturing operations in April. The fab is now operating at fully loaded capacities by manufacturing for additional client orders in order to compensate for the 1.5-month loss in wafer input from idling as a result of the winter storm. Although the sharp drop in wafer input in 1Q21 somewhat constrained Samsung’s output and revenue growth for 2Q21, the foundry still managed to post a 5.5% QoQ revenue growth thanks to strong client demand for CIS, 5G RF transceivers, and OLED driver ICs. Owing to persistently high demand for PMIC, TDDI, Wi-Fi, and OLED driver IC products, UMC, ranked third on the top 10 list, operated at a capacity utilization rate surpassing 100%, and its output severely lagged behind client demand. In response, UMC continued to raise its quotes. In addition, newly installed production capacities at the 28/22nm nodes, which have a relatively high ASP, gradually became available for wafer input in 2Q21, resulting in a 5% QoQ increase in UMC’s blended ASP for 2Q21. The foundry saw its market share remaining relatively unchanged from the previous quarter at 7.2% and posted a revenue of US$1.82 billion, an 8.5% QoQ increase.
Fourth-ranked GlobalFoundries posted a revenue of US$1.52 billion for 2Q21, a 17.0% QoQ increase. After selling its US-based Fab10 and Singapore-based Fab3E to ON Semi and VIS, respectively, in 2019, GlobalFoundries has been gradually consolidating its existing product lines and focusing on the development of 14/12nm FinFET, 22/12nm FD-SOI, and 55/40nm HV and BCD technology platforms. At the same time, GlobalFoundries has also announced that it will expand its current production capacities by building new US-based and Singapore-based fabs, which are expected to contribute to GlobalFoundries’ earnings starting in the 2H22-2023 period. On the other hand, although GlobalFoundries has already sold its Fab10 to ON Semi, the former continues to manufacture products for the latter at Fab10 across the 2020-2021 period. ON Semi will not independently operate the fab until the transfer of ownership is finalized in 2022. SMIC likewise grew its revenue for 2Q21 by a remarkable 21.8% to US$1.34 billion and raised its market share to 5.3%. SMIC’s growth took place due to strong client demand for various technologies including 0.15/0.18µm PMIC, 55/40nm MCU, RF, HV, and CIS, as well as a continued increase in its ASP. Owing to better-than-expected adoption of its 14nm technology by new clients, SMIC is operating at a fully loaded capacity of 15K wspm at the moment.
While VIS leapfrogged Tower on the top 10 list, HuaHong Group, inclusive of subsidiaries HHGrace and HLMC, took sixth place
HuaHong Group subsidiaries HHGrace and HLMC have been operating Fab1/2/3/7 and Fab5/6, respectively and sharing certain manufacturing resources. Hence, TrendForce will from now on combine the two subsidiaries’ revenues into a single item, listed as HuaHong Group. In particular, capacity expansion at HH Fab7, operated by Hua Hong Wuxi, proceeded ahead of expectations, with client demand for NOR Flash, CIS, RF, and IGBT products remaining strong. Not only is HH Fab7’s production capacity of 48K wspm currently fully loaded, but HuaHong Group’s 8-inch fabs have all been operating at a capacity utilization rate of more than 100%. Thanks to a 3-5% QoQ increase in HuaHong Group’s blended ASP for 8-inch wafers, HuaHong Group’s revenue for 2Q21 reached US$658 million, a 9.7% QoQ increase, placing the foundry squarely in the number six spot.
After leapfrogging Tower in the revenue rankings in 1Q21 for the first time ever, PSMC maintained its strong growth in 2Q21 partially owing to continued wafer starts for specialty DRAM, DDI, CIS, and PMIC in its P1/2/3 fabs. At the same time, there was a massive hike in demand for automotive chips, such as IGBT, manufactured at PSMC’s Fab 8A and Fab 8B. In view of quarterly increases in PSMC’s overall ASP, the foundry posted US$459 million in revenue for 2Q21, an 18.3% QoQ increase, and took the seventh spot in the rankings. VIS benefitted from a host of factors in 2Q21, including persistent demand for DDI, PMIC, and power discretes; newly installed capacities in the Singapore-based Fab3E ready for production; adjustments in the foundry’s product mix; and an overall ASP hike. VIS’ revenue for 2Q21 reached US$363 million, which represented not only an 11.1% QoQ increase, but also the first time VIS overtook Tower in terms of revenue.
Although ninth-ranked Tower benefitted from stable demand for RF-SOI products, industrial PMIC, and automotive PMIC, the foundry’s newly installed capacities were not entirely ready for mass production, and its revenue therefore underwent a modest 4.3% QoQ increase for 2Q21 to US$362 million. On the other hand, DBHiTek had been operating at fully loaded capacities for more than 18 months. While client demand for PMIC, MEMS, and CIS products manufactured with 8-inch wafers made consistent contributions to the foundry’s earnings, most of DBHiTek’s revenue growth for 2Q21 took place due to the rise in its ASP. DBHiTek’s revenue for 2Q21 reached US245 million, a 12.0% QoQ increase.
As of 3Q21, the shortage of foundry capacities that began in 2H19 has persisted and intensified for nearly two years. Although newly installed capacities from certain foundries have become gradually available for production, the increase in production capacity has been relatively limited, and these additional capacities have been fully booked by clients, as indicated by TrendForce’s investigation into orders placed by foundry clients. All major foundries currently operate at fully loaded capacities, though their production still lags behind market demand. Furthermore, wafer inputs for automotive chips have been skyrocketing since 2Q21 due to major pushes by governments worldwide, in turn constraining the available production capacities for other chips. As a result, foundries are continuing to raise their blended ASPs and adjusting their product mixes in order to further optimize profits. TrendForce therefore believes that the combined revenues of the top 10 foundries will reach a record high in 3Q21 by undergoing a wider QoQ growth compared to 2Q21.
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As UMC and GlobalFoundries successively end their respective developments of advanced processes, the advanced process market has now become an oligopoly, with TSMC and Samsung as the only remaining suppliers （excluding SMIC, which is currently affected by geopolitical tensions between China and the US）. According to TrendForce’s latest investigations, TSMC holds a 70% market share in advanced processes below – and including – the 1Xnm node, while Samsung’s market share is about 30%.
As electronic products demand faster data transmission speeds and better performance in response to IoT and 5G applications, the chips contained in these products also need to shrink in size and consume less power. Hence, process technologies need to evolve in order to enable the production of increasingly advanced chips. In this light, suppliers of such chips as smartphone AP, CPU, and GPU primarily rely on Taiwan for its semiconductor industry’s advanced process technologies.
Why is Taiwan able to hold key manufacturing competencies, market shares, and unsurpassed technologies in the global foundry industry?
After TSMC pioneered its pure-play foundry services more than 30 years ago, UMC also subsequently transitioned to a foundry business model. However, the build-out and maintenance of wafer fabs require enormous human resources, capital expenditures, and environmental support, all of which have been skyrocketing since the industry progressed below the 40nm node into the EUV era. Factors including governmental support, human resource development, utility services, and long-term amortization and depreciation are all indispensable for foundries to keep up their fab operations. TrendForce’s findings indicate that Taiwan possesses about 50% of the global foundry capacity, and this figure will likely continue growing due to the persistent demand for advanced processes.
Taiwanese foundries led by TSMC and UMC operate based on a pure-play foundry model, which means they do not compete with their clients outside of foundry operations. Foundries are able to maximize the profitability of the semiconductor ecosystem in Taiwan thanks to Taiwan’s comprehensive PC, ICT, and consumer electronics industries.
In addition, not only are they able to deliver PPA（performance, power, and area） advantages to their clients through technology scaling and node shrinking, they are also unsurpassed in their comprehensive silicon IP cores and longstanding product development services. Other competing foundries are unlikely to make breakthroughs in these fields and catch up to Taiwanese foundries in the short run.
On the whole, the Taiwanese foundry industry is able to maintain its leadership thanks to competencies in human capital, client strategies, process technologies, capital intensify, economies of scale, and superior production capacities.
Furthermore, not only do advancements in semiconductor fabrication technology require developmental efforts from foundries, but they also need support throughout the entire supply chain, including upstream wafer suppliers and downstream client feedbacks, both of which can serve to eliminate yield detractors and raise yield rates. Therefore, the Taiwanese semiconductor industry derives its advantage from foundries（TSMC, UMC, PSMC, and VIS）, as well as from the cross-industrial support across silicon wafer suppliers（SAS and GlobalWafers）, fabless IC design clients, and packaging and testing operators（ASE, etc.）
Some of the advantages of third-generation semiconductors SiC and GaN include their ability to operate under high voltages, high temperatures （for SiC）, and high frequencies（for GaN）. Not only do these advantages allow manufacturers to significantly reduce the physical sizes of chips, but peripheral circuit designs can also be simplified as a result, thereby further reducing the sizes of modules, peripheral components, and cooling systems. That is why SiC and GaN have become important strategic focuses of the global semiconductor industry.
As part of its ongoing goal of semiconductor independence, China has been accelerating the development of third-generation semiconductors in recent years
From the perspective of substrate development, countries find it difficult to procure SiC substrates due to the lack of production capacities worldwide. Hence, the ability to control the supply of SiC substrates equals having more influence in the semiconductor industry. The current ranking of geographical regions that control the supply of SiC substrates is, in order, the US （Cree and II-VI）, Japan （Rohm）, and Europe （STM）.
It should be pointed out that China’s overall standing in the third-generation semiconductor industry is hindered by its insufficient supply of substrates. Hence, Chinese companies are slightly lagging behind other global companies in this industry. At the moment, both TankeBlue and Shanxi Shuoke have successfully developed 8-inch SiC wafers, though their scale of mass production is yet to catch up to global leader Cree.
Despite the vast majority of GaN substrate suppliers being Japanese and European companies, Chinese companies have been making an aggressive push to enter this market. Regarding substrates, Nanowin, Sino Nitride, and Eta Research are all currently investing in R&D and mass production, though their current focuses are limited to 2-inch and 4-inch wafers. Regarding epitaxy, Enkris, GLC, and Genettice have been similarly making progress on R&D and mass production.
Furthermore, Chinese companies are farther ahead in the development and manufacturing strategies for GaN substrates compared to SiC substrates. For the GaN RF segment, Chinese companies span the entire supply chain, including IDM（CETC, Aofengyuan, Chengchang, Dynax, Innoscience, Bofang Jiaxin）, foundries（HiWafer and San’an）, and fabless IC design companies（GaXtrem）.
The stay-at-home economy generated by the COVID-19 pandemic has galvanized a rising demand for IT products this year, with a corresponding increase in DDI demand as well, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. More specifically, large-sized DDI demand is expected to increase by as much as 7.4% YoY in 2021, although the availability of 8-inch foundry capacity in the upstream supply chain is expected to increase by a mere 2.5% YoY due to other chips with relatively higher margins occupying much of this capacity. Foundries such as NexChip and SMIC are still continuing to install production capacities this year, and the supply of large-sized DDI will undergo a slight increase as a result. However, these newly installed capacities will be unable to fully alleviate the scarcity of large-sized DDI, which may potentially persist until the end of 2021.
While the supply of TCON similarly faces the issue of shortage, high-end TCON models bear the brunt of the impact
In addition to the tight supply of large-sized DDI, the recent shortage of TCON (timing controllers) has also adversely affected the shipment volume of large-sized panels, especially for high-end TCON models. The shortage of TCON can primarily be attributed to the fact that high-end TCON is mainly manufactured in 12-inch fabs, where various chips compete over limited wafer capacities. In addition, backend logic IC packaging and testing capacities are similarly in short supply, thereby adding further risk to the supply of TCON. In particular, manufacturing high-end TCON requires longer wire bonding time compared with mainstream TCON, meaning the current shortage of wire bonding capacity will lead to a widening shortage of high-end TCON. While the expanding capacity of packaging and testing services for logic chips is yet to catch up to the surging demand for various end products, the shortage of high-end TCON will unlikely be alleviated in the short run.
Prices of large-sized DDI will undergo an increase once again in 3Q21 due to persistently tight supply
TrendForce’s investigations indicate that, as 8-inch foundry capacities fall short of market demand, production capacities allocated to large-sized DDI have accordingly been crowded out by other chips. Foundry quotes are also expected to undergo an increase once again in 3Q21. Hence, IC suppliers will accordingly raise their large-sized DDI quotes for clients in the panel manufacturing industry as well. It should be pointed out that the demand for IT products is expected to slow down in response to increased vaccinations in Europe and the US, where governments have been gradually easing lockdown measures and border restrictions. Therefore, demand for panels, which has remained in an upward trajectory since last year, will likely experience a gradual downward correction in 4Q21, thus narrowing the gap between supply and demand of large-sized DDI. However, IC suppliers will not be able to address the tight supply of backend packaging and testing capacity in the short run, so panel suppliers will still need to contend with a shortage of TCON going forward.
On the whole, IC suppliers are unlikely to obtain sufficient 8-inch foundry capacities for manufacturing large-sized DDI, since 8-inch fabs will continue to operate at maximum capacity utilization rates for the next year. IC suppliers must therefore flexibly adjust their large-sized DDI procurement in accordance with cyclical downturns of foundry demand. In other words, the supply and demand situation of large-sized DDI and TCON will remain key to the supply and demand of panels in 2022.
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