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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Owing to the stay-at-home economy brought about by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for IT products has been sky-high since 2Q20. However, monitor panel shipment for 1Q21 declined by 8.6% QoQ to 39.9 million units due to the shortage of components such as ICs in the upstream supply chain, as well as SDC’s (Samsung Display Co.) decision to shutter its monitor panel manufacturing operations, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations.
Regarding the two aforementioned factors constraining the shipment performances of monitor panel suppliers, TrendForce indicates that SDC will exit the monitor LCD panel manufacturing business after it reaches its shipment target of 1.2 million panels in 1H21. This figure represents a staggering 93.8% decline compared to the 19.3 million units of LCD panels that SDC shipped throughout last year. Aside from SDC’s decision, the other detractor of monitor panel shipment in 1Q21 was the tight supply of semiconductor production capacity, which resulted in a shortage of such components as ICs and TCON (timing controllers) in the upstream panel supply chain. Panel suppliers were hence constrained in their ability to manufacture panels, thereby leading to a shortage of monitor panels. In addition, since TV and notebook (laptop) panels have higher profit margins compared to monitor panels, panel suppliers generally allocate less of their production capacities for manufacturing monitor panels relative to the other products.
Monitor panel shipment for 2021 is still likely to experience a YoY growth as material shortage becomes alleviated going forward
Nonetheless, as demand for TV and notebook computers gradually slows, and certain semiconductor foundries are expected to expand their production capacities in 2H21, TrendForce believes that panel suppliers will likely in turn allocate more production capacities to clients in the monitor segment in 4Q21. More specifically, the current shortage of components in the upstream supply chain, which has been exerting significant downward pressure on monitor panel shipment, will be gradually alleviated in 2H21. On the demand side, the persistent stay-at-home economy will continue to generate demand for IT products. Monitor brands will therefore ramp up procurement activities for components such as panels in order to maintain a healthy inventory level. In light of influences on the supply side and demand side, TrendForce expects monitor panel shipment for 2021 to reach 169 million units, a 4.2% YoY growth.
For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Display Research, please click here, or email Ms. Vivie Liu from the Sales Department at email@example.com
Now that the chip shortage has persisted for more than half a year, markets and industries are closely monitoring whether chip demand is as strong as expected, or whether the current shortage is a mere mirage caused by overbooked orders from clients in fear of insufficient components.
At any rate, analyzing the current chip shortage entails doing so on both the supply and the demand ends. First of all, with regards to the demand for automotive chips, which has been in the spotlight for the past two quarters, automakers first began suffering from a shortage of automotive chips last year. This took place because automotive electronics suppliers, which had historically maintained a relatively low inventory level, slashed their chip orders placed at foundries ahead of other foundry clients at the onset of the coronavirus crisis in early 2020.
Hence, once automotive demand saw a sudden upturn later on, these automotive electronics suppliers found themselves unable to place additional orders at foundries, whose production capacities had by this time become fully loaded. Automotive chips subsequently began experiencing a shortage as a result.
At the same time, demand for CIS, DDI, and PMICs skyrocketed owing to the global 5G rollout and to the spike in demand for PCs and TVs caused by the proliferation of WFH. Given that foundries had already been experiencing fully loaded capacities across their mature technologies required for fabricating these chips, most clients had no choice but to resort to upping their volume of chip orders in orders to ensure that they are allocated sufficient foundry capacities.
Brands’ order placement strategies
On the other hand, several brands of electronic devices have been overbooking their chips to mitigate the risk of the chip shortage that began last year as well as the increased shipping times. These brands span the notebook computer, TV, and smartphone industries.
Of these three industries, smartphone brands have been overbooking foundry capacities due to the aforementioned expectation of chip shortage and most smartphone brands’ ongoing attempt to seize market shares left in Huawei’s wake. It should be pointed out that, however, in response to lackluster sales during the May 1st Labor Day in China, most brands have now lowered their production targets.
Foundries, on the other hand, had already been experiencing fully loaded capacities due to high demand from various end devices. Hence, they were unable to reach the volume of orders that were overbooked by smartphone brands despite adjusting their product mixes and reallocating production capacities. As such, although smartphone brands have lowered their production targets, capacities across the foundry industry remain fully loaded.
“Brands are responding to the market situation by strategically procuring components. Even if they were to adjust their production targets, they could still adjust their purchases of raw materials and consumables. Actors in the supply chain are unlikely to rigorously examine the inventory levels of brands before any unexpected changes occur in either demand or material shortages”
Conversely, with regards to the notebook and TV industries, they had mostly experienced bullish demand in the past few quarters, meaning sales performances are mostly a non-issue. Their procurement efforts have thus been focused on taking stock of the supply of raw materials and consumables, and these efforts have been guided by a principle of stocking up on demand. This is in accordance with both the bullish sales and the expectations of the companies themselves.
Generally speaking, TV and notebook use the term of strategic stocking as an excuse to mitigate any doubts of rising inventory levels from market observers. For the supply chains of these industries, the current state of the market is primarily dictated by the demand side. Actors in the supply chain are unlikely to rigorously examine the inventory levels of brands before any unexpected changes occur in either demand or material shortages.
Taken together, the supply and demand situations of the notebook, smartphone, and TV markets, in addition to the capacity utilization rate of foundries, would seem to indicate that the inventory adjustments caused by overbooking is unlikely to taken place in the short run, contrary to the market’s fears. TrendForce currently expects the shortage of foundry capacities to persist at least until 1H22, only after which is the supply and demand situation in the semiconductor market like to gradually return to an equilibrium.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org