foundry


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:TrendForce)

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

2021-03-09

Persistent Shortage Results in Near 7% MoM Increase in Average Contract Price of Specialty DDR3 4Gb Chips in February, Says TrendForce

As the three dominant DRAM suppliers (Samsung, SK Hynix, and Micron) are currently experiencing a shortage in their production capacities, the corresponding shortage situation in the DRAM market has yet to be resolved, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. Taking advantage of the fact that the whole DRAM market has entered a period of cyclical upturn in 1Q21, DRAM suppliers have significantly raised quotes for specialty DRAM products. This extraordinary development has led to price hikes that are almost double digits for some specialty DRAM chips. Furthermore, the magnitude of the price hike especially widens for products belonging to the lower part of the density range and the more niche applications. Looking at MoM changes in contract prices of specialty DRAM products for February, DDR2 and DDR3 chips saw the largest price hikes. Prices of DDR4 chips also went up due to the influence of the rising quotes for DDR3 chips. The average contract price of DDR3 4Gb chips, which are still mainstream for specialty applications, jumped 6.8% MoM.

As for DDR3 2Gb chips that are primarily promoted by Taiwan-based suppliers, TrendForce indicates that there is not enough supply even as quotes are being offered. With this situation becoming the norm, the price range (i.e., the difference between the high and low prices) has also expanded dramatically. The average contract price of DDR3 2Gb chips rose by nearly 9% MoM in February. Samsung significantly raised quotes for DDR4 4Gb chips in response to the sharp upswing in prices of DDR3 chips. The low and average prices of DDR4 4Gb chips for specialty applications both climbed around 6% MoM. The average price of DDR4 8Gb chips went up by around 4% MoM as the price trend of this product aligns with the general price trends of mainstream PC DRAM and server DRAM products. However, it should be pointed out that the hikes in contract prices of specialty DRAM chips were mainly the result of the adjustments made to monthly contract deals and thus reflected the market situation of February. By contrast, prices held steady for quarterly lock-in deals with tier-1 clients.

While the three dominant DRAM suppliers have been slowing down their DDR3 manufacturing, Taiwanese suppliers are constantly adjusting their capacity allocation to maximize profits

With demand getting hotter in the specialty DRAM market, DDR3 products are starting to surpass DDR4 products and logic ICs in profit margin. Consequently, DRAM suppliers are also changing their strategies. Looking at South Korean suppliers, Samsung will continue shifting the wafer production capacity of Line 13 to CMOS image sensors over the long term. However, this reassignment has now been scaled down for this year due to the recent surge in specialty DRAM prices. Likewise, SK Hynix will keep the DRAM production capacity of its older fab M10 relatively constant through 2021 after reducing it in 2020. As for Micron, it has raised the yield rates of the 1Z-nm and 1-alpha processes, so the output shares of products based on these more advanced technologies will gradually expand. Since the available fab space in Taiwan is limited, Micron will relocate the 20nm and more mature processes to Fab 6 in the US. In sum, the output of DDR3 products from the three dominant suppliers will continue to shrink, but the pace of the reduction is now slower than originally expected.

Regarding Taiwan-based suppliers, Nanya has shifted some 20nm and 30nm production capacity from DDR4 products back to DDR3 products. Winbond has been focusing on Flash products in the recent years, and its DRAM production capacity will remain fairly limited until the completion of its new fab in Kaohsiung. Nevertheless, Winbond is concentrating its DRAM production efforts on low-density DDR2 and DDR3 products (i.e., 1Gb and 2Gb chips). It actually has the advantage of being able to raise prices as its market share for low-density products is fairly large. As for PSMC, it has been focusing on foundry manufacturing of logic ICs for a while. However, with prices now rising for foundry manufacturing of DDR3 products, PSMC now wants to shift some wafer production capacity back to DRAM. Going forward, the three Taiwan-based suppliers will keep adjusting their capacity allocation strategies in accordance with changes in the profit margins of different products. Nevertheless, even as suppliers are now changing their product mixes to take advantage of the latest market situation, TrendForce projects that specialty DRAM products will be in undersupply at least through 1H21. The magnitudes of price hikes for various types of specialty DRAM products will depend on suppliers’ capacity allocation strategies.

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

2021-03-05

Progress in Importation of US Equipment Dispels Doubts on SMIC’s Capacity Expansion for Mature Nodes for Now, Says TrendForce

The major suppliers of WFE (wafer fab equipment) in the US are progressing smoothly in the application for license from the US government for the exportation of equipment systems, equipment parts, and customer services for 14nm and above processes to Chinese foundry SMIC. The US-based equipment suppliers that are applying for the license include Applied Materials, Lam Research, KLA-Tencor, and Axcelis. TrendForce believes that as some support from US-based equipment suppliers is forthcoming, SMIC should be able to continue its efforts in the optimization of the mature process modules and overcoming production bottlenecks to avoid a scission in raw materials and spare parts, and predicts the company to sit at a global market share of 4.2% in 2021. Keeping SMIC in operation will provide a bit of relief to the capacity crunch in the global foundry market, however, the tightening of the available production capacity will remain a challenge that is difficult to resolve for the foundry industry as a whole. Also, the US government continues to prohibit SMIC from obtaining the equipment of the advanced nodes that are 10nm and below, and the particular restriction poses a potential risk for the long-term development of the Chinese foundry.

SMIC Continues to Expand Domestic Demand and Localization under China’s Explicit Direction in Long-Term Development of Semiconductor

As the fifth largest IC foundry in the world, SMIC obtains over 70% of revenue from China and Asia-Pacific. In terms of process node perspectives, 0.18um, 55nm, and 40nm contribute to the majority of revenue that totaled to over 80% from being applied on service platforms such as logic, BCD, eFlash, sensor, RF, and HV, and the coordination with the IC projects listed in the 13th and 14th Five-Year Plan of China will continue to enhance on the assimilation of localized WFE (wafer fab equipment) and raw materials.

The sanctions imposed by the US Department of Commerce that have affected the long-term planning in production capacity and development strategies of SMIC are expected to result in a YoY declination of 25% in the capital expenditure of 2021 for the Chinese foundry. SMIC intends to allocate the majority of its capital expenditure to capacity expansion for the mature nodes and the construction of a new joint-venture fab in Beijing, and is conservative towards investing in advanced process technology such as FinFET. TrendForce believes that geopolitical factors and uncertainties in the WFE section of the supply chain have compelled SMIC to scale back its capital expenditure and shift its development focus to the 55/40nm and 0.18um nodes.

A breakdown of SMIC’s revenue by region shows that more than 50% comes from China, though whether major global clients are willing to continue placing their orders with SMIC under the consideration of foundry selection and long-term cooperation amidst the unabated status in the semiconductor competition between China and the US will be a focus of observation going forward. Pertaining to the return on investment for technology scaling and mature node, the development planning in advanced processes for SMIC no longer succumb to immediacy in demand under restricted client conditions and constraints from subcontractors. On the other hand, the resources for chiplet and specialty IC that exert better functions for the operation of the company are focused on the existing 14nm and above matured processes to enhance on PDK (process design kits) for clients that may create a business model with prolonged profitability, as well as preserve R&D staffs and future growth dynamics.

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

2021-02-24

Revenue of Top 10 Foundries Expected to Increase by 20% YoY in 1Q21 in Light of Fully Loaded Capacities, Says TrendForce

Demand in the global foundry market remains strong in 1Q21, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. As various end-products continue to generate high demand for chips, clients of foundries in turn stepped up their procurement activities, which subsequently led to a persistent shortage of production capacities across the foundry industry.

TrendForce therefore expects foundries to continue posting strong financial performances in 1Q21, with a 20% YoY growth in the combined revenues of the top 10 foundries, while TSMC, Samsung, and UMC rank as the top three in terms of market share. However, the future reallocation of foundry capacities still remains to be seen, since the industry-wide effort to accelerate the production of automotive chips may indirectly impair the production and lead times of chips for consumer electronics and industrial applications.

TSMC has been maintaining a steady volume of wafer inputs at its 5nm node, and these wafer inputs are projected to account for 20% of the company’s revenue. On the other hand, owing to chip orders from AMD, Nvidia, Qualcomm, and MediaTek, demand for TSMC’s 7nm node is likewise strong and likely to account for 30% of TSMC’s revenue, a slight increase from the previous quarter. On the whole, TSMC’s revenue is expected to undergo a 25% increase YoY in 1Q21 and set a new high on the back of surging demand for 5G, HPC, and automotive applications.

In response to increased client demand for 5G chips, CIS, driver ICs, and HPC chips, Samsung will continue to raise its semiconductor CAPEX this year, which is divided between its memory and foundry businesses and represents Samsung’s desire to catch up to TSMC. With regards to process technologies, the Korean company’s capacity utilization rates for the 5nm and 7nm nodes have been relatively high in 1Q21, during which Samsung is expected to increase its revenue by 11% YoY.

In addition to chip demand from the automotive sector, UMC has been keeping up with manufacturing driver ICs, PMICs, RF front-end, and IoT products. The company’s capacity thus remains fully loaded in 1Q21, and UMC is expected to undergo a 14% YoY increase in revenue. GlobalFoundries is similarly experiencing high capacity utilization rates due to the increase in automotive chip demand, as well as the military chips that it has been manufacturing for the U.S. Department of Defense. GlobalFoundries’ revenue is expected to increase by 8% YoY in 1Q21.

SMIC’s revenue for the 14nm and below nodes is expected to decline in 1Q21 as the company was added to the Entity List by the U.S. and subsequently faced constraints in the development of advanced processes. However, with the persistent demand in the foundry market for mature processes above (including) the 40nm node, SMIC’s revenue is projected to stay on a positive trajectory and reach a 17% YoY increase in 1Q21. TowerJazz will spend about US$150 million on a small-scale capacity expansion, but equipment move-in and calibrations will not be finalized until approximately 2H21, after which the expanded capacity will start measurably contributing to the company’s revenue. In 1Q21, TowerJazz’s revenue is expected to be on par with the previous quarter while reaching a 15% increase YoY.

PSMC is primarily focused on manufacturing memory products, DDICs, CIS, and PMICs. At the moment, high demand for 8-inch and 12-inch wafer capacities and for automotive chips has resulted in fully loaded capacity for PSMC. The company’s revenue is expected to increase by 20% YoY in 1Q21. Likewise, VIS’ capacity is fully loaded across all of its process technologies. Driven by increased spec requirements for PMICs and small-sized DDICs, VIS’ revenue is expected to increase by 26% YoY in 1Q21. Finally, Hua Hong is currently placing considerable emphasis on expanding the 12-inch capacity of HH Fab7 in Wuxi. Process technologies for 12-inch production lines, including NOR, BCD, Super Junction, and IGBT, have all passed qualifications, thereby injecting fresh momentum into Hua Hong’s development. Furthermore, given Hua Hong’s fully loaded 8-inch capacities and the fact that its performance in 1Q20 represents a relatively low base period for YoY comparison, Hua Hong’s revenue may likely reach a 42% YoY increase in 1Q21.

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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