MCU


2021-06-08

Memory Prices Likely to Continue Rising in 3Q21 as Suppliers Keep a Low Level of Inventory, Says TrendForce

Memory suppliers are currently carrying a relatively low level of inventory because of aggressive stock-up activities of clients across different application segments in 1H21, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. More specifically, inventories of DRAM suppliers and NAND Flash suppliers are averaging 3-4 weeks and 4-5 weeks, respectively. The overall procurement of server memory products is expected to intensify in 3Q21, so memory suppliers do not see the necessity in lowering quotes to drive sales. TrendForce forecasts that DRAM prices will rise further by 3-8% QoQ for 3Q21. On the other hand, thanks to the growing demand for enterprise SSDs and NAND Flash wafers, TrendForce has also corrected up the magnitude of the QoQ increase in NAND Flash prices for 3Q21 to 5-10% (compared with the previous projection of 3-8%).

High inventory may pose potential risk for smartphone brands in 2H21 due to decreased smartphone production targets

Under the market spotlight are smartphone brands and notebook manufacturers, which drastically differ in their inventory levels. Regarding the smartphone market, TrendForce has already lowered the YoY growth rate of the global total smartphone production in 2021 to 8.5% from the previous projection of 9.4% as the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic takes place across India. Presently, smartphone brands are carrying 8-10 weeks of inventory on average for DRAM and NAND Flash. Two newly emerged factors are generating some concerns about the high level of inventory. First, Chinese brands have lowered their production targets and begun to adjust inventories in order to address the issue of component gaps. Second, Southeast Asia is bracing for a resurgence of COVID-19 outbreaks that could disrupt smartphone production and weaken consumer demand.

PC OEMs are holding up to 10 weeks’ worth of DRAM inventory on average; price hike of PC DRAM in 2H21 will likely be limited as a result

Regarding the notebook market, on the other hand, PC OEMs are currently carrying about 8-10 weeks’ worth of DRAM inventory on average, with some PC OEMs having an even higher inventory level, primarily because the stay-at-home economy this year will continue to propel the demand for notebook computers, about 238 million units of which are expected to be produced this year, a 14.3% increase YoY. Furthermore, in view of the shortage of components in the upstream supply chain, including audio CODECs, analog ICs, power ICs, MCUs, and LED drivers, PC OEMs are anticipating that DRAM will be in similar shortage as well, thus potentially leading to an inability to manufacture notebooks. In response, PC OEMs are therefore prompted to expand their DRAM procurement in 1H21. On the NAND Flash front, the persistent shortage of NAND Flash controller ICs means that PC OEMs generally carry about 4-5 weeks’ worth of NAND Flash inventory on average, which is relatively lower than their DRAM inventory.

TrendForce forecasts that Chinese smartphone brands will slow down their procurement of mobile DRAM and NAND Flash solutions during 2H21. However, contract prices of memory products on the whole will unlikely experience a general decline in the second half of the year because demand remains fairly robust in other application segments. On the PC and NB front, changes in the fulfillment rates of components that are in shortage will become the key determinant of how PC OEMs evaluate their inventory of well-stocked components. It should be pointed out that, as PC OEMs have been maintaining a relatively high inventory of DRAM, the increase in PC DRAM prices in 2H21 will be markedly muted as a result.

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

2021-01-28

Automotive Market Set to Recover in 2021 with Yearly Sales of 84 Million Vehicles, While 12-inch Fab Capacities for Automotive Semiconductor Undergoes Most Severe Shortage, Says TrendForce

Not only did automotive market take a downward turn starting in 2018, but the severe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 also led to noticeably insufficient procurement activities from major automotive module suppliers, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. However, as the automotive market is currently set to make a recovery, TrendForce expects yearly vehicle sales to increase from 77 million units in 2020 to 84 million units in 2021.

At the same time, the rising popularity of autonomous, connected, and electric vehicles is likely to lead to a massive consumption of various semiconductor components. Even so, since most manufacturers in the automotive supply chain currently possess a relatively low inventory, due to their sluggish procurement activities last year in light of weak demand, the discrepancies in the inventory levels of various automotive components, along with the resultant manufacturing bottleneck, have substantially impaired automakers’ capacity utilization rates and, subsequently, vehicle shipments.

The recent shortage situation in the IC supply chain has gradually extended from consumer electronics and ICT products to the industrial and automotive markets. In the past, manufacturers in the automotive semiconductor industry were primarily based on IDM or fab-lite business models, such as NXP, Infineon, STMicroelectronics, Renesas, ON Semiconductor, Broadcom, TI, etc. As automotive ICs generally operate in wide temperature and high voltage circumstances, have relatively long product lifecycle, and place a heavy demand on reliability as well as longevity support, it is more difficult for the industry to alternatively transition its production lines and supply chains elsewhere.

Automotive semiconductor remains in shortage as production capacities remain fully loaded across the global foundry industry

Nevertheless, given the current shortage of production capacities across the foundry industry, wafer capacities allocated to automotive semiconductor components have been noticeably crowded out by other products. Some of these examples include automotive MCU and CIS manufactured in 12-inch fabs, as well as MEMS, Discrete, PMIC, and DDI products manufactured in 8-inch fabs. TrendForce indicates that automotive semiconductor products manufactured at the 28nm, 45nm, and 65nm nodes in 12-inch fabs are suffering the most severe shortage at the moment, while production capacities at 0.18µm and above nodes in 8-inch fabs have also been in long queue by other products.

As in-house IDM fabrications have relatively high CAPEX, R&D expense, and operating overhead, automotive IC vendors have in recent years outsourced some of their products to TSMC, GlobalFoundries, UMC, Samsung, VIS, Win Semiconductor and so on. In particular, TSMC specifically indicated during its 4Q20 earnings conference that wafer starts for automotive semiconductors reached rock bottom in 3Q20, while additional orders began arriving in 4Q20. As such, the company is currently considering allocating some of its production capacities from logic ICs to specialty foundry, in order to meet sudden demand from its long-term customer relationship.

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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