PMIC


2022-02-16

Intel Kills Two Birds with One Stone as Tower Acquisition Strengthens Mature Process Platforms and Regional Production Capabilities, Says TrendForce

Intel officially confirmed on February 15 that it will acquire Israeli foundry Tower Semiconductor for nearly US$6 billion, and the deal will likely contribute to the growth of Intel’s foundry business if it reaches a successful conclusion, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. Tower was 9th place in the global ranking of foundries by revenue for 4Q21 and operates a total of seven production sites across Israel, the US, and Japan. Tower’s foundry capacity in 12-inch wafer equivalents accounts for about 3% of the global total. The majority share of Tower’s foundry capacity is for 8-inch wafers, and Tower’s share of the global 8-inch wafer foundry capacity is around 6.2%. Regarding manufacturing process platforms, Tower offers nodes ranging from 0.8µm to 65nm. It has a diverse range of specialty process technologies for manufacturing products in relatively small quantities. Products that Tower has been contracted to manufacture are mostly RF-SOI components, PMICs, CMOS sensors, discretes, etc. As such, the Tower acquisition is expected to help Intel expand its presence in the smartphone, industrial equipment, and automotive electronics markets.

Although Intel undertook a series of business strategies to compete with TSMC and Samsung, IFS (Intel Foundry Services) has historically manufactured with platform technologies for processors such as CPUs and GPUs. Furthermore, competition still persists between Intel and certain foundry clients that require advanced processes below the 10nm node, such as AMD and Nvidia, which have long histories of developing server products, PC CPUs, GPUs, or other HPC-related chips. Intel’s preexisting competitive relationship with these companies may become a barrier to IFS’ future expansion because IFS will be relatively unlikely to attract them as customers.

Taking the aforementioned factors into account, TrendForce believes that the Tower acquisition will likely expand IFS’ business presence in the foundry industry through two considerations. First of all, the acquisition will help Intel both diversify its mature process technologies and expand its clientele. Thanks to advancements in communication technologies and an increase in demand for new energy vehicles, there has been a recent surge in demand for RF-SOI components and PMICs. Tower’s long-term focus on the diverse mature process technologies used to manufacture these products means it also possesses a long-term collaborative relationship with clients in such markets. By acquiring Tower, Intel is therefore able to address IFS’ limited foundry capabilities and limited clientele. The second consideration pertains to the indigenization of semiconductor manufacturing and supply allocations, which have become increasingly important issues in light of current geopolitical situations. As Tower operates fabs in Asia, EMEA, and North America, the acquisition is in line with Intel’s current strategic aim to reduce the disproportionate concentration of the foundry industry’s supply chain in Asia. As well, Intel holds long-term investments and operates fabs in both the US and Israel, so the Tower acquisition will give Intel more flexibility in allocating production capacities, thereby further mitigating risks of potential supply chain disruptions arising from geopolitical conflicts.

In addition to the aforementioned synergy derived from acquiring Tower, it should also be pointed out that Intel is set to welcome an upcoming partnership with Nuvoton. Tower’s three Japan-based fabs were previously operated under TowerJazz Panasonic Semiconductor, a joint venture created by Tower and Panasonic in 2014, with Tower and Panasonic each possessing 51% and 49% ownership, respectively. After Nuvoton acquired PSCS (Panasonic Semiconductor Solutions Co.) in 2020, Panasonic’s 49% ownership of the three fabs was subsequently transferred to Nuvoton. Following Intel’s Tower acquisition, Intel will now possess the 51% majority ownership of the fabs and jointly operate their production lines for industrial MCUs, automotive MCUs, and PMICs along with Nuvoton. Notably, these production lines also span the range of CIS, MCU, and MOSFET technologies previously developed by Panasonic.

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

2022-02-15

[Russia-Ukraine] The Conflict Affects Semiconductor Gas Supply and May Cause Rise in Chip Production Costs, Says TrendForce

Ukraine is a major supplier of raw material gases for semiconductors including neon, argon, krypton, and xenon, according to TrendForce’s investigations. Ukraine supplies nearly 70% of the world’s neon gas capacity. Although the proportion of neon gas used in semiconductor processes is not as high as in other industries, it is still a necessary resource. If the supply of materials is cut off, there will be an impact on the industry. TrendForce believes that, although the Ukrainian-Russian conflict may affect the supply of inert gas regionally, semiconductor factories and gas suppliers are stocked and there are still supplies from other regions. Thus, gas production line interruptions in Ukraine will not halt semiconductor production lines in the short term. However, the reduction in gas supply will likely lead to higher prices which may increase the cost of wafer production.

Inert gases are primarily used in semiconductor lithography processes. When the circuit feature size is reduced to below 220nm, it begins to enter the territory of DUV (deep ultraviolet) light source excimer lasers. The wavelength of the DUV light generated by the energy beam advances circuit feature sizes to below 180nm. The inert gas mixture required in the DUV excimer laser contains neon gas. Neon gas is indispensable in this mixture and, thus, difficult to replace. The semiconductor lithography process that requires neon gas is primarily DUV exposure, and encompasses 8-inch wafer 180nm to 12-inch wafer 1Xnm nodes.

TrendForce research shows, in terms of foundries, global production capacity at the 180~1Xnm nodes accounts for approximately 75% of total capacity. Except for TSMC and Samsung, who provide advanced EUV processes, for most fabs, the proportion of revenue attributed to the 180~1Xnm nodes exceeds 90%. In addition, the manufacturing processes of components in extreme short supply since 2020, including PMIC, Wi-Fi, RFIC, and MCU all fall within the 180~1Xnm node range. In terms of DRAM, in addition to Micron, Korean manufacturers are gradually increasing the proportion of 1alpha nm nodes (using the EUV process) but more than 90% of production capacity still employs the DUV process.  In addition, all NAND Flash capacity utilizes DUV lithography technology.

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

2022-02-08

8-inch Wafer Capacity Remains Tight, Shortages Expected to Ease in 2H23, Says TrendForce

From 2020 to 2025, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12-inch equivalent wafer capacity at the world’s top ten foundries will be approximately 10% with the majority of these companies focusing on 12-inch capacity expansion, which will see a CAGR of approximately 13.2%, according to TrendForce’s research. In terms of 8-inch wafers, due to factors such as difficult to obtain equipment and whether capacity expansion is cost-effective, most fabs can only expand production slightly by means of capacity optimization, equating to a CAGR of only 3.3%. In terms of demand, the products primarily derived from 8-inch wafers, PMIC and Power Discrete, are driven by demand for electric vehicles, 5G smartphones, and servers. Stocking momentum has not fallen off, resulting in a serious shortage of 8-inch wafer production capacity that has festered since 2H19. Therefore, in order to mitigate competition for 8-inch capacity, a trend of shifting certain products to 12-inch production has gradually emerged. However, if shortages in overall 8-inch capacity is to be effectively alleviated, it is still necessary to wait for a large number of mainstream products to migrate to 12-inch production. The timeframe for this migration is estimated to be close to 2H23 into 2024.

PMIC and Audio Codec gradually transferred to 12-inch production, alleviating shortage of 8-inch production capacity

At present, mainstream products produced using 8-inch wafers include large-sized panel Driver IC, CIS, MCU, PMIC, Power Discrete (including MOSFET, IGBT), Fingerprint, Touch IC, and Audio Codec. Among them, there are plans to gradually migrate Audio Codec and some more severely backordered PMICs to the 12-inch process.

In terms of PMICs, other than certain PMICs used in Apple iPhones already manufactured at 12-inch 55nm, most mainstream PMIC processes are still at 8-inch 0.18-0.11μm. Burdened with the long-term supply shortage, IC design companies including Mediatek, Qualcomm, and Richtek have successively planned to transfer some PMICs to 12-inch 90/55nm production. However, since product process conversion requires time-consuming development and verification and total current production capacity of the 90/55nm BCD process is limited, short term relief to 8-inch production capacity remains small. Effective relief is expected in 2024 when large swathes of mainstream products migrate to 12-inch production.

In terms of Audio Codec, Audio Codecs for laptops are primarily manufactured on 8-inch wafers, and Realtek is the main supplier. In the 1H21, the squeeze on capacity delayed lead times which affected notebook computers shipments. Although the stocking efforts of certain tier1 customers proceeded smoothly in the second half of the year, these products remained difficult to obtain for some small and medium-sized customers. At present, Realtek has partnered with Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC) to transfer the process development of laptop Audio Codecs from 8-inch to 12-inch 55nm. Mass production is forecast for mid-2022 and is expected to improve Audio Codec supply.

In addition to PMIC/Power Discrete, another mainstream product derived from 8-inch manufacturers is the large-sized panel Driver IC. Although most fabs still manufacture 8-inch wafers, Nexchip provides a 12-inch 0.11-0.15μm process technology used to produce large-sized Driver ICs. As production capacity at Nexchip grows rapidly, the supply of this product has been quite smooth. However, TrendForce believes that this is a special case. Mainstream large-sized Driver ICs are still manufactured on 8-inch wafers and there is no trend to switch to 12-inch wafers.

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

2022-01-10

Impact of Components Shortage on Whole Device Shipments Continues, PCs and Notebooks Least Affected, Says TrendForce

Driven by forces such as the pandemic, geopolitics, and the digital transformation of everyday life, there has been a shortage of global foundry production capacity for nearly two years and shortages have been especially severe for mature 1Xnm~180nm nodes, according to TrendForce’s investigations. Although all foundries are furiously increasing capital expenditures to expand capacity, unrealized future expansion does not ease existing supply issues. In addition, the uneven distribution of supply chain resources that has exacerbated the shortage of parts and components has yet to be definitively alleviated. Circumstances as a whole will continue affecting shipments of related whole devices. Only the PC category is expected to emerge largely unscathed in 1Q22.

Moving into 1Q22, TrendForce states, due to the limited increase in production capacity, the market’s supply situation is expected to be approximately the same as in 4Q21. However, some end products have entered their traditional off-season cycle and the slowdown in demand momentum is expected to alleviate the immediate pressure on OEMs and ODMs regarding supply chain stocking.

In terms of the whole servers, the FPGA delivery cycle is currently at over 50 weeks at most, while the delivery cycle of Lan chips has improved significantly, from the original 50+ weeks to approximately 40 weeks. However, escalating purchase order activity caused by the uncertainty of the pandemic combined with an accumulated backlog of demand (Back order/backlog) have pushed the SMT capacity of ODMs to full load in general. The aforementioned phenomenon have not only accelerated the consumption of ICs such as FPGA and PMIC, but the demand for additional purchase orders of FPGA, PMIC and MOSFET is still compelling. The overall market remains tight and the production of server motherboards in the future may face hidden issues. TrendForce has ascertained a more crucial matter. Taking the L6 server as an example, its production scale in 1Q22 will be roughly the same as the previous quarter. However, whole server shipments will show a seasonal decline with a decrease of approximately 8% QoQ.

In terms of mobile phones, material shortages have gradually eased from the second half of 2021 partly due to the discretionary adjustment of mobile phone specifications. Mobile phone brands can adjust their specifications and configurations based on available materials. Currently, the supply of four components remains relatively tight. Among them, 4G SoC (30-40 weeks) and OLED DDIC/Touch IC (20-22 weeks) have a significant impact on the market. The former will affect brands that focus on selling 4G mobile phones. The latter is affected by oligopolistic market structure and the adjustment of foundry capacity. Thus, there are rumblings of insufficient supply. Though the supply of the remaining two items, PMIC and A+G Sensor, remains tight, material shortage risk can be largely mitigated through alternative material replacements or the adjustment of specifications and configurations. In terms of production, the 1Q22 supply chain will essentially carry on its performance from the previous quarter. However, due to disappointing holiday demand at the end of 2021, mobile phone brands must adjust the distributed inventory level of finished products in a timely manner. Combined with uncertainty caused by disruptions stemming from a winter-time pandemic, 1Q22 production performance is estimated to fall by approximately 13% QoQ.

In terms of PCs and laptops, starting from November 2021, material shortages have been partially alleviated. Therefore, the shipment volume of PC ODMs in 4Q21 has been revised upwards. Compared with mobile phones and whole servers, the impact of under/oversupply of materials on end PCs and notebooks is relatively minor. Except for the SSD PCIe 3.0 controller, current tightness exhibited in component supply is due to delays in the transition of Intel’s new platform. This temporary shortfall has led to a delivery cycle of approximately 8-12 weeks while any tightness in the supply of Type C IC, WiFi, and PMIC is gradually abating. TrendForce expects that, as overall supply chain stability recuperates, notebook shipments from ODM brands in 1Q22 will only decrease by 5.1% QoQ. However, if the component shortage factor is discounted, subsequent sales originating from various distribution channels will be another major variable TrendForce must consider.

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

2021-12-06

2021 Annual Global Power Management IC Prices Jump 10%, Supply Remains Tight for 1H22, Says TrendForce

Due to material shortages caused by insufficient semiconductor supply, to date, power management IC (PMIC) prices remain on an upward trend, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. Average selling price (ASP) for 1H22 is forecast to increase by nearly 10%, reaching a record six year high.

In terms of the global supply chain, in addition to the production capacity of major IDM manufacturers including TI, Infineon, ADI, STMicroelectronics, NXP, ON Semiconductor, Renesas, Microchip, ROHM (Maxim has been acquired by ADI and Dialog by Renesas), IC design houses such as Qualcomm and MediaTek (MTK) have obtained a certain level of production capacity from foundries. Of these, TI is in a leadership position and the aforementioned companies possess a combined market share of over 80%.

In terms of product structure, unrelenting demand from the consumer electronics, telecommunications, industrial control systems, and automotive end-user sectors and product innovation driven by industrial transformation will push a dramatic increase in global market demand for PMICs. The largest application for PMICs is consumer electronic products and there are near term rumblings in demand for notebooks, Chromebooks, smartphones, and televisions. In addition, restocking impetus for a small number of structurally simple items such as low drop-out regulators (LDO) has encountered a real slowdown. However, since the demand placed on PMICs by electronic products is a structural increase, certain models are still experiencing shortages. Qualcomm and MTK are limited by a shortage of mature production capacity on the foundry end, even resulting in a tightening of inventory for PMICs earmarked for self-use.

Furthermore, recovery in the automotive market and rapid growth in electric vehicles, automotive electronics, and advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) have increased demand in power source control and management and charging technology. In addition, automotive-use ICs are required to pass a number of inspections and must guarantee consistency and a zero failure rate. Currently, IDM companies’ automotive IC order backlog stretches until the end of 2022. Due to factors such as production running at full capacity and a shortage of raw materials, PMIC suppliers have currently announced longer lead times with consumer electronic IC lead times increasing to 12~26 weeks, automotive IC lead times reaching 40~52 weeks, and a cessation of orders for certain exclusive production models.

TrendForce expects 4Q21 demand for PMICs to remain strong with shortages in overall production capacity. Led by IDM companies, PMIC pricing will remain high. Despite variables related to the pandemic and the difficulties of greatly increasing 8 inch wafer production capacity, TI’s new fab RFAB2 will begin mass production in 2H22. In addition, due to the plans of foundries to carry forward a portion of 8 inch wafer PMIC manufacturing to 12 inch, there is a high likelihood of a moderation in PMIC shortages. However, close attention must still be paid to changes in future market supply.

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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