Taiwan semiconductor


2021-09-03

Driven in Part by Demand for New Energy Vehicles, GaN Power Devices Market Projected to Grow at 78% CAGR Through 2025, Says TrendForce

Demand for telecom base stations, converters, and charging stations has seen considerable growth this year as a result of ongoing developments in 5G telecommunication, consumer electronics, industrial energy conversion, and new energy vehicles (NEV), according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. While this demand generated a corresponding surge in demand for components and devices powered by third-generation semiconductors GaN and SiC, the GaN power devices market is expected to undergo the highest magnitude of growth. TrendForce expects GaN power devices revenue for 2021 to reach US$83 million, an impressive 73% YoY increase.

According to TrendForce’s investigations, GaN power devices are primarily used in consumer electronics; annual GaN power devices revenue is expected to grow at a 78% CAGR and reach US$850 million in 2025. Regarding applications, consumer electronics, NEVs, and telecom/data centers, in order, comprise the three largest sources of GaN power devices consumption, at 60%, 20%, and 15%, respectively. TrendForce finds that about 10 smartphone OEMs have released more than 18 models of smartphones equipped with fast charging capability, while notebook manufacturers are also indicating a willingness to adopt fast charging for notebook computers.

Annual SiC revenue, on the other hand, is expected to grow at a 38% CAGR and reach US$3.39 billion in 2025, with NEVs, solar power generation/storage, and charging stations representing the top three largest source of SiC power device consumption, at 61%, 13%, and 9%, respectively. For the NEV industry, in particular, SiC power devices are most widely used in powertrain inverters, OBCs (on board chargers), and DC-DC converters.

Major IDMs from Europe, the US, and Japan still control the vast majority of substrate supply

Due to their relative difficulty in epitaxial growth and the fact that the industry is moving from 6-inch towards 8-inch substrates as the mainstream, third-generation semiconductor GaN and SiC substrates are 5-20 times more expensive to manufacture compared to traditional 8-inch and 12-inch Si substrates. It should be noted that most substrate materials are, at the moment, controlled by such major IDMs as US-based Cree and II-VI, Japan-based Rohm, and Europe-based STMicroelectronics. In response to this oligopoly, certain Chinese suppliers, including SICC and Tankeblue, have successively entered the substrate market with the support of China’s 14th five-year plan. Their participation will likely accelerate China’s goal of semiconductor self-sufficiency.

Although substrate suppliers from Europe, the US, and Japan enjoy an early presence in the market and possess relatively mature process technologies, TrendForce believes that Taiwanese suppliers still hold certain competitive advantages. For instance, not only do Taiwanese companies have vast experiences in silicon development, but Taiwan is also home to a comprehensive upstream/downstream silicon supply chain. In addition to these aforementioned advantages, Taiwan is further aided by policies that promote domestic material supply, design, and technological development. Taiwan is therefore well on its way to achieving its goal of becoming a center of advanced semiconductor fabrication that derives its strength from a gradually maturing front-end substrate and epitaxy industry chain, as well as mid- and back-end competencies in chip design, manufacturing, and packaging. Currently, two major strategic alliances, led by Hermes-Epitek (with subsidiaries EPI and EPISIL), and SAS (with subsidiaries GW, AWSC, CWT, and ATC) are attempting to maximize their efforts in Taiwan’s lacking substrate industry. Furthermore, TAISIC, jointly funded by KENMEC and TAINERGY, has submitted 4-inch SiC substrates for qualification and is actively investing in 6-inch SiC substrate R&D.

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

2021-07-07

For Importation of US Semiconductor Equipment into China, Slow Progress Is Good Progress

The inclusion of certain Chinese semiconductor companies on the US Commerce Department’s Entity List in the past few years has created repercussions throughout industries and markets, with the semiconductor industry coming under heavy scrutiny by both China and the US. After SMIC was hit with a string of sanctions last year, including the EAR and the NS-CCMC List, recent rumors of further US actions on China are now once again making the rounds on social media platforms.

In particular, there have been rumors saying that the US has prohibited TSMC and UMC from importing 28nm process technology equipment into China for their fabs there. Conversely, some industry insiders from China point out that, although the US did not impose such prohibition, the export approval process for the aforementioned equipment has been conspicuously lengthy.

In reality, the Department of Commerce has levied procurement restrictions on SMIC specifically, while foundries unspecified on the Entity List have not been explicitly barred from importing semiconductor equipment for use in their China-based fabs. Although some are noting that the approval processes for semiconductor equipment exported to fabs located in China have been unusually lengthy recently, these processes are not specifically aimed at equipment for the 28nm process technology.

Instead, they apply to all semiconductor equipment exported from the US to China. It should also be noted that the approval processes for some exported equipment are currently progressing well, and foundries have already taken the extended lead times into account, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. Hence, the lengthy approval processes have not been observed to have any negative impact on the semiconductor industry at the moment.

(Cover image source: ASML

2021-07-01

With Advanced Packaging Market Share Now Over 40%, Who Is the Global Leader in Technological Competence and Human Capital?

The rise of such products as automotive, industrial, telecom, and networking chips in recent years has resulted in continued advancements in packaging and testing technologies, and the market revenue of these technologies has seen a corresponding rise as well. Demand for advanced packaging has been relatively strong thanks to high demand for 5G smartphones, consumer electronics, and high-performance processors.

In particular, the mainstream development of advanced packaging and testing is currently concentrated on three major fields: HPC chip packaging(2.5D/3D), FOPLP(fan out panel level packaging), and SiP(system in package). Some of the other factors driving forward the technological development of advanced packaging also include improvements in end product functions, advancements in transistor gate sizes, reduction in advanced packaging L/S, and migration of chip interconnect technology from micro-bumping to hybrid bond.

According to TrendForce’s investigations, the advanced packaging market last year reached a revenue of US$31.037 billion in 2020(which was a 13% increase YoY)and accounted for 45.8% of the total packaging market. At the moment, most packaging and testing companies have successively entered the advanced packaging market, with Flip Chip applications accounting for the majority of applications across smartphone AP, WiFi chips, entry-level processors, and high-end PMICs. Flip Chip applications make up more than 80% of the total advanced packaging revenue.

In spite of continued growth, advanced packaging will unlikely overtake traditional packaging in terms of market share within 5-10 years

In spite of the multitude of companies that are eager to enter the advanced packaging industry, not all of them possess the technological competence to progress in R&D, thus making acquisition the fastest path to advanced packaging success. With regards to technological competence, foundries and IDMs are the likeliest candidates to enter the industry, as they already possess ample experience in chip development.

At the moment, TSMC, Intel, and Samsung are the most well-equipped to do so, respectively. With regards to outsourced operations, Taiwanese companies such as ASE, SPIL, and PTI lead the industry in terms of packaging technologies, while U.S.-based Amkor is able to compete for neck-and-neck with ASE. Although these aforementioned companies are not specialists in chip fabrication, they have an extremely strong grasp of the downstream assembly ecosystem, hence their superiority in advanced packaging.

On the other hand, thanks to China’s Big Fund, the trinity of Chinese packaging and testing operators(JCET, TFME, and Hua Tian)were able to acquire major global players, including STATS ChipPac, AMD-SUZ, and Malaysia-based Unisem, respectively, during the 2014-2019 period.

Hence, not only have the Chinese trio been able to raise their market shares and rankings in the global packaging and testing market, but they have also been able to acquire certain competencies in advanced packaging technologies.

The current market would seem to suggest that advanced packaging has been gradually cannibalizing the market share of traditional packaging. However, as applications including home appliances and automotive electronics still require traditional packaging, TrendForce believes that only after 5-10 years will advanced packaging overtake traditional packaging in terms of market share.

(Cover image source: TSMC

2021-06-28

What Is the Global Significance of the Taiwanese Semiconductor Industry’s Advanced Processes?

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.)

(Cover image source: TSMC

2021-06-25

An Overview of China’s Third-Generation Semiconductor Industry in a Global Context

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).

(Cover image source: TSMC

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