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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

2021-04-28

Impact of Power Outage on TSMC Fab14 P7 Still Remaining Under Assessment, with Production of Automotive MCU and CIS Logic Products Hit Hardest, Says TrendForce

TSMC’s Fab14 P7 in the Southern Taiwan Science Park suffered a power outage on April 14th. The cause of the power outage was an accidental severing of an underground power cable during construction work nearby. According to TrendForce’s latest investigations, the facility accounts for around 4% of TSMC’s total 12-inch wafer foundry capacity and around 2% of the global 12-inch wafer foundry capacity, and TSMC is still assessing the exact figures for the wafers that have to be scrapped and the wafers that can be reworked.

According to the latest available information, power was fully restored to the fab site at 7:30 p.m. on April 14th. The diesel uninterruptible power supply (DUPS) of the facility kicked in instantly when the power cable was cut, but there was still a short period of power interruption and voltage drop. As a result, some of the equipment systems in the facility temporarily experienced operational irregularity or malfunction. Based on past experiences with this type of incident, TrendForce believes that it will take 2-7 days to recalibrate the equipment systems so that they can return to normal operation.

For TSMC, this power outage incident has had implications on both revenue and production. With respect to revenue, TrendForce’s own analysis indicates that the disposal of the wafers that are too damaged for rework will bring about a revenue impact of US$10-25 million. This amount represents less than 0.1% of TSMC’s annual total revenue.

On the other hand, with respect to production, the Fab14 P7 facilities contain 45/40nm and 16/12nm production lines, and the outage will primarily impair end products including smartphones and automobiles, since automotive chips, which are in extreme shortage at the moment, are manufactured at the 45/40nm nodes, and 45/40nm capacities are among the most insufficient among all foundry capacities.

TrendForce further indicates that clients whose wafer inputs for automotive MCU and CIS logic products (manufactured at the 45/40nm nodes) are bearing the brunt of the outage’s impact mainly include NXP, Renesas, and Sony. In particular, Sony CIS 40nm Logic products are primarily supplied for high-end smartphones. However, as Sony manufactures these products in its in-house facilities as well, even if TSMC were to fully discard this batch of wafers, Sony’s supplies will remain relatively unaffected in the short run.

On the other hand, after the automotive market entered a gradual recovery in 2H20, automotive MCUs have been in shortage due to automakers’ insufficient inventory. Furthermore, a fire broke out at Renesas’ Naka-based 12-inch fab on March 19, and the fab’s cleanrooms were severely damaged as a result.

As of now, manufacturing operations at the Naka fab have yet to resume. Since TSMC has been allocating some of its production capacities in Fab14 to these products as a substitute for the Naka fab, TrendForce believes that the power outage incident will likely exacerbate the shortage of automotive MCUs going forward.

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

2021-04-28

Foundry Revenue Projected to Reach Historical High of US$94.6 Billion in 2021 Thanks to High 5G/HPC/End-Device Demand, Says TrendForce

As the global economy enters the post-pandemic era, technologies including 5G, WiFi6/6E, and HPC (high-performance computing) have been advancing rapidly, in turn bringing about a fundamental, structural change in the semiconductor industry as well, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. While the demand for certain devices such as notebook computers and TVs underwent a sharp uptick due to the onset of the stay-at-home economy, this demand will return to pre-pandemic levels once the pandemic has been brought under control as a result of the global vaccination drive.

Nevertheless, the worldwide shift to next-gen telecommunication standards has brought about a replacement demand for telecom and networking devices, and this demand will continue to propel the semiconductor industry, resulting in high capacity utilization rates across the major foundries. As certain foundries continue to expand their production capacities this year, TrendForce expects total foundry revenue to reach a historical high of US$94.6 billion this year, an 11% growth YoY.

TrendForce’s latest analysis also finds that shipments and production volumes of end products will continue to grow in the post-pandemic period. Regarding host computers, the total (or global) shipments of servers and workstations are forecasted to undergo a yearly growth mainly driven by applications that are enabled by 5G and HPC. As for various types of client (or end-user) devices, the annual total production volume of 5G smartphones, in particular, is forecasted to increase by around 113% YoY. The penetration rate of 5G models in the smartphone market is also forecasted to rise to 37% in the same year. Turning to notebook (or laptop) computers, their total shipments in 2021 will register a YoY growth rate of about 15% thanks to the proliferation of the stay-at-home economy.

Finally, the governments of many countries introduced consumption subsidies during the pandemic so as to stimulate the domestic economy. Video streaming services have also grown dramatically with respect to content and demand because of the pandemic. As a result, the TV market is seeing a wave of replacement demand as consumers want to purchase the latest models that offer higher resolutions (e.g., 4K and 8K) and network connectivity (i.e., smart TVs). The total shipments of digital TVs in 2021 are forecasted to undergo a YoY growth rate of around 3%.

The high demand for the aforementioned end devices has therefore resulted in a corresponding surging demand for various ICs used in these devices, including CIS, DDI, and PMICs. In addition, the increasing adoption of cloud services, including IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS, has also generated a massive demand for various high-end CPUs and memory products used in the HPC platforms that power said cloud services.

On the whole, TrendForce believes that, with demand maintaining a healthy growth momentum for many kinds of end products, semiconductor components that are manufactured with the same foundry nodes will be competing for production capacity. Some categories of ICs will therefore experience a more severe capacity crunch due to the product mix strategies of respective foundries. In the short term, no effective resolution is expected for the undersupply situation in the foundry market.

Certain foundries will continue to expand their production capacities in 2021 as the semiconductor industry undergoes a structural change

With regards to the expansion plans of various foundries this year, tier-one and tier-two foundries will prioritize the development of different process nodes. More specifically, tier-one foundries, including TSMC and Samsung, will focus on the R&D, fab build-out, and capacity expansion for the 5nm and below nodes in response to the growing chip demand for HPC-related applications. On the other hand, tier-two foundries, including SMIC, UMC, and GlobalFoundries will primarily focus on expanding their production capacities of the 14nm to 40nm mature process nodes in order to meet the massive demand for next-gen telecom technologies (such as 5G and WiFi6/6E) and other diverse applications (such as OLED DDI and CIS/ISP).

Incidentally, it should be pointed out that SMIC’s capacity expansion plans have been constrained after the US Department of Commerce added SMIC to the Entity List, which prohibited the company from procuring US semiconductor equipment. However, SMIC still possesses enough funds for procuring non-US equipment and building new fabs, as the company is not only actively expanding its existing 8-inch and 12-inch wafer capacities, but also proceeding with the construction of its new fab in Beijing.

Apart from the aforementioned companies, other foundries, including PSMC, Tower Semiconductor, Vanguard, and HHGrace, will prioritize the capacity expansion of their 8-inch wafers (which are used for the 55nm and above nodes) to meet the demand for large-sized DDI, TDDI, and PMICs. These foundries, in contrast with their larger competitors, are primarily focusing on 8-inch capacity expansion due to the relatively high cost of DUV immersion systems used for the 40/45nm and below processes. For these companies, it is much more economically feasible to instead undertake capacity expansions for the 55/65nm and above nodes.

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

2021-04-28

Global LED Video Wall Driver IC Revenue for 2021 Projected to Reach US$360 Million, a 13% Increase YoY, Says TrendForce

LED

The LED video wall driver IC market has been suffering from insufficient production capacities on the supply side since 2020, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. In order to ensure a sufficient level of wafer capacities at foundries, LED video wall driver IC suppliers therefore began raising prices for certain driver IC products by about 5-10% at the end of last year, and this price hike is expected to persist through 2021 as well.

On the demand side, various commercial activities and sporting events have been successively resuming as the COVID-19 pandemic is gradually brought under control. The resumption of these activities is expected to drive global LED video wall driver IC revenue for 2021 to US$360 million, a 13% growth YoY.

Chipone takes leadership position among suppliers in the highly oligopolistic LED video wall driver IC market

TrendForce indicates that that the LED video wall driver IC market is highly oligopolistic, as the top five suppliers collectively possessed more than 90% market share by revenue last year. With regards to the performances of the individual suppliers, Chipone took leadership position with a 36% share in the LED video wall driver IC market and dwarfed the other suppliers in terms of both revenue and shipment. On the other hand, Taiwan-based Macroblock, which primarily focuses on the high-end segment and holds relatively advanced technologies in its portfolio, took second place with a 20% market share.

Sunmoon took third place last year with a 13% market share. The company went public in December in an effort to raise more capital and strengthen its market position. Sunmoon has since become listed on China’s SSE STAR Market as a public company. Rounding out the top five list are Fine Made and Shixin Technology, which took fourth and fifth place, respectively. These two companies, along with others such as Developer Microelectronics, Sumacro, MY-Semi, and Xm-Plus, together constituted a 31% market share.

Tight 8-inch wafer capacities have led to noticeable price hikes for entry-level LED video wall driver ICs

Although the foundry industry expanded its 8-inch wafer capacities in 2021, driver IC demand for applications such as 5G smartphones, 5G base stations, automotive power devices, PMICs, and large-sized panel driver ICs remains strong. Incidentally, wafer capacities for driver ICs used in these aforementioned applications overlap with wafer capacities for LED video wall driver ICs to an extensive degree. At the same time, as small pixel pitch and ultra-fine pitch displays (LED video walls) become the market mainstream, LED video wall driver IC demand will likely undergo a corresponding growth as well.

However, in 2021, production capacities for LED video wall driver ICs will continue to be constrained by the demand for other products due to their low profitability. As a result, TrendForce expects prices of high-end LED video wall driver ICs to once again undergo a 5-10% increase in 2Q21, while entry-level ones will undergo a price hike of about 20-30% for the same period.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Optoelectronics Research, please click here, or email Ms. Grace Li from the Sales Department at graceli@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

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