Total investment in XMC/YRST by Tsinghua Unigroup is reported by Digitimes to be US$24 billion. In 2015 Tsinghua Unigroup bid US$23 billion to buy Micron Technology Corp, but the company was not for sale.
Currently there are eight Chinese 300mm-diameter silicon IC fabs in operation as 2016 comes to a close. Chinese IC fab capacity now accounts for approximately 7% of worldwide 300mm capacity, as reported by VLSIresearch in a recent edition of its Critical Subsystems report (https://www.vlsiresearch.com/public/csubs/). This will expand rapidly, as ten are now under construction and two more have been announced. China’s 300mm fabs are located in ten cities.
“Total Chinese capacity is expected to be around 13 million by end 2018,” said John West of VLSI Research. Worldwide 300mm wafer fabrication capacity will exceed 85 million wafers per year in 2018, putting China in control of 15% of worldwide 300mm capacity in 2018. While new Chinese fabs have yet to prove they can produce leading edge silicon ICs with high yields, it should be only a matter of time before they prove they stand among the world’s great semiconductor production regions.
West recently presented a China market outlook for semiconductors, original equipment manufacturers (OEM), and critical subsystems at the recent Critical Materials Council (CMC) Seminar (http:cmcfabs.org/seminars) held in Shanghai. At the same event, representatives from Intel and TI discussed supply-chain dynamics in China, and Secretary General Ingrid Shi of the Integrated Circuit Materials Industry Technology Innovative Alliance (ICMITIA) presented on “The China Materials Supply Consortium and China’s 5 Year Technology Plan.”
The 2016 CMC Seminar also saw a presentation of China’s first semiconductor-grade 300mm silicon wafer supplier: the recently unveiled Zing Semiconductor (www.zingsemi.com). Founder and CEO Richard Chang, co-founder of SMIC, has assembled a team and funding to start creating wafers in the Pudong region of Shanghai. He showed a photo of his company’s first 300mm silicon boule at the event.
[DISCLOSURE: Ed Korczynski is also Marketing Director for TECHCET CA, an advisor firm that administers the Critical Materials Council and CMC events.]
As reported by EETimes from the European MEMS Summit last month, French research institute CEA-Leti has manufactured accelerometer MEMS devices on 300mm-diameter wafers. This technology is currently being transferred to Tronics Microsystems SA (Grenoble, France), which currently only manufactures on 200mm wafers. Since CEA-Leti has long functioned as the R&D group for STMicroelectronics (ST), and previously led the way for ST to produce MEMS chips on 200mm-diameter wafers, we may expect that 300mm-wafer MEMS processing is now on ST’s internal roadmap.
Moving production to larger wafers makes sense when either the chip-size or the manufacturing volume increase in size. Much of the growth in demand for MEMS is for so-called “combo” sensors that combine multiple sensor technologies, such as CEA-Leti’s piezo-resistive silicon nanowire technology which allows the accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, and pressure sensor capability to be integrated on the same chip.
The compatibility of Leti’s 200mm-developed technologies with 300mm wafer fabrication, “shows a significant opportunity to cut MEMS production costs,” said Leti CEO Marie Semeria in a press release. “This will be especially important with the worldwide expansion of the Internet of Things and continued growing demand for MEMS in mobile devices.” Sensors of all sorts will be needed for all of the different “Things” to be able to capture new useful information, so we may expect that demand for combo MEMS devices will continue to increase. —E.K.
Leading-edge IC fab investments are multi-billion-dollar risky bets. Insufficient demand for ICs dooms the line to economic failure regardless of the quality of design and manufacturing. Thus, it is a big deal that Austrian-headquartered ams AG—world leader in production of IC sensors, RFID chips, and power-supplies—has announced plans to set up a new silicon wafer manufacturing line in up-state New York.
To date, ams’ leading fabs run 200mm diameter silicon wafers, while the new line that is planned for 2017 will run both 200mm and 300mm diameter. With ~2.4x more chips/wafer, the commitment to a 300mm line is a sign that ams expects a major increase in demand for certain products. The vision for the Internet of Things (IoT) is that ubiquitous “smart objects” will be able to connect and exchange useful information without human direction, and the foundation of smart is sensing combined with decision-making. While other companies provide logic chips to allow for decision making, ams provides chips that can sense the world in various ways.
The investment into Marcy, New York represents a bet that there will be sustained demand for analog and sensor chips to provide much of the “smarts” for the IoT. Thus ams is planning to spend >US$2 billion over the next 20 years on capital purchases, operating expenses, and other investments in the facility. Pete Singer provides all the details in his thorough report. —E.K.