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Samsung Working on Attracting more Foundry Customers by Improving Customer Structure and Process Node Breakthroughs

Samsung is by far Samsung's largest foundry customers and this is no secret, but now it seems like the company wants to gain more customers to help pay for the costs of operating a cutting edge foundry. A little over a decade ago, Samsung was part of the Common Platform technology alliance together with GlobalFoundries and IBM, which allowed companies to almost pick either foundry based on a common design kit and common process technologies. It made Samsung an attractive foundry option, but the alliance didn't last.

As we know, Nvidia gave Samsung a try with Ampere and there were a lot of reports of yield issues and what not early on. This seems to have persuaded Nvidia to move back to TSMC for Lovelace and Hopper, which is a big loss for Samsung. However, it seems this was also something of a wakeup call for Samsung, as the company is apparently looking at making some internal changes to its customer structure so it can handle third party customers in a better way.

Revenue of Top 10 IC Design (Fabless) Companies Reaches US$29.8 Billion for 2Q21, Though Growth May Potentially Slow in 2H21, Says TrendForce

In view of the ongoing production capacity shortage in the semiconductor industry and the resultant price hike of chips, revenue of the top 10 IC design companies for 2Q21 reached US$29.8 billion, a 60.8% YoY increase, according to TrendForce's latest investigations. In particular, Taiwanese companies put up remarkable performances during this period, with both MediaTek and Novatek posting YoY growths of more than 95%. AMD, on the other hand, experienced a nearly 100% YoY revenue growth, the highest among the top 10.

TrendForce indicates that the ranking of the top five companies for 2Q21 remained unchanged from the previous quarter, although there were major changes in the 6th to 10th spots. More specifically, after finalizing its acquisition of Inphi, Marvell experienced a major revenue growth and leapfrogged Xilinx and Realtek in the rankings from 9th place in 1Q21 to 7th place in 2Q21.

Foundry Revenue for 2Q21 Reaches Historical High Once Again with 6% QoQ Growth Thanks to Increased ASP and Persistent Demand, Says TrendForce

The panic buying of chips persisted in 2Q21 owing to factors such as post-pandemic demand, industry-wide shift to 5G telecom technology, geopolitical tensions, and chronic chip shortages, according to TrendForce's latest investigations. Chip demand from ODMs/OEMs remained high, as they were unable to meet shipment targets for various end-products due to the shortage of foundry capacities. In addition, wafers inputted in 1Q21 underwent a price hike and were subsequently outputted in 2Q21. Foundry revenue for the quarter reached US$24.407 billion, representing a 6.2% QoQ increase and yet another record high for the eighth consecutive quarter since 3Q19.

TSMC Briefly Hit by "Power Supply Dip," Production Unaffected

TSMC on Thursday (May 13), was briefly hit by what the company described as a "power supply dip" caused by an island-wide power outage. The outage caused concerns that production at TSMC could be hit, worsening the chip supply situation. Semiconductor fabrication is a highly power-sensitive operation, and any power-loss could result in tremendous loses to the fab from the running batches going to waste. The fabs have redundant power backup to cope with such situations, but these can only pull through until power from the grid is restored. TSMC and UMC have each reported that their fabs located in science parks (special economic zones) throughout Taiwan, have been unaffected by the outage, and that their power-backup measures have come through. Power supply from the grid was restored by Thursday evening.

UMC Investing $3.6 billion on 28 nm Manufacturing Capabilities Amidst Worldwide Semiconductor Shortages

UMC has announced plans to invest $3.6 billion in increasing output from its 28 nm manufacturing facilities. This move comes amidst a global semiconductor shortage, and isn't the first time a semiconductor manufacturer "dust off" their older manufacturing processes as a way to remove pressure from more modern silicon manufacturing capabilities. In this case, UMC will be increasing manufacturing output from its 300 mm Fab 12A facility in Tainan, Taiwan.

UMC has entered agreements with some of its clients, who will be paying upfront for expected chip rollout in the future. In exchange, clients will get the benefits of preset pricing (thus avoiding any potential increases arising from increased demand or general price fluctuation), as well as UMC's assurance of certain manufacturing volume allocation towards their needs. Fab 12A currently manufactures 90,000 300 mm wafers per month (wpm). An additional 10,000 wpm is being installed this year and phase six will add another 27,500 wpm to the mix. The mature 28 nm tools will be installed in floors that already feature support for future tooling upgrades to 14 nm. UMC expects to hire around 1,000 additional employees as part of this expansion effort.

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.

Revenue of Top 10 Foundries Expected to Increase by 20% YoY in 1Q21 in Light of Fully Loaded Capacities, Says TrendForce

Demand in the global foundry market remains strong in 1Q21, according to TrendForce's latest investigations. As various end-products continue to generate high demand for chips, clients of foundries in turn stepped up their procurement activities, which subsequently led to a persistent shortage of production capacities across the foundry industry. TrendForce therefore expects foundries to continue posting strong financial performances in 1Q21, with a 20% YoY growth in the combined revenues of the top 10 foundries, while TSMC, Samsung, and UMC rank as the top three in terms of market share. However, the future reallocation of foundry capacities still remains to be seen, since the industry-wide effort to accelerate the production of automotive chips may indirectly impair the production and lead times of chips for consumer electronics and industrial applications.

TSMC has been maintaining a steady volume of wafer inputs at its 5 nm node, and these wafer inputs are projected to account for 20% of the company's revenue. On the other hand, owing to chip orders from AMD, Nvidia, Qualcomm, and MediaTek, demand for TSMC's 7 nm node is likewise strong and likely to account for 30% of TSMC's revenue, a slight increase from the previous quarter. On the whole, TSMC's revenue is expected to undergo a 25% increase YoY in 1Q21 and set a new high on the back of surging demand for 5G, HPC, and automotive applications.

Report: TSMC and UMC are Trucking in Water Amid Shortages

Manufacturing silicon is no easy task. You need to have all the right supplies available all the time. One of the most used ingredients in silicon manufacturing is water. Almost every process needs it and it needs to be constantly available to the manufacturer. According to the report coming from Reuters, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC) are experiencing water shortages. The Taiwan island is in trouble, as the typhoon season has been rather mild and water supplies are at the historic lows. Water restrictions are in place all across the island and the reservoirs in the center and southern regions are at only 20% capacity.

The lack of water is a big problem for TSMC and UMC, as both companies rely on the constant income of it. With water restrictions in place, TSMC has to keep its facilities running and needs to solve the problem. That is why Taiwan's biggest silicon manufacturer is now making small orders of waters, delivered by a truckload. TSMC expects to compensate for the lack of water coming from its regular sources with truckloads of it. While we do not know the numbers of it, we can expect the water use to be very high if we take into account the number of wafers TSMC produces at its facilities.

Prices of NAND Flash Controller ICs Poised to Rise by 15-20% due to Tightening Production Capacity for Foundry Services, Says TrendForce

In the upstream semiconductor industry, the major foundries such as TSMC and UMC are reporting fully loaded capacities, while in the downstream, the available production capacity for OSAT is also lacking, according to TrendForce's latest investigations. Given this situation, suppliers of NAND Flash controller ICs such as Phison and Silicon Motion are now unable to meet upside demand from their clients. Not only have many controller IC suppliers temporarily stopped offering quotes for new orders, but they are also even considering raising prices soon because the negotiations between NAND Flash suppliers and module houses over 1Q21 contracts are now at the critical juncture. The potential increases in prices of controller ICs from outsourced suppliers (IC design houses) are currently estimated to be the range of 15-20%.

With regards to the demand side, demand has risen significantly for eMMC solutions with medium- and low-density specifications (i.e., 64 GB and lower), for which NAND Flash suppliers have mostly stopped updating the NAND Flash process technology, while maintaining support with the legacy 2D NAND or the 64L 3D NAND process. This is on account of strong sales for Chromebook devices and TVs. As older processes gradually account for a lowering portion of bit output proportions from NAND Flash suppliers, these companies are exhibiting a lowered willingness to directly supply such eMMC products to clients. As a result, clients now need to turn to memory module houses, which are able to source NAND Flash components and controllers, to procure eMMC products in substantial quantities.

Wafer Prices Rising by Up to 40% in 2021: Report

Semiconductor foundries across the board are preparing to raise price quotes of their 8-inch wafers from 2021. A DigiTimes report sheds light on various foundry companies, including UMC (United Microelectronics), Global Foundries, and Vanguard International Semiconductor (VIS) have raised their 8-inch foundry quotes by 10-15% in Q4-2020, with the quotes set to rise by another 20-40% in 2021. Foundries don't tend to use flat pricing, and instead rely on quotes specific to the size and design requirements of an order (by a fabless chip designer).

The foundry industry operates broadly on silicon fabrication nodes and wafer sizes. This article by Telescope Magazine provides insights into the typical use-cases for each wafer size. Although pertaining strictly to pricing of 8-inch (200 mm) wafers, an impending price-rise across the semiconductor industry can be extrapolated on the basis on significant labor cost increases. TSMC is planning to implement a 20% pay hike for its personnel in 2021.

IP Theft: UMC Pleads Guilty to US Court Charges of Trade Secret Theft, Faces $60 Million Fine

Taiwanese corporation United Micro Electronics (UMC) has pled guilty on charges of trade theft. The charges, originally pressed in November 2018 by US authorities, placed UMC and China's Fujian Jinhua in hot waters under suspicion of stealing trade secrets from US-based Micron technologies, one of the world's foremost players in memory semiconductor technologies. UMC's guilty plea serves as a way for the company to avoid heavier penalties, and includes a provision for the company's assistance in investigating Fujian Jinhua's actions in regards to this IP theft.

The whole story revolves around UMC's hiring of three Micron employees from Micron's subsidiary in Taiwan, Micron Memory Taiwan (MMT), back around September 2015. At least two of these employees migrated Micron trade secrets to UMC, which then inked a deal with china's Fujian Jinhua for the development of 32nm DRAM and "32Snm" DRAM technologies that Fujian Jinhua could then deploy for the manufacture of memory products - a deal which had Fujian Jinhua paying $300 million for equipment purchase plus $400 million for technology development to UMC. This all fell in line with the Chinese government's Made in China 2025 plan, which aims to bring the country to semiconductor independence from the western world. UMC says that the company itself didn't partake in the underhanded IP delivery to Fujian Jinhua, claiming instead that rogue employees did so of their own volition. The company further states that it only pleads guilty because according to the US Trade Secrets Act, the company still bears legal responsibilities for employee acts, whether or not top management is involved.

China Forecast to Represent 22% of the Foundry Market in 2020, says IC Insights

IC Insights recently released its September Update to the 2020 McClean Report that presented the second of a two-part analysis on the global IC foundry industry and included a look at the pure-play foundry market by region.

China was responsible for essentially all of the total pure-play foundry market increase in 2018. In 2019, the U.S./China trade war slowed China's economic growth but its foundry marketshare still increased by two percentage points to 21%. Moreover, despite the Covid-19 shutdown of China's economy earlier this year, China's share of the pure-play foundry market is forecast to be 22% in 2020, 17 percentage points greater than it registered in 2010 (Figure 1).

Taiwan Court Strikes UMC and Fomer Micron Employees for Stealing Micron Trade Secrets

The Taichung District Court in Taiwan ruled in favor of Micron Technology in a case dating back to 2017, against semiconductor foundry UMC and two of its former employees. Micron had alleged that UMC and three of Micron former employees stole Micron's trade secrets and conveyed them to Mainland Chinese DRAM maker Fujian Jinhua IC. One of the accused include Stephen Chen, former president for Micron Memory in Taiwan.

The Court ruled that the three former Micron employees serve 4.5-6.5 years in prison, in addition to paying NTD 4-6 million fines, each. As for UMC, it has been ordered to pay NTD 100 million (USD $3.4 million) in damages to Micron Technology, a parking ticket value compared to the commercial damage FJIC will inflict to Micron in the years to come.

Samsung Scores PC CPU Manufacturing Order from Intel

Samsung has reportedly secured a "PC CPU" manufacturing order from Intel. This would entail Intel using Samsung's fabs to manufacture its processors. "PC CPU" is a broad term, interchangeable with "client CPU," and could include both notebook and desktop processors, spanning the "S," "H," "U," and "Y" silicon variants (mainstream desktop, mainstream notebook, ultrabook, and ultra low-power, respectively). Samsung's bouquet of contract-manufacturing covers not just silicon fabrication across 14 nm, but also sub 10 nm nodes, but also provides other key stages of processor manufacturing, including bumping and packaging. Intel would want minimal expenditure in adapting its chip designs to Samsung's nodes

In her November 20 letter addressed to Intel's customers, executive V-P and GM for sales, marketing, and communications, Michelle Johnston Holthaus, mentioned that in addition to Intel's own manufacturing facilities, the company is roping in "foundries" (third-party silicon fabrication companies) to meet demand. Samsung and TSMC lead the foundry business, followed by the likes of GlobalFoundries, UMC, etc.
Many Thanks to biffzinker for the tip.

PRC State-Owned Company, Taiwan Company, and Three Individuals Charged With Economic Espionage

A federal grand jury indicted a state-owned enterprise of the People's Republic of China (PRC), a Taiwan company, and three individuals, charging them with crimes related to a conspiracy to steal, convey, and possess stolen trade secrets of an American semiconductor company for the benefit of a company controlled by the PRC government. All of the defendants are charged with a conspiracy to commit economic espionage, among other crimes. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, FBI Director Christopher Wray, Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers, Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division Brian A. Benczkowski, United States Attorney Alex G. Tse of the Northern District of California, and FBI Special Agent in Charge for the San Francisco Field Office John F. Bennett made the announcement.

In addition, the United States filed a civil lawsuit seeking to enjoin the further transfer of the stolen trade secrets and to enjoin certain defendants from exporting to the United States any products manufactured by UMC or Jinhua that were created using the trade secrets at issue. The indictment was filed on September 27, 2018, and unsealed today. The civil lawsuit was filed today.

Micron Provides Statement on Fujian Province Patent Litigation

(Editor's Note: We'll see if this statement from Micron is enough to staunch the bleeding on its shares - which it should, since the company says no recognizable impact will exist on its bottom line. If things are as they seem (and yet, they seldom are), this is a checkmate move from Chinese manufacturing companies - eventually supported by the Chinese government - and an interesting way to lock China's voracious DRAM and NAND market to fully domestic manufacturers.)

Micron Technology, Inc., announced that the Fuzhou Intermediate People's Court, Fujian Province, China today notified two Chinese subsidiaries of Micron that it has granted a preliminary injunction against those entities in patent infringement cases filed by United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC) and Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit Co. (Jinhua). The patent infringement claims of UMC and Jinhua were filed against Micron in retaliation for criminal indictments filed by Taiwan authorities against UMC and three of its employees and a civil lawsuit filed by Micron against UMC and Jinhua in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California for the misappropriation of Micron trade secrets.

Micron Technology Faces Ban in China After Losing IP Spat to UMC

Stocks of Micron Technology tanked on Tuesday as reports emerged of the company being banned in China, the world's largest semiconductor market. A Chinese court ruled in favor of Taiwanese semiconductor foundry UMC in its patent infringement lawsuit against Micron. The Fuzhou Intermediate People's Court issued a preliminary injunction stopping the sale of 26 Micron products, spanning across both its DRAM and NAND flash product lines, UMC said in a statement.

Micron, meanwhile, maintains that it hasn't read the injunction order yet, and that it won't comment until it does. Micron's position is doing precious little in stopping its hemorrhage at the markets, as its stock prices fell 8 percent at the time of this writing. The Micron-UMC spat is fascinating in a broader geopolitical context. Micron accuses UMC of serving as a conduit for funneling away its IP to midwife Chinese DRAM companies such as Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit Co. It is the counter-suit to this by UMC, which was won today. China accounted to more than 50 percent of Micron's revenues in FY 2017, with most of the chips being mopped up by the consumer electronics and PC manufacturing industries.

UMC To Start 14 nm Shipments in Q1 2017

For a while there, the only competitive foundries that we've been hearing about have been TSMC and GlobalFoundries (Intel's foundries are such a well-known fact that they sometimes - and paradoxically - fade into obscurity). However, according to UMC's CEO, the company is poised to become another option in the 14 nm field this year.

This represents a general acceleration of UMC's plans to bring the manufacturing process to market, where it would supposedly only be ready for primetime on Q2 2017. However, following intensive engineering activities, UMC's 14-nanometer transistor performance has delivered speed and leakage results which are comparable with the industry's 14-nanometer standards. Initial 14nm manufacturing capacity should be 2,000 wafers per month, and the company already has numerous customers running test chips.

UMC Enters Volume Production for TSV Process that Enables AMD Radeon R9 Fury X

United Microelectronics Corporation, a leading global semiconductor foundry, today announced that it has entered volume production for the Through-Silicon-Via (TSV) technology used on the AMD Radeon R9 Fury X, the flagship GPU in the recently announced Radeon R 300 Series of graphics cards. The AMD Radeon R9 Fury X GPU utilizes UMC's TSV process technology and die-stacking to fuse HBM DRAM with AMD's GPU on a silicon interposer, enabling the GPU to deliver unmatched memory bandwidth of 4096-bit and quadruple the performance-per-watt over the current GDDR5 industry standard.

"AMD has a successful history of delivering cutting-edge GPU products to market," said S.C. Chien, vice president of Corporate Marketing and co-chair of the TSV committee at UMC. "This volume production milestone is the culmination of UMC's close TSV collaboration with AMD, and we are happy to bring the performance benefits of this technology to help power their new generation of GPU products. We look forward to continuing this fruitful partnership with AMD for years to come."

UMC joins IBM chip alliance for 10 nm process development

IBM (NYSE: IBM) and United Microelectronics Corporation (NYSE: UMC; TWSE: 2303) ("UMC"), a leading global semiconductor foundry, today announced that UMC will join the IBM Technology Development Alliances as a participant in the group's development of 10nm CMOS process technology.

"Established over a decade ago, the IBM alliance allows the partners to leverage our combined expertise and collaborative research and innovative technology development to address the demanding needs for advanced semiconductor applications," said Gary Patton, VP, IBM Semiconductor Research & Development. "UMC is a strong addition to the alliance."

NVIDIA Approaching Other Foundries than TSMC for 28 nm Production

NVIDIA, along with Qualcomm, is reportedly in talks with foundries other than TSMC, for manufacturing of its new 28 nm chips. Despite the fact that TSMC is ramping up its 28 nm capacity at a breakneck pace, NVIDIA is seeing a shortage of production that could affect its competitiveness. An interesting revelation here is that NVIDIA has begun sampling its GPUs on Samsung's 28 nanometer fab process. Samsung uses this process for contract-manufacturing of ARM application processors. Other foundries with proven 28 nm manufacturing capability include UMC.

TSMC Expanding 28 nm Manufacturing Facility

With the advent of highly-complex 28 nm discrete PC graphics processors, and ARM designers lined up with their increasingly powerful SoCs, TSMC is bound to see a pile up of orders for chips built on its newest bulk manufacturing process. In view of this, the "messiah of the fabless" is planning an expansion of its 28 nm manufacturing facility. This expansion is set to occur a little later in 2012. TSMC reportedly is running at full capacity at its 12-inch fabs because of strong demand for 28 nm as well as 40 nm and 65 nm. Due to this, some designers are approaching TSMC's competitors UMC and Samsung for 28 nm bulk manufacturing, according to sources. The expansion will follow a revision of TSMC's capex target for 2012, up from US $6 billion.

SandForce Closes $25 Million Series D Funding

SandForce Inc., the pioneer of SSD (Solid State Drive) Processors that enable standard NAND Flash deployment in enterprise, client and industrial computing applications, today announced that it has closed $25 million in Series D funding, led by Canaan Partners. Existing investors who also participated include DCM, Storm Ventures, Translink Capital, LSI Corporation & UMC Capital.

"We are increasing volume shipments of our Enterprise and Client SSD Processors to leading drive manufacturers around the globe and continue to receive exceptional market acceptance of our DuraClass technology in I/O intensive storage applications," said Michael Raam, president and CEO of SandForce. "This new funding will help us bring our next-generation products to market, expand our customer and partner support infrastructure, and accelerate our core technology development that will extend our market leadership."

AMD to Switch to GlobalFoundries with 28 nm GPUs

With AMD's next generation of graphics processors, the company plans to, at one point, switch its GPU manufacturing from its present Taiwan-based foundry partners such as TSMC and UMC, to GlobalFoundaries, its erstwhile own manufacturing division. From 40 nm, graphics processors are expected to jump to 28 nm as the next manufacturing process standard. GlobalFoundries will be ready with a 28 nm High-K metal gate (HKMG) node for making AMD products which are now bulk-manufactured in Taiwan.

During a quarterly conference call with financial analysts, chief executive officer of AMD, Dirk Meyer said "The first intersection of our AMD GPUs and GlobalFoundries are on the 28nm. We haven't been public with respect to any timing there." GlobalFoundries is said to have two principal kinds of 28 nm nodes, the 28nm-HP (High Performance) node makes complex chips such as GPUs, game console chips, storage controllers, networking and media encoding, while the 28nm-SLP (Super Low Power) is used for less complex devices, particularly intended to be low-power, for portable devices, such as baseband, application processors, and other handheld functions. In 2011, AMD is expected to release its next-generation of GPUs in a series codenamed "Northern Islands".

GLOBALFOUNDRIES Appoints VP of Marketing

GLOBALFOUNDRIES today announced the appointment of Jim Ballingall as vice president of marketing. In this role, Ballingall will be responsible for developing and implementing marketing solutions and strategies to support the growth of GLOBALFOUNDRIES as it aims to reshape the landscape of the foundry industry.

"The core of the GLOBALFOUNDRIES brand comprises the sum of the unique value propositions that we create, promise, and deliver to our customers," said Jim Kupec, senior vice president of sales and marketing at GLOBALFOUNDRIES. "As we strive to deliver on our vision and become the world's first truly global foundry, Jim's proven foundry industry leadership and experience will help us develop and convey our unique value propositions to customers and stakeholders and position the company for optimal success, as we unlock our customers' potential to innovate and win."
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