As 8-inch wafer foundry capacity supply is expected to fall short of demand through at least 2020, Taiwan foundry houses including United Microelectronics (UMC) and Vanguard International Semiconductor (VIS) are actively moving to expand capacities at their 8-inch fabs seeking to cash in on ever-increasing demand for fabricating diverse niche chips.
Makers of fingerprint recognition ICs, power management ICs, MOSFET and IGBT chips have turned to 8-inch wafer fabs from 6-inch ones for foundry support. This, coupled with strong demand for automotive electronics and IoT chips usually fabricated at 8-inch fabs, has sent 8-inch fabs in Taiwan and China running at full capacity over the past year.
To meet the booming demand, UMC has announced plans to expand the capacities at the 8-inch fabs operated by its affiliates HeJian Technology (Suzhou) and United Semiconductor (Xiamen) – both in China. The company has applied to the China Securities Regulatory Commission for launching an IPO for Hejian to raise funds for the capacity expansions. By the end of 2018, the monthly foundry capacity at HeJian’s 8-inc fab is expected to increase by 10,000 pieces from the existing level of 65,000, and United Semi’s 8-inch fab capacity is estimated to expand to 25,000 pieces from 17,000.
Meanwhile, VIS chairman Lueh Fang revealed at a recent investor conference that his company has decided to drop its 12-inch foundry capacity expansion plans, and will instead focus on boosting its 8-inch capacity by installing additional equipment at its existing fabs or through direct acquisitions from peers.
In fact, since 2008, international IDMs have gradually shut down or reduced their 8-inch foundry capacities while global investments in expanding 12-inch foundry capacity have increased significantly amid the availability of advanced processes. As many as 20 out of a total of 28 new foundry fabs built in China over the past two years are 12-inch ones.
But based on the cost concern, 8-inch wafer foundry has proved the optimal choice for makers of fingerprint recognition chips, automotive electronics chips and IoT chips that see robust demand increases, leading to unexpected 8-inch foundry capacity shortfalls in the past year, industry sources indicated.