Company Trend(Jan. 29th)
UMC & Intel jointly announce to develop new processes to “strike” TSMC!
United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC) and Intel jointly announced that they will work together to develop a 12nm process platform to meet the rapid growth of mobile, communication infrastructure, and network markets. The 12nm process node will leverage Intels large-scale manufacturing capabilities in the United States and FinFET transistor design experience to deliver a powerful product featuring maturity, performance and energy efficiency. Thanks to UMC s leading position in the manufacturing process and decades of experience in providing PDK and design support to customers, it is able to provide wafer foundry services more effectively. The new process will be developed and used for the manufacturing at Intels Ocotillo Technology Fabrication plants 12, 22 and 32 in Ocotillo, Arizona, USA, and will significantly reduce upfront investment and optimize utilization by utilizing existing fab equipment.
UMC’s joint general manager stated that the cooperation between UMC and Intel on the 12nm FinFET process to be used in manufacturing in the United States is an important part of the companys pursuit of cost-effective capacity expansion and technology node upgrade strategies. Both parties will strive to meet customer needs and cooperate to support the design enablement of the 12nm process through electronic design automation (EDA) and IP solutions provided by ecosystem partners. This 12nm process is expected to be used in production in 2027.
Taiwan has been an important member of Asian and global semiconductors and a wide range of technology ecosystems for decades. Intel is committed to cooperating with innovative enterprises in Taiwan innovative enterprises such as UMC to provide better services for global customers. The strategic cooperation between Intel and UMC further demonstrates its commitment to providing technology and manufacturing innovation for the global semiconductor supply chain, and is also an important step towards achieving Intels goal of becoming the worlds second largest wafer foundry by 2030. This long-term cooperation combines Intels large-scale manufacturing capacity in the United States with UMCs extensive foundry experience in mature processes to expand the process portfolio while providing a better regionally diverse and resilient supply chain to help customers around the world make better purchasing decisions.
Company Trend(Jan. 30th)
5nm chips can be made! Canon plans to replace mask aligner with a low-cost device
Recently, a Canon executive responsible for overseeing the development of the new mask aligner said in an interview that the FPA-1200NZ2C, a Canon lithography device using nanoimprint technology, is to be launched this year or next year. Canon announced the launch of FPA-1200NZ2C in October last year and said that the new device can manufacture 5nm chips. Canon stated that the cost of this new device will be "one order of magnitude lower than ASMLs EUV" and the power consumption will be reduced by 90%.
Canons CEO stated that its new nanoimprinting technology will pave the way for small semiconductor manufacturers to produce advanced chips, and currently this technology is almost entirely owned by the largest company in the industry. In explaining the nanoimprint technology, the head of Canon Semiconductor Equipment Business stated that nanoimprinting technology is the process of imprinting a mask with a semiconductor circuit diagram onto a wafer. By only imprinting once on a wafer, complex two-dimensional or three-dimensional circuits can be formed in the appropriate position. If the mask is improved, even products with a circuit linewidth of 2nm can be produced. Currently, Canons NIL technology enables the minimum linewidth of the pattern to correspond to a 5nm node logic semiconductor. It is reported that the 5nm chip manufacturing equipment industry is dominated by ASML, and Canons nanoimprinting method may help narrow the gap.
Almost all high-end mask aligners are monopolized by ASML. Although Canon and Nikon are also top enterprises in the industry, there is a quite large gap between Canon and Nikon and ASML. If they continue to research lithography technology, it will be difficult to surpass ASML. Compared with lithography technology, nanoimprinting not only has lower costs and simpler manufacturing processes, but is also suitable for large-scale production. Once nanoimprinting becomes the mainstream technology, it is expected to lower down the price of chip manufacturing equipment. However, nanoimprinting technology has the disadvantage of insufficient yield rate. If the yield rate cannot rise, it will not have commercial value. Therefore, nanoimprinting and lithography are not in opposition or substitution. On the contrary, the combination of nanoimprinting and lithography technology can save costs and expand production capacity to a certain extent. This may be a new direction for the development of future chip manufacturing equipment.
Company Trend(Feb. 1st)
MCU prices rise!
MCU manufacturer PADAUK recently notified its agents to raise OTP MCU prices from today. The previous spot price of 32-bit MCU of GigaDevice, a mainland based benchmark manufacturer, also showed a slight rebound in early January, and the priceS of MCU products on both sides of the Strait float up synchronously.
PADAUK pointed out that in view of the destocking and the emergence of market price bottoming signals, PADAUK informed its agents that it will adjust the prices of some product lines, mainly focused on OTP MCU products. This time, the prices are raised to a reasonable profit level for the company. Due to the return of its own inventory to the healthy level, since H2 2023, PADAUK’s monthly revenue has resumed the annual growth trend, and the revenue from November to December has risen to more than RMB100mn, and both the monthly growth rate and annual growth rate increased, its 2023 annual revenue reached RMB1.058bn, up 12.63% annually.
The companys management pointed out that at present, the market visibility is limited, and the demand for consumer electronics is concentrated on specific items, which has not yet fully recovered. The company combines lithium battery charging management with MCU, bringing growth momentum to the company. In addition, it actively cultivates overseas (outside Chinese Mainland) markets, and the development results are gradually emerging. With MCU prices stabilizing and rebounding, there is an opportunity for revenue to rise quarter by quarter in 2024.
In 2023, due to the weak domestic demand market in Chinese Mainland, Taiwan MCU industry suffered a sharp decline in the performance of the MCU manufacturers. In order to reduce stock, the industry haggled over prices, leading to a sharp decline in profits. Although the price of general-purpose MCU has previously reached a new low point, we have seen the prices of some MCU products with prices excessively reduced before have begun to rise. Some products have also experienced urgent orders and hot runs, and the market situation is expected to gradually return to normal. Therefore, it is expected that individual manufacturers will determine their pricing strategies based on their inventory status and customer demand. Although price increases are not common, they are still in a positive trend.
Apple and Qualcomm extend modem chip agreement to 2027
According to the report of MacRumors on February 1st, Qualcomm announced at its first earnings call for 2024 that Apple has extended its modem chip (baseband) license agreement with Qualcomm to March 2027. Apples existing agreement has currently been extended for two years, and it is expected that future generations of iPhones will not be able to access Apples self-developed 5G modem chips.
Apple has been working on developing its own 5G modem chip for several years. In this regard, it is widely believed that Apples self-development of 5G modem chip is on the one hand to get rid of its dependence on Qualcomm as soon as possible, on the other hand, it can solve signal problems and increase profit margins. But currently, there have been several delays in Apples development progress. In November 2023, according to Bloomberg, Apples work on a modem chip has been pushed back to late 2025 or 2026, and could be pushed back further. Apples initial goal was to launch a modem chip designed by Apple before 2024, and later hoped to introduce the modem chip in the iPhone SE to be launched in the spring of 2025. Currently, the company has failed to achieve these goals.
It is learned that Apples self-developed 5G chip has been delayed for two main reasons. First, after Apple acquired Intels modem chip business, problems were found in Intels code, and Apple had to rewrite the code, which led to slow progress. Second, Apple had to avoid Qualcomm, Ericsson and other manufacturers patents as much as possible in the process of developing its own 5G chip, which further increased the difficulty. In general, Apple cant implement its own 5G modem chips right now, and will likely remain dependent on Qualcomm chips for some time to come. This may be a setback for Apple, but the continuation of this cooperation will provide stable communication technology support for Apple, while bringing business opportunities and market competitive advantages to Qualcomm.
ACM plans to raise no more than RMB 4.5bn to invest in R&D, process testing platform construction projects(Jan. 29th)
According to news on the website of SEMI, ACM (Shanghai) announced in the evening that it plans to issue equity to specific targets to raise funds of no more than RMB 4.5bn in total. After deducting the issuance expenses, the net amount of the raised funds will be invested in R&D and process testing platform construction projects, high-end semiconductor equipment iteration R&D projects, and used to replenish its working capital.
(1) R&D and process testing platform construction project
This project will draw on the experience of international semiconductor equipment leading enterprises in setting up their own process testing lines, use the companys existing process testing clean room to simulate the production environment of wafer manufacturing plants, configure necessary R&D testing instruments, as well as externally purchased equipment such as lithography machines, CMP, and ion implanters, and combine various self-made process equipment to create a platform for integrated circuit equipment R&D and process testing.
(2) Iterative R&D project of high-end semiconductor equipment
This project mainly involves purchasing software and hardware equipment for R&D, providing corresponding R&D personnel, and conducting further iterative development for projects where the company has formed an overall design plan for the equipment to ensure that key technologies and equipment have differentiated global independent IP rights, and help the company expand its Chinese market and explore international markets.
Zhuhai BOE HC wafer & packaging testing project capped, with total Investment of RMB 2bn(Jan. 31st)
According to the official WeChat news of HC Semitek, on January 31st, Huafa Group successfully held the capping ceremony of BOE HC Semitek Zhuhai MicroLED wafer manufacturing and packaging testing base project, one of the city-level semiconductor integrated circuit industry pillar projects introduced and implemented in Zhuhai.
It is reported that Zhuhai MicroLED wafer manufacturing and packaging testing base, the worlds first Micro LED production line, is committed to becoming a leading global Micro LED R&D production base and an important platform for laying out next-generation display technology. As the equipment moved in, the first product will be brought up in September this year, and mass production is expected to start in December 2024. In the future, with the complete installation and debugging, the project will achieve an annual production capacity of 58,800 MicroLED wafers and 45000kk MicroLED pixel devices.
It is learned that, as an MLED R&D industry platform of strategic cooperation between BOE and HC Semitek, this project integrates two core technologies, MLED display panels and chips, and will effectively fill the gap in the new display industry in Zhuhai, Guangdong, and even across China. With the successful capping and rapid advancement, this project will bring a broader space for the cooperation of Huafa Group, BOE and HC Semitek.
SMEC and NIO sign SiC production and supply agreement(Jan. 31st)
Recently, Semiconductor Manufacturing Electronics (Shaoxing) Corporation (SMEC) and NIO signed a production and supply agreement for SiC module products. SMEC will provide NIO with the first self-developed 1200V SiC module and become an important partner of NIOs full stack self-developed 900V high-voltage pure electric platform. In addition to cooperation in SiC modules, both parties also engage in comprehensive communication and cooperation in areas such as sensing, driving, connection, and control.
It is learned that SMEC’s SiC MOSFET products have been mass-produced for the main drive inverter of new energy vehicle, and the first 8-inch SiC device R&D production line under construction in China will be put into operation in 2024.
SMEC stated that continuously increasing R&D investment and improving the industrial chain layout have enabled SMEC to achieve multiple breakthroughs. SMEC has significantly increased R&D in 12 inch products and SiCMOS FET, while continuously increasing R&D investment in 8-inch power semiconductors, MEMS, connections, and other areas to continuously iterate and produce internationally competitive products. Meanwhile, benefiting from the sustained prosperity of the global new energy vehicle market and the increasing demand for domestic substitution, SMEC s overall revenue has grown rapidly and its operating net cash flow has significantly increased.