UMC is investing $ 3.6 billion to expand 28nm production

It still looked bad at the turn of January and February. Customers complained that not only are the capacities for production on modern processes missing, but that the capacities on the processes of older generations have also been exhausted for a long time. We dealt with this in a separate article…

… Which indicated that the only hope for production on older processes may be UMC, but it does not plan to increase production capacity on older processes by more than 1-3%. Because the situation has changed a bit after three months, it’s time to update.

UMC, which is the largest specialist in older processes (TSMC and Samsung have a focus on new ones, GlobalFoundries somewhere in between, Chinese SMIC is problematic for some customers due to US sanctions and HSMC has closed the shop), won Samsung’s 28nm image sensor manufacturing, control chips for displays and unspecified components for telephones. However, the seemingly banal order has certain specifics. Samsung sold UMC’s own 400 production machines, which is a rather interesting feat in times of need, not only for production processes but also for production tools.

What could have led Samsung to it? Probably the fact that Samsung (unlike UMC) specializes in new processes and needs to equip existing premises with new lines for new processes. There is no time and money to build new factories for the old lines, so it may be interesting for him to offer UMC a profitable business and thus commit it to providing production capacity for its needs. Samsung has been entering into more and more similar bilateral agreements in recent years, such as working with Qualcomm, AMD or new rumors of an Olympus partnership.

Samsung will use the UMC P6 plant in Nanka, with a capacity of 27,000 wafers per month, and production will start in two years (2023).

Prior to the announcement of the agreement with Samsung, UMC spoke of an investment of $ 1.5 billion to expand production capacity, with the subsequent purchase of 400 machines from Samsung not expected to count towards this investment. Now, however, a significantly larger investment has been announced: $ 3.6 billion purely for 28nm production. Here it is obviously possible to look for a connection with the events between UMC and Samsung.

The investment will target Fab 12A in Taiwan. It currently produces 90,000 28nm wafers per month, with the ongoing expansion scheduled for completion this year to add another 10,000. Phase 6, which will follow, will increase capacity by another 27,500 28nm wafers per month. Phase 6 is the same factory (P6) mentioned in the April news of the partnership with Samsung. Basically, the capacity also fits: UMC will produce 27,000 28nm wafers per month for Samsung, while phase 6 Fab 12A counts on 27,500 28nm wafers per month.

However, the investment is not short-sighted, UMC uses such equipment (here from Samsung?), Which can be further upgraded to 14nm production. Fab 12A is the only UMC factory that has 14nm lines (the most advanced process in UMC’s portfolio) and 28nm lines, when not needed, can expand 14nm production capacity (UMC also offers a 22nm process, which is also possible). The investment and expansion of the factory will also include the recruitment of thousands of new employees.

Finally, one formality: The February article was about the so-called mature processes, which usually mean in semiconductor manufacturing (currently) processes over 40 nanometers. However, UMC uses this term in the context of its own offer, which as such specializes in older processes and as mature refers (in nanometers) to three-digit processes, ie 110 nanometers and higher. If you are interested in where it ends, know that it also offers a 5000nm process (5μ) and in addition to 200mm wafers (and of course 300mm wafers for double-digit processes) it also produces 150mm saucers (these are the chips with technology in the order of microns).

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