[News] AMD Eyes CoWoS-like Supply for AI Chips with TSMC Full Capacity

TSMC operates at full capacity, AMD aims for AI chips reportedly seeks CoWoS-like supply chain.

In 2023, NVIDIA led the global AI chip development, and in 2024, the global demand for AI chips is expected to continue to surge due to the expansion of end-user applications such as PCs and mobile phones.

Meanwhile, AMD has not stopped in AI chip development either, with the expected MI300 products poised to heat up the global AI business opportunities. However, the key to supply lies in advanced packaging, and AMD will seek outsourced semiconductor assembly and test (OSAT) service providers to offer support similar to CoWoS.

According to Taiwan’s Commercial Times, TSMC’s CoWoS capacity has long been fully loaded, and even if it expands production this year, it will mainly be reserved for NVIDIA. Market sources pointed out that TSMC will continue to increase CoWoS capacity to support AMD’s demand, but it takes six to nine months to establish a new production line. Therefore, it is expected that AMD will seek cooperation with other companies with CoWoS-like packaging capabilities. ASE, Amkor, Powertech, and KYEC are the first batch of potential partners.

TSMC has been outsourcing part of its CoWoS operations for some time, mainly targeting small-volume, high-performance chips. TSMC maintains in-house production of the CoW, while the back-end WoS is handed over to test and assembly houses to improve production efficiency and flexibility. This model will continue in the future 3D IC generation.

ASE and Amkor both received WoS orders last year. ASE has strengthened the development of advanced packaging technology and has a complete solution for the entire CoWoS process. ASE previously stated that it sees the strong potential of AI and expects related revenue to double in 2024.

According to reports citing market sources, the monthly production capacity of the ASE Group’s 2.5D packaging is about 2,000 to 2,500 pieces. Some experts believe that test and assembly houses will maintain the business model of TSMC or UMC providing the interposer. Therefore, in 2024, a significant increase in CoWoS production capacity is expected.

KYEC is responsible for testing Nvidia AI chips and is expected to benefit from AMD’s search for CoWoS-like capacity. Nvidia is currently KYEC’s second-largest customer.

KYEC’s testing of Nvidia A100 and H100 chips is mainly in the final test (FT), with a market share of up to 70%. KYEC provides comprehensive IC burn-in testing, has self-developed burn-in equipment, and has been in the industry for more than a decade, accumulating many patents and technologies.

AMD stated at the end of 2023 that AI chip revenue could reach US$2 billion in 2024, excluding other HPC chips. AMD pointed out that the annual compound growth rate of the AI chip market in the next four years will reach 70%, and it is estimated that it will reach US$400 billion in 2027.

(Image: AMD)

Please note that this article cites information from Commercial Times


[News] The Alliance among Apple, TSMC, and Amkor May Pose Challenges to Samsung’s Advanced Packaging Strategy

As reported earlier, the global provider of outsourced semiconductor packaging and test services, Amkor, has been set to establish its presence in Arizona, USA, providing advanced packaging services for Apple chips manufactured by TSMC.

According to reports from South Korean media, the alliance formed among Apple, TSMC, and Amkor may pose a significant challenge to the South Korean semiconductor giant, Samsung Electronics, potentially creating competition for contracts and drawing close attention from the industry.

Amkor released a statement on November 30, announcing the establishment of the new facility in Peoria, northwest of Phoenix, Arizona. The construction is expected to commence in the second half of 2024, focusing primarily on advanced packaging requirements for high-end chips related to IoT, automotive electronics, 5G, artificial intelligence (AI), and high-performance computing (HPC). The facility has already secured orders from major players, with Apple being its first and largest customer.

Coincidentally, TSMC is also in the process of constructing an advanced process semiconductor wafer facility in Phoenix. 

TrendForce’s research has indicated that the current maximum capacity plan for TSMC’s Arizona plant is around 50,000, with 20-30,000 allocated for 4nm and 3nm each. It is anticipated that the expansion to this scale will only occur after 2027. This capacity is expected to cater to a limited number of domestic customers in the United States who require fully American-made semiconductor products.

Business Korea’s report also suggests that the alliance formed among Apple, TSMC, and Amkor may impact Samsung. Samsung’s second wafer facility in the U.S., located in Taylor City, Texas, is anticipated to start production in the second half of 2024, setting the stage for potential chip procurement battles with TSMC.

Speculations have arisen about Samsung possibly establishing a testing and packaging facility in Taylor City, following the strategy of strengthening vertical integration to enhance competitiveness and gain an advantage in chip procurement.

In November of this year, Samsung unveiled a new strategy called “GDP,” focusing on Gate-All-Around (GAA) transistor technology, DRAM, and 3.5D advanced packaging. The company has pledged to achieve a goal where more than half of its wafer foundry revenue comes from AI chip orders within five years.

(Photo credit: TSMC)

Please note that this article cites information from Business Korea and TechNews

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[News] Apple Expands Amkor Partnership at Arizona Fab with Amkor’s $2B Investment in Advanced Packaging

On November 30th, Apple revealed an extension of its partnership with Amkor in the advanced packaging sector within the United States. Apple proudly proclaimed its role as the inaugural and principal client for Amkor’s recently established facility in Peoria, Arizona. In this collaboration, Amkor will handle the packaging of Apple chips manufactured at the nearby TSMC’s wafer fab. Worth noting, Apple is also TSMC’s leading customer at the Arizona fab.

Jeff Williams, Apple’s CEO, emphasized Apple’s unwavering commitment to American manufacturing, stating that they will continue expanding investments in the U.S. Apple silicon’s groundbreaking performance capabilities have enabled users to accomplish unprecedented tasks. The announcement highlights the anticipation of Apple silicon being manufactured and packaged in Arizona.

According to the press release, Apple and Amkor have been collaborating for over a decade, packaging chips extensively used in all Apple products. Concerning the new factory, Amkor will invest approximately $2 billion, and upon completion, it will employ over 2,000 people.

Apple also underscores that the investment in advanced manufacturing is part of the company’s commitment in 2021 to invest USD 430 billion in the U.S. economy over five years. Currently, Apple is working towards achieving this goal through direct spending with American suppliers, data center investments, U.S. capital expenditures, and other domestic expenditures.

On the other hand, Amkor outlined plans to establish a state-of-the-art manufacturing campus featuring an expansive 500,000 square feet of cleanroom space. The primary objective of the initial phase is to initiate production within the next two to three years.

Amkor aims to provide cutting-edge technology catering to high-volume semiconductor advanced packaging and testing, specifically supporting crucial markets such as high-performance computing, automotive, and communications. The newly proposed production facility will be strategically located within a semiconductor hub, surrounded by front-end wafer fabs, IDM, and existing or expanding suppliers in the field, including TSMC, Intel, Applied Materials, ASML, and others.

“Amkor has been a strategic OSAT partner to TSMC for many years,” said Dr. C.C. Wei, CEO of TSMC. “TSMC applauds Amkor for investing in the future of the semiconductor industry with us in Arizona. We share Amkor’s excitement for its significant investment and the value this facility will bring to TSMC, our customers, and the ecosystem.”

Giel Rutten, CEO from Amkor, indicated the incorporation of this new U.S. facility with Amkor’s advanced facilities across Asia and Europe serves to strengthen global extension and fosters both global and regional supply chains. Amkor’s investment is positioned to bolster them in advanced packaging and testing, concurrently reaffirming the commitment to expanding chip manufacturing in the United States.

According from the financial reports, Amkor’s two largest clients are Apple and Qualcomm. Apple accounted for 20.6% and Qualcomm 10.1%. of Amkor’s USD 7.1 billion in revenue last year.
(Image: Amkor)

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[News] Amkor’s Vietnam Plant Meets High-End Semiconductor Demand as Advanced Packaging Thrives

On October 11th, Amkor announced the official opening of its factory located in the Yen Phong 2C Industrial Park in Bac Ninh Province, Vietnam. The new facility, occupying 57 acres, is set to become Amkor’s largest, with an investment of approximately $1.6 billion by 2035. The factory primarily focuses on providing advanced system-level packaging and testing solutions to meet the semiconductor industry’s demand for advanced packaging. However, the company has not disclosed the factory’s current production and capacity.

Multiple Players Pursue CoWoS

The ongoing AI trend continues to drive demand for Chip-on-Wafer-on-Substrate (CoWoS) technology, benefiting TSMC, which holds a significant share of CoWoS production orders. However, companies like ASE Group, Amkor, and UMC are also positioning themselves in the CoWoS packaging manufacturing space. Industry experts believe that given the current high demand for TSMC’s CoWoS production, part of this demand may potentially shift to Amkor’s factories.

Furthermore, the popular Nvidia AI chips, which are in high demand globally, utilize 2.5D packaging technology, a responsibility currently held by TSMC. Recently, Nvidia hinted at the mass production of new AI chips like the GH200 and general server chip L40S, with reports suggesting that L40S will not require 2.5D packaging. Instead, it will be shared among several backend packaging companies, including ASE, Amkor, and SPIL.

Industry source has noted the strong demand for CoWoS in the AI sector, and with TSMC’s CoWoS production capacity already unable to meet demand for several quarters, some demand may potentially shift to Amkor or Samaung’s facilities.

Amkor has announced plans to expand its advanced packaging CoWoS-like capacity. According to industry insiders, Amkor’s monthly production capacity for 2.5D advanced packaging is expected to reach approximately 3,000 wafers in early 2023, with estimates of reaching 5,000 wafers by the end of 2023 and aiming for a significant increase to 7,000 units by the end of 2024.

Additionally, ASE Group has announced its presence in advanced CoWoS-related packaging. With their fan-out chip-on-substrate (FOCoS-Bridge) packaging technology, ASE has been chosen by major chip design house to handle their backend packaging after CoW.

In mid-September, South Korean media reported that Samsung is set to introduce its FO-PLP 2.5D advanced packaging technology to catch up with TSMC in the field of advanced packaging for AI chips. Samsung’s Advanced Packaging (AVP) team began developing FO-PLP advanced packaging for 2.5D chip packaging, allowing the integration of System-on-Chip (SoC) and High Bandwidth Memory (HBM) into an interposer to create a complete chip.

It’s worth mentioning that Samsung’s FO-PLP 2.5D packaging is rectangular, while TSMC’s CoWoS 2.5D uses a circular substrate. Samsung’s FO-PLP 2.5D packaging avoids edge substrate losses and boasts higher production efficiency. However, due to the need to transplant chips from wafers onto rectangular substrates, the process is more complex.

CoWoS Demand Continues

CoWoS technology is a form of 2.5D and 3D packaging, where chips are stacked and then packaged onto a substrate, resulting in a 2.5D or 3D structure. This technology reduces chip space, while also decreasing power consumption and costs. CoWoS packaging is applied in high-performance computing, artificial intelligence, data centers, 5G, the Internet of Things, automotive electronics, and other fields.

TrendForce research indicates a growing demand for advanced packaging technologies for AI and HPC chips. Currently, TSMC’s CoWoS is the primary choice for AI server chip production. CoWoS packaging mainly consists of CoW (Chip on Wafer), integrating various logic ICs (such as CPUs, GPUs, ASICs, etc.) and HBM memory, while oS (On Substrate) integrates CoW elements using Solder bump interconnects and packages them on a substrate. These CoWoS packages become the primary computing units on server motherboards, together with other components like networks, storage, power supply units (PSUs), and other I/O units, forming complete AI server systems.

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(Photo credit: Amkor)


[News] Advanced Packaging in High Demand, TSMC and OAST Increasing Equipment Orders

As AI demand continues to surge, TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) has initiated an extensive expansion plan for its CoWoS (Chip-on-Wafer-on-Substrate) production. Within the industry, reports suggest that TSMC, a leading semiconductor foundry, placed a significant wave of orders with Taiwanese equipment manufacturers last week, creating a notable impact.

Additionally, outsourced semiconductor assembly and testing (OSAT) giants, which were originally inquiring about orders, have also significantly increased their orders for advanced packaging. This wave of orders is estimated to be fulfilled between March and April of the upcoming year.

The growth in demand for advanced semiconductor processes due to AI applications necessitates advanced packaging technologies to keep pace. With packaging technologies advancing from 2D and 2.5D to the more advanced 3D IC (Integrated Circuit) configurations, the number of IC stacking layers is increasing, leading to a greater demand for advanced packaging equipment. Considering the current emphasis on CoWoS technology, the industry estimates that production capacity will reach 12,000 to 14,000 wafers in 2023 and double to over 30,000 wafers in 2024.

According to a report by Taiwan’s Money DJ, information from equipment industry sources reveals that TSMC recommenced orders for CoWoS equipment in April 2023, with a second wave of orders in June. Subsequently, sporadic additional orders were placed, and last week witnessed a new significant wave of orders, surprising many.

An anonymous executive from a Taiwanese equipment company expressed that they initially believed TSMC’s orders for CoWoS equipment had concluded, making the recent wave of orders even more unexpected. Furthermore, the increase in orders for advanced packaging equipment by semiconductor testing and packaging facilities is also seen as encouraging.

Market experts believe that semiconductor testing and packaging facilities and semiconductor foundries have different positions and advantages in the advanced packaging market. Their cooperative relationships outweigh their competition. Major OSAT players like ASE, Amkor, and JCET have long possessed advanced packaging technology and are positioned to become an alternative choice for major foundries due to their technical upgrades and competitive pricing. In other words, top-tier orders from customers will be firmly in TSMC’s grasp, while other opportunities will likely be pursued by SATS companies.

Regarding the supply of CoWoS equipment, suppliers like Scientech have received over 30 orders for wet etching processing equipment, while Grand Process Technology and others have shipped nearly 20 units. Meanwhile, G2C+ Alliance members such as GMM and C Sun have reportedly received over 40 orders from the TSMC’s Longtan factory.

(Photo credit: TSMC)

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