[News] Multiple Fabs in Japan to Commence Production Post-2024 Boosting Industry

With the highly anticipated opening of TSMC’s Kumamoto fab on February 24th, 2024, multiple Japanese or global semiconductor manufacturers are set to begin large-scale production in newly established plants in Japan.

According to sources cited by TechNews, this development will stimulate the growth and advancement of Japan’s domestic semiconductor supply chain, enhancing Japan’s semiconductor manufacturing capabilities, transitioning from Renesas Electronics’ 40-nanometer process to JASM’s 12-nanometer process.

TSMC Kumamoto Fab Set to Open on February 24

In Kikuyo Town, Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan Advanced Semiconductor Manufacturing (JASM) company, jointly invested by TSMC, SONY, and Japan’s DENSO, is currently constructing a 12-inch fab.

▲ TSMC’s Layout of Global Production Capacity Edited by TrendForce, January, 2024

The facility will employ 12/16-nanometer and 22/28-nanometer process, focusing on the production of chips for automotive electronic applications. The fab is scheduled to open on February 24, with mass production expected to commence in the fourth quarter of 2024.

This shift is regarded as the first step in Japan’s semiconductor revitalization policy. In support of this initiative, the Japanese government has provided a financial subsidy of JPY 476 billion (approximately USD 3.2 billion) to the JASM fab, covering nearly one-third of the total expenditure, which amounts to USD 8.6 billion.

Kioxia and Western Digital Jointly Constructing 12-Inch Plant

NAND Flash memory giants Kioxia and Western Digital are jointly investing in the construction of a 12-inch plant in Yokkaichi, Mie Prefecture. The facility is set to begin preparing for mass production of 3D NAND Flash memory products by March 2024.

Industry sources note that the plant’s construction will cost JPY 280 billion (approximately USD 1.8 billion ), with the Japanese government providing up to 92.9 billion yen (approximately USD 600 million) in subsidies.

Another Kioxia and Western Digital joint venture plant located in Kitakami, Iwate Prefecture, is slated to open in the second half of 2024. Originally scheduled for completion in 2023, the project faced delays due to unfavorable market conditions.

Renesas Electronics Expands Power Semiconductor Capacity

Renesas Electronics is set to launch a new power semiconductor production line in 2024. However, since the company’s Kofu factory in Yamanashi Prefecture closed in October 2014, Renesas is committing JPY 90 billion to install a 12-inch wafer production line at its existing facility to meet the growing demand for power semiconductors, especially in electric vehicles (EVs).

The new production line will enable Renesas Electronics to enhance its capacity for power semiconductors such as IGBT and MOSFET, with plans to achieve mass production by 2024. Renesas Electronics’ expansion plan is expected to receive subsidy support from the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry.

Toshiba and ROHM Semiconductor Collaborate to Integrate Production Lines for Power Semiconductors

Toshiba and ROHM Semiconductor have reached an agreement to collaborate. Under the agreement, Toshiba’s power semiconductor factory will begin integrating production with ROHM’s newly developed Silicon Carbide (SiC) power semiconductor plant in Kunitomi City, Miyazaki Prefecture. This collaboration is expected to receive government subsidies equivalent to one-third of the investment in the project.

Japan’s New Fab Projects Beyond 2025

Beyond 2025, Japan is set to witness the emergence of several new plants, including Micron Technology’s new 1-gamma (1γ) DRAM production facility in Hiroshima Prefecture.

JSMC, a foundry subsidiary of Powerchip Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation (PSMC), is collaborating with Japan’s financial group SBI to complete construction by 2027 and begin chip production thereafter.

Additionally, Japanese semiconductor startup Rapidus plans to commence production of 2-nanometer chips in Hokkaido by 2027.

Furthermore, TSMC is currently evaluating plans for its second plant in Japan, expected to be located in Kikuyo Town, Kumamoto Prefecture. Reports suggest that TSMC is set to officially announce the location of the second wafer plant on February 6th.

Earlier discussions by TSMC Chairman Mark Liu regarding the second plant in Japan indicated ongoing evaluations and discussions with the Japanese government. Once the decision to build the second plant is finalized, it is anticipated to manufacture products utilizing 7-nanometer to 16-nanometer process technologies.

Japan’s resurgence in the semiconductor arena is palpable, with the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry fostering multi-faceted collaborations with the private sector. With a favorable exchange rate policy aiding factory construction and investments, the future looks bright for exports.

However, the looming shortage of semiconductor talent in Japan is a concern. In response, there are generous subsidy programs for talent development. Japan is strategically positioning itself to reclaim its former glory in the world of semiconductors.

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(Photo credit: TSMC)

Please note that this article cites information from TechNews.


[News] Toyota and Other Automakers Reportedly Join Forces for the Development of Advanced Automotive Chips

In a bid to compete with rivals like Tesla, who conduct in-house research and development of advanced chips for automotive applications, Japanese automakers have reportedly established a new organization to collaboratively research and develop advanced automotive chips, integrating their technologies and designs.

According to a report by Nikkei, automakers including Toyota have established a new organization called the “Automotive SoC Research Association” (temporarily referred as ASRA), joining forces to develop advanced chips for applications like autonomous driving.

Established in December in Nagoya, ASRA is set to commence research on SoC products with a process of 10nm or more advanced nodes starting in 2024. In addition to Toyota, other automakers such as Nissan, Honda, Mazda, Subaru, and Japanese enterprises including Renesas Electronics and Socionext have also joined the initiative.

According to the report, the trend of automakers intensifying in-house development of automotive chips is growing. The report further indicates that semiconductor giants in the United States, such as NVIDIA and Qualcomm, are also developing high-performance SoCs for automotive use.

Leading electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla has opted for in-house development due to dissatisfaction with limited choices, and their self-developed SoCs are already actively deployed in their vehicles.

On the other hand, Chinese automaker NIO, for example, possesses semiconductor research and development teams in both China and the United States. They have successfully developed semiconductor products used for controlling Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology.

(Photo credit: Pixabay)

Please note that this article cites information from Nikkei


[News] Chinese MCU Manufacturers Halt Price-Cutting, MCU Industry Signals Recovery

Semiconductor inventory adjustments are showing positive signs, with the MCU market, which was among the first to bear the brunt of price pressure, now leading the way as Chinese companies have recently ceased their aggressive price-cutting strategies to clear their inventory. In fact, some MCU product lines have even begun to see price increases.

According to reports from Taiwan’s Economic Daily, MCUs are widely used across various key sectors, including consumer electronics, automotive, and industrial control. The recent increase in pricing suggests a resurgence in end-demand, indicating that the semiconductor industry is on the path to recovery.

Prominent global MCU manufacturers include Renesas, NXP, and Microchip, all of which play essential roles in the global semiconductor industry. On the other hand, Taiwanese companies such as Holtek, Nuvoton, Elan, and Sonix represent the local landscape.

Industry experts attribute the current developments to the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused disruptions in the supply chain throughout 2020 and 2021, leading to a frenzied rush to secure semiconductor components. This resulted in a surge in orders and significant price increases for ICs. However, 2022 marked a change in the industry landscape as demand weakened in various end-user applications. MCUs were hit hardest, and manufacturers’ inventories climbed steadily, reaching historical highs, with some industry leaders acknowledging that their inventory levels reached several months’ worth of supply.

To address the challenges posed by these soaring inventories, the MCU industry faced its darkest period from the fourth quarter of last year to the first half of this year. Chinese MCU manufacturers resorted to aggressive price cuts, even drawing renowned IDMs into the price-cutting competition. Fortunately, recent market conditions have started to ease the inventory-clearing phase. Chinese MCU manufacturers, who could no longer bear losses, have stopped selling below cost and have even made slight price adjustments to return to a more reasonable pricing range.

Unnamed Taiwanese MCU manufacturers revealed that as the attitude of Chinese companies towards price-cutting has softened, the pricing gap between products from Taiwanese and Chinese companies have gradually narrowed. Moreover, there are indications of small, urgently needed orders coming in, which will facilitate faster inventory reduction.


Strong Quake in Northeastern Japan, Preliminary Assessment Suggests Semiconductor Production Currently Unaffected, Says TrendForce

A powerful magnitude 7.3 earthquake occurred off the coast of Fukushima, Japan on the evening of March 16th (CST). Most of northeastern Japan is a production center for global upstream semiconductor raw materials. According to TrendForce investigations, in the main quake zone, only Kioxia’s K1 Fab (located in Kitakami) will face the possibility of a further downgrade to 1Q22 production. Some of the remaining memory or semiconductor companies in the region are conducting machine inspections but the overall impact has been muted.

In terms of memory, the intensity of the earthquake at Kioxia’s K1 Fab reached magnitude 5. When the earthquake occurred, wafer input was partially damaged. At present, K1 Fab has been shut down for inspection. The 1Q22 production capacity of the K1 Fab had been downgraded following the recent contamination incident and accounts for approximately 8% of Kioxia’s 2022 production capacity. Operating under a cloud of possible aftershocks, Kioxia’s capacity utilization rate may be slow to recover in the next week, causing further downward revision of K1 Fab’s 1Q22 production. The remaining Kioxia factories are unaffected, as is Micron’s Hiroshima plant.

Looking at the market spot price, pricing has moved up since February due to the contamination of Kioxia’s raw materials. The Russian-Ukrainian war did not trigger significant upward or downward movements in spot price. After last night’s Fukushima earthquake, pricing remains stable. TrendForce asserts, overall spot demand remains weak and prices are not prone to drastic changes.

In terms of raw wafers, SUMCO’s Yonezawa Plant in Yamagata and Shin-Etsu’s Shirakawa Plant in Fukushima are both within the affected area, experiencing an earthquake intensity of magnitude 5. Due to the extremely high stability required in the crystal growth process, the industry has not yet announced the impact of the quake. TrendForce specifies, in addition to shutdown inspections, damage to machines and silicon wafer input is inevitable. However, in addition to redistributing production plans, buildings were reinforced after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan, so overall damage may be minor.

In terms of foundries, there are two 12-inch wafer fabs and two 8-inch wafer fabs in Japan, including UMC Fab12M (12-inch), Tower Uozu (12-inch), Tonami (8-inch), Arai (8 inches), located in Mie, Toyama, and Niigata prefectures, respectively, and separately experiencing quake magnitudes from 1 to 3. At present, these fabs are operating normally and any impact of the quake on the plants are largely insignificant. However, IDM manufacturer Renesas’ Naka plant is within the magnitude 5 zone and they have also shut down and reduced production to confirm the impact of the quake.


Analog IC Revenue for 2021 Projected to Reach US$67.9 Billion Due to Strong Demand from End Markets

The analog IC industry is one with a long history of development and product adoption across various applications. Annual analog IC revenue reached US$53.9 billion in 2020. As the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic is gradually brought under control in China and the US this year, their domestic demand for telecom, automotive, industrial, and consumer electronics products has also kept growing, in turn generating strong demand for analog ICs. TrendForce therefore expects IC revenue for 2021 to reach US67.9 billion, a 22.1% YoY increase.

More specifically, analog IC demand from the automotive market is expected to undergo remarkable growth this year, primarily due to the recovery of the global automotive market and the continued trend towards automotive electrification as commercial opportunities from ADAS, EV, and automotive electronics enter a period of rapid growth. In response to demand from automakers and the auto market, various major IDMs have been placing a heavy emphasis on automotive analog IC development. Led by Infineon, NXP, Renesas, TI, and STM, the automotive IC market is expected to experience a 24.6% growth in 2021.

What is an analog IC?

The analog IC is an indispensable component in electronic devices. These chips can be divided into two categories according to their functions: general purpose analog IC and application specific analog IC. The former category encompasses amplifiers/comparators (signal conditioning), signal conversion, interface, and power management (general purpose). In sum, general purpose analog ICs are characterized by their low costs, single purpose, and universal compatibility.

Application specific analog ICs, on the other hand, encompass such use cases as consumer, computer, communications, automotive, and industrial/others. This product category refers to analog ICs that are designed and manufactured in accordance with electrical systems specified by the client. Compared to digital ICs, analog ICs are much more diverse in terms of product type, less costly, and more stable, while also having longer lifecycles.

The current state of the top three analog IC manufacturers

Almost all major analog IC suppliers are IDMs with long histories. In particular, longtime market leader Texas Instruments once against took pole position in the ranking of analog IC suppliers by revenue last year. With a range of analog ICs that includes more than 80,000 products, Texas Instruments possessed a 19% market share. The company is expected to maintain its dominance in 2021 thanks to its diverse product lines, high market acceptance, and high volume of client orders.

Infineon, which took second place on the ranking, registered a 19% YoY revenue growth on the back of its expansion into automotive and power management markets. Third-ranked STMicroelectronics benefitted from rising sales of its analog, MEMS, and sensor product portfolios. TrendForce expects Infineon and STMicroelectronics to continue their upward trajectories throughout 2021.

Whereas China is the largest market for analog ICs, the analog IC industry will see the highest growth in the US

China is expected to account for 42% of analog IC sales, the highest among all regions in 2021, with the consumer electronics segment comprising most of these transactions. However, the US is expected to undergo the highest growth in terms of analog IC sales with a US$10.6 billion revenue in 2021, a 25% YoY growth. This performance can mostly be attributed to the fact that the US economy has been recovering in the post-pandemic era owing to increasing purchases in the consumer electronics, telecom, and automotive markets.

Furthermore, the US government has been pushing for infrastructure developments with a focus on transportation, networking, and electricity generation, leading to expanded procurement of analog ICs used in these applications. As the markets welcomes the arrival of the traditional peak season for analog IC procurement in 2H21, growth in the US market will likely persist as well.

(Cover image source: Pixabay)

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