Demand in the global foundry market remains strong in 1Q21, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. As various end-products continue to generate high demand for chips, clients of foundries in turn stepped up their procurement activities, which subsequently led to a persistent shortage of production capacities across the foundry industry. TrendForce therefore expects foundries to continue posting strong financial performances in 1Q21, with a 20% YoY growth in the combined revenues of the top 10 foundries, while TSMC, Samsung, and UMC rank as the top three in terms of market share. However, the future reallocation of foundry capacities still remains to be seen, since the industry-wide effort to accelerate the production of automotive chips may indirectly impair the production and lead times of chips for consumer electronics and industrial applications.
Driven by such factors as the continued development of autonomous driving technologies and the build-out of 5G infrastructure, the demand for automotive memories will undergo a rapid growth going forward, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. Take Tesla, which is the automotive industry leader in the application of autonomous vehicle technologies, as an example. Tesla has adopted GDDR5 DRAM products from the Model S and X onward because it has also adopted Nvidia’s solutions for CPU and GPU. The GDDR5 series had the highest bandwidth at the time to complement these processors. The DRAM content has therefore reached at least 8GB for vehicles across all model series under Tesla. The Model 3 is further equipped with 14GB of DRAM, and the next-generation of Tesla vehicles will have 20GB. If content per box is used as a reference for comparison, then Tesla far surpasses manufacturers of PCs and smartphones in DRAM consumption. TrendForce forecasts that the average DRAM content of cars will continue to grow in the next three years, with a CAGR of more than 30% for the period.
In compliance with the local policy, Samsung’s Austin-based foundry Line S2 partially suspended operation on Tuesday, Feb 16 due to the winter storm affecting Texas. According to TrendForce’s investigation of the event, as the city’s public utility Austin Energy was able to warn of an impending power blackout ahead of time, the partial shutdown of the plant was not accidental but planned in advance. TrendForce’s data show that the monthly 12-inch capacity of Line S2 accounts for nearly 5% of the global total. While the winter storm is estimated to impair about 1-2% of the global 12-inch wafer foundry capacity, the actual duration of the impact will still depend on the region’s temperature. Assuming that Austin will gradually warm up on Friday, Feb 19, and a phased restoration of power will take place at the fab, TrendForce now expects Line S2 to return to full operation after at least one week.
NAND Flash demand continues to rise as strong sales of notebook (laptop) computers spur PC OEMs to place additional orders for client SSDs, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. Also, the supply-side inventory for NAND Flash memory has already fallen considerably due to the aggressive stock-up activities of some smartphone brands. With customers in the data center segment expected to ramp up procurement in 2Q21, NAND Flash suppliers have decided to scale back the supply of NAND Flash wafers. Compared with other product categories, wafers have a lower gross margin. As a result of these factors, the decline in contract prices of wafers has been easing over the past two months (i.e., from December of last year to January of this year).
AGC Fine Techno Korea, which is a glass substrate manufacturing plant owned by AGC and located in the South Korean city of Gumi, suffered a furnace explosion that also led to injuries of plant personnel on January 29. TrendForce’s latest investigation projects that this incident will affect no more than 1% of the total global supply of glass substrates for display panels. However, demand is rising across the panel market. At this sensitive moment, any event that affects the supply of panel components could exert significant influence on panel prices. In the second half of 2020, glass substrate supplier NEG (that is based in Japan) experienced issues that constrained the supply and thereby fueled the rise in panel prices. TrendForce does not rule out the possibility that this latest incident will also further bolster panel prices to some degree.