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Press Releases
Cost Competitiveness of Mini LED Backlight Display May Surpass OLED Options by 2022 Owing to Yearly Cost Reductions, Says TrendForce

2020/05/20

LED

Apple has sparked considerable discussions in the market after rumors surfaced that the company’s new 129-inch iPad Pro, to be released in 2021, may be equipped with Mini LED backlight technology According to the newest investigations by the LEDinside research division of TrendForce, the manufacturing cost of Mini LED backlight displays is currently higher than that of traditional LCD and OLED displays However, as manufacturers continue to make improvements in process technology and yield rate, the cost of Mini LED backlight displays is expected to undergo 15-20% YoY decreases and to potentially be lower than the cost of OLED displays by 2022, making Mini LED a cost-competitive option in the market Not only will Apple integrate Mini LED backlight technology into its product lineups other than the iPad Pro, but other leading brands will also adopt Mini LED for their own products According to the Mini LED backlight cost analyses in TrendForce’s latest 2020 Mini LED Next-Generation Display Technology and Supply Chain Analysis report, since the 2021 version of 129-inch iPad Pro is expected to equip nearly 10,000 Mini LED chips as its backlight source, the cost of components such as LED chips, PCB backplanes, and driver ICs will take up a large portion of the device’s overall manufacturing cost These component costs, combined with the necessary process technologies involved in manufacturing, such as testing, sorting, and SMT, are projected to drive up the cost of Mini LED backlight displays above US$100, with Mini LED backlight modules accounting for more than 60% of this cost Given the relatively high cost of Mini LED backlight, Apple’s continual deployment of Mini LED backlight technology can be explained from the perspectives of user applications and supply chains In terms of the former, although most user applications are confined to video streaming, basic word processing, and business presentations, some specialized users, including gamers and graphic designers, require higher display performance beyond these basic applications For instance, as newer video games require progressively higher hardware specifications, Mini LED backlight displays will allow these games to be displayed with more dynamic range, in turn delivering a better user experience On the other hand, illustrators and other graphic artists place an extremely high demand on color accuracy For these professionals, Mini LED backlight technology can provide improved color saturation and contrast ratios, a significant upgrade in terms of display performance if integrated into current tablets Some Mini LED backlight displays are capable of up to a 100,000:1 contrast ratio and more than 90% DCI-P3 color gamut These specifications mean Mini LED backlight displays are better able to satisfy the performance demands of professional users TrendForce believes that although OLED displays are also capable of fulfilling the aforementioned display requirements, they are limited by OLED materials’ reliability issues, meaning they have a lower lifespan compared to Mini LED backlight displays With regards to the supply chain, Korean manufacturers Samsung and LGD currently dominate the supply of OLED panels; although China’s production capacity of OLED panels will surge after 2020, the country will need time to improve its panel yield rate and product quality Given the open-ended and diverse nature of the LCD panel supply chain, Apple’s decision to adopt LCD panels and pair them with Mini LED backlight technology as its future developmental focus makes sense, since this move allows Apple to be free of the constraints of the Samsung-dominated OLED supply chain while paving the way for the development of Micro LED display technology If Apple is able to make progress in cost reduction, technology superiority, and patent applications in its Mini LED backlight development, then it will help accelerate the industry’s R&D efforts in Micro LED technology

Press Releases
Release of New Video Cards and Gaming Consoles to Elevate Graphics DRAM Demand, Says TrendForce

2020/05/19

Semiconductors

According to the latest investigations from the DRAMeXchange research division of TrendForce, both NVIDIA and AMD are planning to release new GPUs in 3Q20, and both Microsoft and Sony are expected to release new gaming consoles in 4Q20 Since all of these products will be equipped with high-density GDDR6 memory, their releases are expected to create a wave of demand for Graphics DRAM, in turn propping up its prices relative to other DRAM applications Owing to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, TrendForce expects the increase in DRAM prices in 3Q20 to be drastically diminished compared to 2Q20 increases; the prices of some memory products may even take a downturn in 4Q20 But Graphics DRAM prices are likely to remain constant or undergo a small increase in 2H20 NVIDIA and AMD will announce high-performance 7nm GPUs equipped with the latest GDDR6 memory in 3Q20 Under pressure from its competitor AMD having already incorporated 7nm process in 2019, leading GPU manufacturer NVIDIA plans to announce its first 7nm product, the new Ampere GPU, which is fully equipped with GDDR6 memory, in 3Q20 Ampere has significantly improved specifications compared to GPUs from the previous generation Similarly, AMD plans to announce its 7nm+ BIG NAVI GPU in 3Q20 and lists GDDR6 memory as standard configuration, with possible upgrades to memory density TrendForce indicates that both NVIDIA and AMD will be focusing on the discrete graphics card market at first with the release of their new GPUs, with the official time for notebook computer adoption expected in 1H21, but under the incentive of substantially increased performance and power consumption, a wave of graphics card replacement is expected to occur in the market, further stimulating the demand for GDDR6 memory In 4Q20, Sony and Microsoft will announce new gaming consoles equipped with 16 GB GDDR6 memory, doubling that of the previous generation Aside from the release of new discrete graphics cards from NVIDIA and AMD, the market is also anticipating the release of Xbox Series X and PS5 by Microsoft and Sony, respectively, to be announced in 4Q20 With regards to hardware specifications, in addition to the remarkable increases in CPU speed, both consoles will be sporting GPUs with 16 GB of the highest specifications of GDDR6 memory, which is not only double the density of the existing consoles, but also superior to mainstream graphics cards’ 6-8 GB of memory The release of new consoles is expected to substantially increase the bit consumption for Graphics DRAM Samsung and Micron are currently the sole suppliers of GDDR6 memory, while SK Hynix is expected to join the competition in late 2020 As a relatively niche and high-end product, Graphics DRAM accounts for approximately 6% of total bit consumption in the DRAM market Since Graphics DRAM targets high data transfer speed and low power consumption, it is significantly more difficult to design compared to other memory products Therefore, Graphics DRAM has the most expensive production cost per GB out of all DRAM applications On the premise of a conservative supply growth this year, although DRAM suppliers are capable of implementing conversion in the production capacity for internal product categories, the fact that GDDR6 is a relatively niche product that contains high manufacturing difficulty makes it tougher for the suppliers to conduct large-scale capacity conversions similar to the conversion from mobile DRAM to server DRAM In terms of suppliers, Samsung and Micron began mass producing GDDR6 memory and deploying it into client products in 2019 As for SK Hynix, the company remains committed to improving the yield rate and stability of its products and plans to release GDDR6 memory at the end of the year TrendForce projects the penetration rate of GDDR6 memory to continue substantially increasing in 2020, from 40% in 2019 to 70% this year, and exceed 90% in 2021

Press Releases
Foundry Partners May Face Revision in 3Q20 Activation from the US Ban on Huawei that Impacts the Supply Chain, Says TrendForce

2020/05/18

Semiconductors

Regarding the impact on the wafer foundry industry from the latest specifications publicly announced by the Bureau of Industry and Security on May 15th, the latest analysis of DRAMeXchange from TrendForce has pointed out that despite the extra interpretation room for the relevant regulations, the known specifications state that additional volume of wafer orders after May 15th will require approval In addition, the US has not ruled out the possibility in enhancing the normative intensity on Huawei or overall Chinese brands, thus the subsequent impact on wafer foundries may not be optimistic According to the survey of TrendForce, HiSilicon occupies approximately 20% of wafer starts in TSMC, which are primarily advanced processes below (including) 16/12nm Currently, HiSilicon’s chips used in 5G base stations and 4G smartphones are manufactured with TSMC’s 16/12nm node However, it should be pointed out that HiSilicon has shifted a small volume of the wafer starts of Kirin 710 SoC for mid-end smartphones to the 14nm process of SMIC this year Looking at the production capacity of SMIC, the company’s 14nm process is currently producing the Kirin 710 processor of HiSilicon as the main product, with a monthly production of roughly 5K during 2Q20 Although Semiconductor Manufacturing South China Corporation, a subsidiary of SMIC, has been invested by 2nd phase of Big Fund and the 2nd phase of Shanghai Integrated Circuit Industry Fund with approximately US$225 billion, and announced that SMIC will increase the monthly production capacity to 35K, which is an additional 20K of production capacity compared to the initially planned 15K by the end of 2020, TrendForce believes that the yield rate for SMIC’s 14nm process has yet to be improved, thus it will be rigorous to replace TSMC for advanced processes below (including) 16nm with the current configuration of HiSilicon New rules constrain activities of the two major foundries and could start to impact Huawei’s production of end products after the 120-day grace period If TSMC maintains its position of halting new orders from HiSilicon on account of not receiving approval from the US government, its wafer shipments to HiSilicon will terminate after the 120-day grace period If such scenario does come to pass, TSMC could see a noticeable reduction in the capacity utilization rates of the advanced processes below (including) 16/12nm in 3Q20 Although the market anticipates that the strong demand related to the 5G and HPC applications from AMD, NVIDIA, and MediaTek will sustain TSMC’s 7nm production, TrendForce believes this is not enough to fully bridge the demand gap that TSMC could experience as a result of the new trade restrictions Taken altogether, the prohibition of using American-made hardware and software for the manufacturing of chips designed by HiSilicon (Huawei) without a special license will have a significant impact on TSMC’s operations in the short term Moreover, the latest amendments to the Entity List prohibitions do not explicitly target TSMC but instead apply to all semiconductor manufacturers that use equipment and tools provided by American firms Even China’s domestic foundry SMIC is now restricted from shipping products to HiSilicon (Huawei) under the new rules As for Huawei, its inventory is sufficient to maintain production of whole devices in the short term However, the inability to place chip orders at its two major partnering foundries TSMC and SMIC will eventually affect device production in the medium to long term

Press Releases
Expanded U.S. Rules Sanctioning Huawei to Have No Substantial Impact on Memory Industry in Short-Term, Says TrendForce

2020/05/18

Semiconductors

According to the latest investigations by the DRAMeXchange research division of TrendForce, the Bureau of Industry and Security of the US Department of Commerce announced an expansion of the trade restrictions against the Chinese technology giant Huawei on May 15 The new rules, once implemented, will compel all foreign semiconductor manufacturers that use US-made equipment to obtain a special license from the US government in order to supply chips to Huawei and its subsidiaries or affiliates such as HiSilicon While these rules are subject to further interpretation, TrendForce’s investigation finds that their effect on Huawei’s procurement of memory components (both DRAM and NAND Flash) is limited for now, with both DRAM and NAND Flash suppliers able to continue their shipments to Huawei Worth noting, however, is the fact that the US government will keep tightening its oversight on Huawei and Chinese technology enterprises on the whole Therefore, further observations are needed to determine how much of an impact the enforcement of future restrictions will have on the ability of memory suppliers to sell their products and on the overall demand of the memory market going forward Regarding the effect of the new rules on the demand side of the memory market, the current focus of observation is on whether Huawei will face extra challenges in maintaining shipments of its products (including smartphones, notebook computers, servers, and networking devices) TrendForce believes that the latest updates to the sanctions will have a relatively low impact, in the short term, on Huawei’s shipment of smartphones, notebook computers, and servers – products for which Huawei is relatively well stocked on components Instead, the sanctions are likely to primarily affect Huawei’s 5G business The US government could impede Huawei’s product shipments related to the construction of 5G base stations and networking devices in the future Nevertheless, TrendForce points out that there is a 120-day grace period from the announcement of the new rules to their enforcement Additionally, Huawei has already significantly raised its inventory of components Based on TrendForce’s estimation, Huawei will probably feel the concrete impact of the new rules on its product shipments after 4Q20 In addition, TrendForce believes that memory suppliers have not designed their products (eg DRAM, NAND Flash, and other related solutions) according to the specifications provided by Huawei or its subsidiaries and affiliates such as HiSilicon Therefore, these suppliers should be able to continue shipping memory components to Huawei, in light of the newest draft of the trade restrictions On the other hand, US-based memory suppliers (including Micron and Intel) already previously obtained the special export license for selling products to Huawei, meaning the additional restrictions will not prevent these suppliers from shipping to Huawei However, the US ban on Huawei, its related companies, and even other Chinese brands is likely to intensify going forward Following this assumption, even if memory suppliers have no trouble selling to Huawei, there will be an inevitable impact on shipments of end products in the future Taking into account the continuing spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, TrendForce has already reduced its forecast of DRAM and NAND Flash ASP in 2020 The relevant sanctions from the US on Chinese brands as a whole will aggravate the pressure on subsequent memory prices Furthermore, China has been making increasingly rapid progress regarding its semiconductor independence, with memory products being the most important piece to this puzzle YMTC is currently on the verge of mass producing 128L 3D NAND products, while CXMT has produced a small volume of 19nm DDR4 products These developments reflect the preliminary result of China’s investment in memory R&D in the past three to five years As the US continues to sanction China with increasing intensity, China will inevitably elevate its efforts in memory development to reduce its dependency on other countries’ memory industries

Press Releases
TSMC’s Expansion Plan in the U.S. May Be Accompanied by Other Actors in 12-inch Supply Chain Too, Says TrendForce

2020/05/15

Semiconductors

TSMC announced on May 15 that it will construct a new 12-inch wafer fab specializing in advanced process nodes in Arizona The fab is expected to break ground in 2021 and enter mass production in 2024 TSMC will be manufacturing semiconductor chips with 5nm process technology, at a capacity of 20k wafer starts per month Funding for the project is expected to reach about US$12 billion, to be invested across nine years starting in 2021 The DRAMeXchange research division of TrendForce estimates annual CAPEX for the project to be about $13 billion on average Given that TSMC’s annual CAPEX for 2019 and 2020 is about $15 billion on average, the Arizona project would account for less than 10% of TSMC’s overall CAPEX TrendForce indicates that TSMC currently operates 12 fabs in total, including 6-inch, 8-inch, and 12-inch wafer fabs; its 12-inch wafer capacity sits at about 800k wafer starts per month The company’s sole US-based 8-inch fab is located in Camas, Washington, with a monthly capacity of 40k wafer starts, which occupies about 1-2% of TSMC’s overall wafer capacity TSMC’s plan to construct a fab in the US has been rumored for more than a year In the early stages of the China-US trade war, the US government began considering the possibility of localized semiconductor manufacturing due to national security concerns Although Intel operates several manufacturing sites in the US, TSMC holds a distinct technical advantage in terms of advanced process technology, which has encouraged the US government to give TSMC priority as a potential semiconductor partner However, constructing a fab in the US involves many complex processes, and wafer starts from the US government’s national defense contracts alone cannot sustain entire business operations for a 12-inch fab As such, ensuring the completeness of the overall supply chain and business models remains the most important consideration for TSMC going forward TrendForce expects TSMC to partially shift certain high-gross margin wafer start orders placed by US companies to its US-based fabs Nevertheless, in spite of TSMC’s existing 8-inch wafer fab in the US, the company has to handle the fact that 12-inch fabs require different supply chains compared to 8-inch fabs That is why TSMC’s project in Arizona may also involve other Taiwanese suppliers of semiconductor-related raw materials or even components moving their production to the US as well In the long-run, TSMC’s development will help move the possibility of US-based semiconductor manufacturing one step closer to reality

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