SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Scrambling to meet sudden demand for its silicon foundry services, Taiwan's United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC) here today announced plans to accelerate the development and production ramp of its 300-mm wafer fabs.
At the same time, UMC said its overall fab capacity is becoming tight, especially for leading-edge, 0.18-micron and below processes.
And the company predicts a shortage of leading-edge chip capacity in the worldwide foundry industry in 2003--if not sooner. For example, UMC's own, 0.13-micron chip capacity "is essentially full," said Fu Tai Liou, vice president of sales and marketing for the Hsinchu-based silicon foundry giant.
The move has prompted UMC to scramble and ramp up its 300-mm plants. Not long ago, UMC was "skeptical" about the demand for chips, based on 300-mm wafer substrates, Liou said.
But now, the company is changing its tune, he said. "We are now confident about the demand for 300-mm," he said. "We are accelerating the [development of our 300-mm fabs]," he said during a meeting with press and analysts at the annual UMC Technology Forum in Santa Clara.
At present, UMC has three separate developments in the 300-mm fab arena. The company's first 300-mm fab, dubbed Fab 12A, is located in the southern Taiwan city of Tainan.
In this fab, UMC is ramping up production faster than expected. It is said to be running about 10,000 wafers a month right now, with plans to double that to 20,000 in 2003, he said.
It has also slightly accelerated the schedule for UMCi, a joint foundry venture in Singapore between UMC and Germany's Infineon Technologies Inc. UMCi was announced in late 2000.
Originally, UMC planned to complete the construction of the fab by year's end, with the installation of the equipment due in early 2003. Now, the company will move the equipment into the fab by the end of this year, he said.
In the same fab in Singapore, UMC also has a joint foundry venture with Advanced Micro Devices Inc. Dubbed AU Pte. Ltd., the fab is slated for 65-nm chip products by 2005.