TAINAN, Taiwan Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. officially opened its Fab 6 in Tainan in southern Taiwan on Thursday (March 30). The 8-inch wafer fabrication facility sports what may well be the largest clean room in the world, at some 190,000 square feet. The first of six fabs TSMC is planning for the Tainan Industrial Park, it is part of a $4.4 billion capacity expansion program for this year that is expected to help double TSMC's sales, to $5 billion or more, in 2000, TSMC chairman Morris Chang said.
Indeed, TSMC executives predicted that by next year, the company may become the largest processor of semiconductor wafers worldwide, running a projected 4.7 million 8-inch equivalent wafers in 2001, compared with 3.4 million expected for this year. Steve Tso, senior vice president of operations, said, "Because of our heavy investments, we will make a sharp jump, and in 2001 will become the largest wafer producer."
If that happens, TSMC could move past Toshiba, Hyundai, NEC and Intel companies that are all expected to process 4 million or more wafers next year.
Jim Hines, who tracks the foundry industry for Dataquest Inc., said TSMC's sales may more than double this year, while the foundry industry overall grows at a 50 percent rate. TSMC may account for fully half of all foundry sales this year, widening the gap among itself, UMC and Chartered.
Ron Norris, in charge of worldwide sales for the company, said the industry may have moved past a crisis period during which companies were coming back to TSMC and doubling or tripling their requests for wafer starts. "We are in less than an emergency [mode] now," Norris said. "If a customer says they expect their sales to grow 30 percent for two months in a row, now they are sticking with that" instead of continually upping forecasts. However, demand for foundry wafers continues to exceed supply, a situation that Norris said would continue at least through 2001.
"We have not been able to take on all of the business available to us this year. For sure, we have always found a way to support startups. We always need to help those hot new startups to get going. However, there are an awful lot of major IDMs [integrated device manufacturers] out there that would like to grow their business with TSMC. What we are doing now is committing to our existing customers out to 2001, and then we will figure out how much we can grow outside of that customer base," said Norris.
Fabless semiconductor companies including large companies such as Altera, Broadcom, Nvidia and ATI account for about two-thirds of TSMC's business now. However, IDMs such as Motorola Inc. and others are expected to increase their usage of foundries sharply over the rest of this decade.
Many of those wafers will come from Tainan, a city of about 500,000. Chang said the new fab here will be TSMC's last new 8-inch-wafer facility. Subsequent fabs will use 12-inch (300-mm) wafers. By making a series of acquisitions earlier this year that added substantial capacity for 8-inch wafers, TSMC was able to accelerate its plans for 12-inch wafer production.
TSMC acquired Worldwide Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. earlier this year, and will merge WSMC and the former Acer DRAM production facility into TSMC this summer. In addition, Vanguard International Semiconductor will slowly be converted from DRAMs to foundry production. The absorption of 8-inch fabs owned or under construction by WSMC, Acer and Vanguard will allow TSMC to concentrate on ramping 12-inch wafer fabs in the Hsinchu Science-based Industrial Park, at Tainan Science-based Industrial Park, and in Camas, Wash., where TSMC is the majority owner of WaferTech Corp.
Tso said a 12-inch pilot line being built within Fab 6 will go into "real pilot line production at 0.18-micron design rules in the third quarter of 2000. We are ahead of both Intel and Samsung in terms of real production from our pilot line," he said.
The pilot line will process several thousand wafers per month. TSMC is pulling in its orders for 248-nm, deep-ultraviolet scanners as well as I-line lithography tools that will be used on the 300-mm line. "The pilot line will help drive the maturity of 300-mm equipment," Tso said.
A dedicated 300-mm fab, now called Fab 14, is expected to start production in the fourth quarter of 2001. In the following quarter the first quarter of 2002 production will commence at a 300-mm facility in Hsinchu called Fab 12. Tso said the clean room for Fab 12 will be completed by May 2001 and will ramp to 25,000 300-mm wafers per month eventually.
The speedup in TSMC's 300-mm wafer plans is welcome news for the equipment industry, which has been waiting for the major IC makers to commit to the larger wafers. Norris said TSMC also is expanding its multichip per wafer (MPW) program, which puts dozens of die on test wafers so that customers can distribute mask costs across multiple prototype chips.
"We have plans for 70-MPW wafer starts soon, which is a sharp increase," he said.
This week, TSMC also announced that it has distributed test chips at 0.13-micron design rules. The test chip will allow five EDA companies to develop parasitic extraction tools calibrated to the 0.13-micron process, which is expected to go to full production late this year.
Cadence Design, Frequency Technology, Mentor Graphics, Simplex Solutions and Synopsys received the test chip, which is based on a process that uses all copper interconnects with low-k technology.