Taipei, Taiwan - Talk of China's nascent 300-mm foundries turning out wafers sooner than expected grew last week-even as many, including foundry officials, tried to downplay the speculation. At an IC seminar in Shanghai last week, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp.'s chief executive officer hinted that pilot lines for 300-mm wafers could be installed at the company's Beijing foundry within a year.
Richard Chang said that SMIC might install manufacturing equipment for the 300-mm lines by the end of this year or early next year. But back at headquarters, a spokesperson said only that foreign customers had asked the foundry to move to the bigger wafers. SMIC has not adopted an "official" plan to go to 300 mm, the spokesperson said.
Similarly, Taiwan media quoted sources at Grace Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. (Shanghai), another Chinese foundry, as saying the company would start pilot runs of 300-mm wafers next month. But Nasa Tsai, a senior executive at Grace, said that while the company's fab could handle 300-mm equipment there were no plans to start production of the larger wafers. "We merely want to show customers that we can entertain the possibility," he said.
That may also be the case at SMIC. The foundry already has three fabs in Shanghai-two running 200-mm wafers and one back-end shop. It is also building three fabs in Beijing-a 200-mm and a 300-mm facility and a back-end operation.
A speedy move to 300-mm wafers may become a burden to the young company, analysts said, noting that SMIC's rhetoric may reflect the hopes of Chinese government officials more than it does the realities of the semiconductor market.
The fab building has been spurred by promises of government contracts and by the hope that more foreign chip makers and fabless companies will choose SMIC as a manufacturing source within China.