TSMC fab utilization pushes back above 50%
Business continues to look up for silicon foundry giant Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (TSMC). TSMC's overall fab utilization rates have jumped from 41% in the third quarter of 2001, to just over 50% at the present time, according to sources.
Sources close to the company also believe that Hsinchu-based TSMC is sold out of its 0.18- and 0.15-micron fab capacity, but not its leading-edge 0.13-micron processes--yet.
Hogging the company's fabs is Nvidia Corp., which is now TSMC's largest customer. In recent weeks, however, executives from Nvidia have complained about the yields at TSMC's fabs.
Still, TSMC's U.S. foundry subsidiary--WaferTech LLC in Camus, Wash.--last month received a huge order from Nvidia. The order could boost WaferTech's output from a range of 2,000-to-3,000 wafers per month prior to October to a new range of 12,000-to-15,000 wafers a month in the near future, according to sources.--M.L.
UMC says 0.13-micron on schedule
despite rumors of R&D shakeup
It's been a wild week at TSMC's archrival in the foundry business--United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC) of Taiwan. Rumors are running rampant that there has been a shakeup in UMC's R&D organization, reportedly due to delays and problems with its 0.13-micron process technology, said sources.
UMC reportedly was unable to get its 0.13-micron up and running, forcing the Hsinchu-based company to invest in some new tools--a move that delayed its cutting-edge production, sources said. UMC's 0.13-micron technology, dubbed WorldLogic, was co-developed with IBM Corp. and Infineon Technologies AG.
Executives from UMC recently insist that its 0.13-micron process is on track, claiming that it is in pilot production right now.
On the positive side, TSMC's largest customer -- Nvidia -- placed a huge foundry order at UMC. Under the terms, Nvidia's graphics chips that are designed for Microsoft's Xbox game machine will be made on a foundry basis by UMC.--M.L.
China fabs push below 0.25-micron
Who let the dogs out in China's foundry industry? For years, it was widely believed that China's semiconductor makers were not allowed to process wafers below 0.25-micron geometries. This was mainly due to U.S. export laws, which prevented
chip-equipment makers from selling tools that would allow China's IC industry to process wafers below those levels.
However, sources believe that Chinese foundry startup Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC) is not only ramping up 0.25-micron wafer production in its new fab in Shanghai, but it is also offering 0.18-micron capacity as well. SMIC is currently moving into production in its initial fab, it was noted.
How is this possible? Earlier this year, SMIC ordered deep-UV lithography tools from ASM Lithography of the Netherlands, sources said. ASML's scanners are believed to support 0.25-to-0.13-micron designs, it was noted.
SMIC isn't the only Chinese foundry that is able to process wafers below 0.25-micron. Shanghai Hua Hong NEC Electronics Co. Ltd.--a joint venture between Japan's NEC Corp. and the Chinese government--is also offering 0.25-micron foundry capacity.
Shanghai Hua Hong is also capable of going below those levels, thanks in part to its installed base of deep-UV scanners from Japan's Nikon Corp. --M.L.