SAN JOSE -- A new Shanghai-based silicon foundry company, led by Taiwanese chip veteran Richard Chang, will shortly break ground on its initial wafer fab with aggressive plans to move into pilot production by mid-2001, according to company officials.
The foundry startup company, called Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC), is located in the Pudong industrial park of Shanghai. Reportedly capable of processing 30,000 wafers a month when fully equipped, SMIC's $1 billion-plus 8-inch fab will produce chips with feature sizes of 0.35- to 0.25-micron in the initial phases.
"SMIC will be a foundry company," said Frank Lee, a former chip veteran of Texas Instruments Inc. and executive advisor for SMIC. "We are waiting for approval from the China government before we break ground on the fab, which should be in mid-October," said Lee in a phone interview with SBN.
SMIC's initial fab will move into production around the end of 2001. By then, the company will begin processing wafers for chip customers based in China, Europe, Japan, and the United States, Lee said.
"Many of our customers are also our investors," Lee said. He did not elaborate, but sources indicated that SMIC has also received some funding from Hambrecht & Quist of San Francisco.
SMIC is also planning to build another 8-inch wafer fab, which should move into production in 2002, Lee told SBN.
The company also confirmed earlier reports that it received its sub-micron manufacturing technology from Japan's Toshiba Corp. (see Sept. 21 story). .
The technology from Toshiba covers linewidth geometries down to 0.25-micron, but SMIC is developing its own processes for making wafers at 0.18-micron and below, Lee said. But according to U.S. export laws, China is only able to procure lithography gear capable of handling linewidth geometries down to 0.25-micron, Lee said.
"We can obtain equipment capable of processing wafers down to 0.25-micron," he said. "But if we are asked to process 0.13-micron technology, we cannot do that," Lee maintained.
Still, the startup foundry has solved another pressing matter: technical expertise. In addition to its technology deal with Toshiba, SMIC has recruited engineering talent from Taiwan and Singapore, reportedly from Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing Pte. Ltd.
"A lot of our key personnel comes from TI," Lee added. Besides Lee, SMIC's executive management staff includes Richard Chang, a former TI chip veteran who is best known for starting Worldwide Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. (WSMC) in Hsinchu, Taiwan. WSMC, a foundry venture that obtained its technology from Toshiba, was acquired by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (TSMC) earlier this year.