SAN FRANCISCO – The debate continues over the demise of chip manufacturing and the dwindling number of solar fabs in the United States.
Except in a few cases, the party is nearly over in terms of new and leading-edge chip and solar fabs being built in the U.S., some argue. However, one investment firm, Turner Investment Partners (Berwyn, Pa.), recently made a bold statement: “The state of U.S. manufacturing is quite healthy and appears likely to remain so for a long time to come.”
The firm acknowledged trends that encourage the misconception that U.S. manufacturing is on the verge of extinction, but it makes the case that manufacturing in the U.S. ''is only changing, not dying.’’
This includes the semiconductor and fab tool areas. The firm cited and hailed the U.S. production bases for Intel, Micron, and Varian Semiconductor Equipment Associates .
Approximately 286,000 manufacturing firms currently operate in the U.S. and produce 22 percent of global manufacturing output, the largest percentage of any country, according to the firm.
At the recent Semicon West trade show here, executives expressed a different and more depressing sentiment: U.S. chip manufacturing continues to be on the wane and will never come back. And solar fabs are becoming rare in the domestic market.
For years, chip makers have built fewer and fewer fabs in the U.S. IC makers have moved to cut their manufacturing costs by shifting a large percentage of their production to foundries in Asia and elsewhere. Many chip makers are moving toward fab-lite or fabless strategies.
“Outside of Intel, I don’t see a lot of new green field fabs in the U.S.,’’ said Joe Cestari, president of Total Facility Solutions. Solar projects ''are slow in the U.S.’’
TFS is a subsidiary of M+W U.S. Inc. It provides turnkey facilities for the semiconductor, solar and other industries.
There are many solar fabs being built--or in production--in the U.S. Still, an alarming amount of production is coming offshore, analysts said.
This is also true for ICs. Intel Corp. and GlobalFoundries Inc. will likely build perhaps the last leading-edge chip fabs in the United States. GlobalFoundries is building a leading-edge, 300-mm fab in upstate New York.
Intel has several 300-mm fabs in the U.S. One day, the chip giant may build a 450-mm fab in the U.S.
Analog fabs are alive and well in the U.S. Texas Instruments Inc. is expected to ramp up the world’s first 300-mm analog fab in Texas by year’s end. Linear Technology Corp. is mulling plans to build a 6-inch fab in Washington state.
Needless to say, the fab action is in Asia. In Asia, M+W has built some 70 percent of the 300-mm fabs in that region, Cestari said.But amid the outsouring trends, coupled by the wild IC cycles, M+W has diversified over the years into data centers, energy, life sciences and other sectors.
Just this year alone, the company has been on an acquisition spree as a mean to diversify. In January, M+W Process Automation GmbH acquired 70 percent of the shares in Teufel Software GmbH, a SAP systems house for medium-sized manufacturing companies.
A month later, the company announced that its subsidiary, M+W Americas, purchased 100 percent of Global Automation Partners. With the acquisition, M+W will expand its competencies for customers of FDA regulated industries like pharmaceuticals, biotech and specialty chemicals.
Earlier this year, M+W acquired shares in Schmid Silicon Technology Holding GmbH. With this acquisition, M+W Group partners with Schmid Silicon in its worldwide activities for engineering and construction of polysilicon plants based on its monosilane technology.
M+W continues to invest in the U.S. The company recently announced that its subsidiary, M+W Americas, purchased 100 percent of NStar Global Services. The purchase price was not disclosed. The company specializes in providing contract service resources to the semiconductor and high-tech industries.
Bolaji, you mentioned Intel & IBM as the only U.S. companies that could afford to build a new fab. I think one more company could be added to your short list -- Apple.
iSuppli recently predicted that Apple will spend $16.2B on semiconductors in 2011, moving it up to the #2 spot in annual semiconductor purchases. Their hottest products, the iPad and iPhone, don't use Intel silicon, and of course Apple now owns it's own low-power ARM core from the PA Semi acquisition, and is designing some of its own chips.
I'm not suggesting it would necessarily make sense for Apple to own its own fab, or that such a fab should be located in the U.S. But Apple certainly has the cash to build a modern fab if they wanted to. Also, besides moving up to the #2 OEM semiconductor purchaser position, it is noteworthy that iSuppli believed that iPad sales are limited by manufacturing capacity, not demand.
It's not completely crazy to suggest that Apple could make even more revenue & profit if they supplemented their existing supply chain with some capacity of their own.
There is no sense in pounding your chest all the way to net losses.
Of course, Micron can afford a fab but a $3 billion fab? Any chip maker can buy used fab equipment and populate their manufacturing centers with these or upgrade current fabs but building a leading edge fabs from scratch costs a bundle and I am not sure Micron has such funds in its account.
Micron at the end of its last quarter had $2.3 billion in cash and short-term investments on its balance sheet. That money is not going into building a new fab. Instead, Micron is smartly partnering with foundries and other chip companies for its wafer needs. Micron's wafer partners include Inotera, which must sell up to 50 percent of its wafers to Micron. It also has a major stake in Tech Semiconductor Singapore Ltd., a joint venture with Canon and Hewlett-Packard. Micron also makes CMOS image sensor products using a foundry.
It's not that Micron does not have its own fabs--it has wafer fabs in Idaho, Virginia, Utah, Singapore, Italy and Japan--or that it cannot find the money to build a brand new one. The real question is whether or not this makes sense for the company. Having a chip fab should make financial sense. No company should construct a fab just so it can say "real" chip makers have fabs. If Micron has fabs today, it's because this makes strategic and financial sense for the company. When it ceases to make sense, Micron will not hesitate to dump its fabs.
Corporate taxation coupled with union pressure has driven a great deal of manufacturing overseas for many years. Until the Unites States congress get this through their heads, corporations will continue to move and or outsource outside the country. This is nothing new.. Due to greed and tyrannical oppression from our government and corrupt union and political leaders, I fully support our corporations exodus. We have become our own worst enemy, and the keystone behind political and union corruption is from big banking.. if you have the nerve, simply follow the money. Hopefully, this current simian administration with his left witted bandits have only exacerbated the downward economic debacle. These book-read incredulous fools have no business experience and less sense. We have a great deal to fix ahead, and we may never complete heal from the mess of this criminal administration. God help us.
There is no raging debate. Even if U.S. companies want to build fabs at home, how many of them can afford a wafer fab? By some calculations, it costs around $3 billion to build and equip a new fab. How many American companies have that kind of money? Let's count. There is Intel, IBM and then Intel and IBM. AMD cannot really afford a fab hence the decision to sell its manufacturing arm and spin it off as GlobalFoundries.
No other company comes close and few other U.S. chip vendors can actually sell the output from a new fab.
The same argument goes for European companies and chip vendors in Asia. Outside of wafer foundries in Taiwan, Japan's IDMs and Korea's Samsung and Hynix, how many other companies anywhere in the world can afford a fab? Not many. Not many fabs are being built anywhere in the world today. It's not a U.S. vs. any other part of the world. Period.
That is GloFo's Fab 8, it does not mean a whole lot from a company that has lost money for 20 quarters in a row and that is on track to loose $1,6B on sales of less than $2B on year 2010 !!!
GloFo is simply a terrible example of the future of manufacturing in this country, supported by corporate welfare in three countries and without a dime of smart money invested on it. (Only ATIC money, guided bu Abu Dhabi's rulers wild dreams for a post-oil future based on silicon)
We live in one planet, any business person, including each of you as managers of your own pension funds, would choose to maximize profits, not to create jobs around you if that means diminished returns on your portfolios.
The real question is why we cannot create competitive manufacturing business? Why we have pushed away entrepreneurs and investors from the product and manufacturing spaces? What do we do to revert it without resorting to protectionist rhetoric and corporate welfare?
The answer lies, as it always has, in innovation. We need to compensate by overcoming inefficiencies in our cost structure with higher rates of innovation and with novel ways to develop manufacturing competences.
The US overcame manufacturing advantages of Europe in the 1700 and 1800 through energy sources, transportation and radical innovations (steel). We changed how manufacturing and construction happened, how rivers where used, how material were transported, etc.
We can do it again, it comes down to innovation, entrepreneurship and a healthy small business culture that allows us to create the next Google of manufacturing.
We need more research on automation, we need simplified or at least unified and homogeneous regulations across regions, we need to understand that local government should not mean local bureaucracies, we need national standards for plant siting, liability regulations and for environmental rules.
We also need less government, we need to lower the cost of public workers, not to be burdened by taxes and artificial pools of public wages when the private and real economy is not performing at compatible levels.
Tax those evil corporations. They are so bad. I have a right to a job because I am an American. I am an American so I have a right to healthcare. I am an American so I am entitled to (fill in the your right).
Why would any company build a fab in a country that has workers with an American attitude?
As long as China is allowed to dictate the value of the yuan, rather than float the yuan (free trade), the issue is very problematic. And as long as the US is willing to play the sucker and not impose tariffs on Chinese goods in response to them rigging the game, the issue is very problematic for microelectronics, solar, and just about any other type of manufacturing you can think of.
Since the Chinese are playing more by merchantilist rules than Free Trade, we should follow suit. We could use direct measures like a tariff, but we could also use indirect measures like safety inspections of every item, charging a fee for the safety inspection, and limit the number of safety inspectors. If they don't catch a hint, tell them to take a hike.
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