SINGAPORE -- Just 90 days after the first chip-processing tools were installed, the silicon wafers have begun running through a new joint-venture fab set up here by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (TSMC) and Philips Semiconductors. The new foundry venture--called Systems on Silicon Manufacturing Co. Pte. Ltd. (SSMC)--is now qualifying its processes and aiming to ramp production to full capacity by in 2002.
Construction of SSMC's $1.2 billion fab only began 15 months ago, said Philips and TSMC. The two partners, along with Singapore's Economic Development Board
Investments (EDBI) agency, announced the joint-venture 8-inch wafer fab in the middle of the last semiconductor slump two years ago (see Sept. 29, 1998, story). At the time, nearly no new fab projects were being announced in the chip industry.
"The timing of the decision to build this new fab has certainly paid off, and both companies will be well placed to meet customer demand for systems-on-silicon solutions," said Peter Yates, who is chief executive officer of SSMC. During various stages of the project, TSMC officials have said the Singapore fab project was on a record pace for starting up production.
In addition to hitting the window just right for fab-tool orders and deliveries, SSMC was also able to accelerate the training of its workforce by taping a core team of chip veterans from Philips in the Netherlands and TSMC in Taiwan, said company officials. More than 150 engineers have joined the core startup team following a training program held inside plants operated by Philips and TSMC. The current workforce of 550 employees at SSMC is expected to reach 1,050 in June 2002, when the monthly output in the joint-venture fab will reach 30,000 eight-inch wafers a month, said managers.
"For a full-scale fab to achieve the production of first silicon within such a short space of time is evidence of the excellent co-operation between the two companies, the high level of engineer training and the smooth transfer of process technologies," said Stuart McIntosh, executive vice president and chief operations officer of Philips Semiconductors in Eindhoven, the Netherlands.
In the last 90 days, more than 200 chip-processing tools were delivered, installed, and commissioned. They are now running and processing silicon, said SSMC officials. The initial processes are 0.25- and 0.18-micron technologies.
Philips Semiconductors--the chip unit of Royal Philips Electronics N.V.--is the major shareholder of SSMC with 48% of the shares. TSMC, the world's largest pure-play silicon foundry company, has a 32% stake in the Singapore venture and the EDBI agency holds 20% of the shares.