The global chip shortage has resulted in countries elevating semiconductor manufacturing to a "national security issue." Not only are the Chinese and Korean governments continuing to spend heavily to support their chip industries, but Europe, the US, Japan, Singapore, and India are also announcing semiconductor subsidy bills and policies. They aim to lure foundries to set up fabs locally while bringing their supply chain along with them. Among the significant foundries, TSMC is the top target.
BGA (ball grid array) packaging demand for high-pixel and large-size automotive CMOS image sensor (CIS) chips remains in high gear, but lower-end car-use CIS products processed with wafer-level chip scale package (WLCSP) technology are showing signs of an oversupply, undermining backend demand and triggering price falls, according to sources with CIS packagers.
It has been widely discussed that TSMC's overseas expansion may lead to soaring production costs. However, Dr. Nicky Lu, the chairman of Etron Technology, believes that it is necessary for Taiwan's tech industry to decentralize its production around the globe. TSMC moving part of its production capacity overseas may further complicate the business model. However, it is a challenge that businesses need to overcome to further strengthen international corporate operations in the future.
The structural conflict between the US and China seems to be increasingly free of gray areas, and Taiwan's IC design sector, which has been least affected by the semiconductor trade war between both countries, has been keeping a low profile to avoid being impacted, turning cautious in dealing with Chinese customers, according to industry sources.
Despite India's eagerness to build a self-reliant semiconductor manufacturing ecosystem and an abundance of engineers in the IC design sector, India lacks the required talents to have a functioning IC manufacturing business and may have to recruit them from abroad, at least initially.
China's approach to obtaining South Korean technological secrets seems to have evolved in recent years. In the past, Chinese entities poached engineers and acquired businesses from South Korea. Now they are setting up research and development subsidiaries in South Korea, where they directly hire local engineers and obtain local technological secrets legally.
R&D is the bedrock upon which an enterprise's commercial triumphs are built. Any disappointing outcome or inefficiency originating therefrom can spell out the company's economic demise in our cutthroat capitalist coliseum. Competitivity of goods and services could dwindle, leading to a sharp decline of revenue, gross and net operating profits.
United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC) held a groundbreaking ceremony for its Circular Economy & Recycling Innovation Center on March 17. Established at UMC's Fab 12A in Tainan, Taiwan, the NT$1.8 billion (US$58.8 million) facility will be the first waste recycling R&D center in the Southern Taiwan Science Park, serving as an important contributor for sustainable circular economy in Taiwan. After the center begins operating in 2025, it is expected to reduce 15,000 metric tons of semiconductor manufacturing waste annually.
China's car market, as the biggest in the world, can provide enough momentum to allow the country to develop a self-sufficient supply chain amid expanding US trade sanctions, according to industry sources.
It is predicable that the ongoing US-China chip war will follow a difficult and long course, and under fierce attack and defense between the world's two largest economies, there could hardly be any winner in the long run no matter the final result.
Samsung Electronics has recently restructured its research and development resources in Japan by establishing a comprehensive R&D center in Japan, Device Solution Research Japan (DSRJ). This suggests that Samsung values Japan's importance in the semiconductor supply chain. This move also helps Samsung strengthen its connection with Japanese businesses.
5G, a technology deemed as fundamental to Industry 4.0, began to see large-scale commercial application around the world in 2020. However, 5G still faces problems related to difficulties in penetration and indoor coverage. Consequently, 5G millimeter wave (mmWave) technology is gaining traction in the mobile communications sector, owing to its high penetration rate and high speed. However, for 5G mmWave to be popularized, cost and energy consumption-related challenges should be overcome.
With the US looking to broaden its chip tool ban against China with new rules set to be implemented in April, SMIC and other China-based foundries will have to halt the development of their sub-40nm process technologies, according to sources at semiconductor equipment companies.
Niche-market compound semiconductor IDM Transcom has reported record-high revenue and net profits of NT$1.035 billion and NT$249 million, respectively, for 2022, buoyed by strong power amplifier (PA) shipments for defense and other high-end and niche-market device applications.
Taiwan-based OSATs, many of which are involved with TSMC and other chipmakers, are considering Mexico as their regional base of operations to assist partners looking to expand into the US, according to industry sources.
Morris Chang, TSMC's founder, stated at an event in Taipei on March 16 that he believes the pure-play foundry will continue to grow alongside its partners, as opposed to certain competitors who are expanding on their own.
China's Baidu launched its latest generation of large language model-based, pre-trained AI generative product Ernie Bot (Wenxin Yiyan) on Mar 16. CEO Robin Li demonstrated on-stage some conversation with the AI.