When it comes to helping profits in the semiconductor industry, making more processors out of each wafer is one way to go. The smaller the manufacturing scale, the more processors you can get on one wafer. Another route to go is to increase the actual size of the wafer.
The problem with increasing wafer size is that the chip foundries that actually etch the processors require significant overhauls with some estimates putting a price tag on changing wafer size at about $10 billion per fab.
DigiTimes reports that two of the largest chip foundries are slowing down the expansion of their 300mm fab projects. The largest and most profitable of the four major foundries, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), has slowed down its 300mm fab expansion according to sources cited by DigiTimes. TSMC maintains that the expansion process is on target and proceeding as scheduled.
TSMC competitor, United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC), is also reported by be holding on its 300mm fab plant. DigiTimes reports that only the shell of UMC's 300mm fab in the Southern Taiwan Science Park is complete and that no production equipment has been added to the facility.
The firms are reportedly holding on the expansion until demand for semiconductors picks up. It is interesting to note that Samsung, Intel, and TSMC have teamed up to move to significantly larger 450mm wafers.
Once the trio gets a fab set up and running with 450mm wafer production and whittles the nanometer scale down to Intel's 32nm or 22nm process, Intel will be able to build a huge number of chips per wafer (particularly Atoms). This isn't going to make the market any more favorable for either fab company, and fewer 300mm fabrication lines means more pressure on both.Posted on