Foundries Look to Differentiate Their Manufacturing Processes to Survive

Aug 19, 2019

Global foundries are doing their bests to secure customers. Not only are TSMC and Samsung Electronics, which are ranked first and second respectively, competing fiercely to have better state-of-the-art manufacturing technology, competition between other foundries such as SMIC, GlobalFoundries, and UMC is also intense. They are trying their best even to secure one new customer due to increased demands for system semiconductors.
According to the semiconductor industry, an American foundry called GlobalFoundries recently stated that it finished its research on manufacturing process of 12nm 3D chip along with an British semiconductor design company Arm and is working on the testing phase of 12nm 3D chip.
GlobalFoundries is trying to maximize the number of ‘cores’, which are basically workers within a semiconductor, by raising the degree of integration to the maximum through its 12nm 3D chip manufacturing technology.
“We can develop chips that can be used in AI (Artificial Intelligence) and Machine Learning through our manufacturing process.” said GlobalFoundries.
“We expect GlobalFoundries to develop a chip manufacturing technology that maximizes efficiency through its collaboration with Arm that specializes in CPU and GPU.” said a representative for the industry.
UMC from Taiwan and SMIC from China are also working to improve their technologies.
UMC improved its chip manufacturing technology by working with Cadence that is one of top three EDA (Electronic Design Automation) tool companies in the world. UMC stated that it developed 28nm manufacturing technology that can manufacture semiconductors used for AI and cars and high-performance computing needed for IoT (Internet of Things).
This means that 28nm chips, which are raised to a higher level through Cadence’s AMS (Analog/Mixed-Signal) IC (Integrated Circuit) design tool, can be manufactured when chip is designed based on UMC’s FDK (Foundry Design Kit).
Samsung Electronics once worked with Cadence as well to manufacture 28nm chips based on FD-SOI (Fully Depleted Silicon On Insulator).

SMIC started the production of 14nm chips. It is heard that more than 10 customers finished designing their chips through SMIC’s manufacturing process. 14nm chips are currently the most common chips within the semiconductor market.
Foundry manufactures semiconductors for other companies. Foundry manufactures semiconductors once the blueprint of a semiconductor is drawn by a semiconductor design company and the shape of a chip is revised by a design house.
Samsung Electronics and TSMC from Taiwan are currently the leading foundries in the world. They currently own about 70% of the market shares by developing 3nm and 7nm EUV (Extreme Ultraviolet) manufacturing processes that minimize the line width of a semiconductor IC. They compete against each other to secure global semiconductor companies such as Intel and Qualcomm.
However, rest of foundries that are smaller and far les advanced technologies have difficulties in making additional investments into manufacturing process less than 10nm. They are looking for ways to secure even one more customer by differentiating bits and parts of current semiconductor process.
“Semiconductor companies do not just use 7nm chips alone and demands for semiconductors continue to grow.” said a representative for the industry. “Because special processes are needed to produce current legacy products such as sensors, power semiconductors, and chips for displays, foundries look for various collaborations.”
Meanwhile, foundries will face new situations due to development of various IoT and AI technologies.
According to a market research company called IHS Market, foundry market is expected to make steady growth and it is estimated to be worth $83 billion in 2021.
Staff Reporter Kang, Hyeryung | kang@etnews.com

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