Facility and manpower movement to be completed next month.
Thousands of square feet of "undesignated" factory space remains.
Maintaining the clean room for semiconductor manufacturing process.

As SK Hynix System IC, a subsidiary of SK Hynix's 8-inch semiconductor foundry, completes its relocation to Wuxi, China next month, the spotlight is on how it will utilize its idle factories (fabs). The factory is equipped with a space where it is able to produce an 8-inch semiconductor wafer with 100,000 sheets per month and a clean room based on the semiconductor manufacturing process, drawing attention on whether there are plans to expand.

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<SK Hynix' Cheongju Foundry Plant>

The SK Hynix System IC Cheongju Foundry Plant (M8) facility and related personnel will complete its movement to the Wuxi plant in China by the end of next month. Currently, the final relocation of semiconductor processing equipment is in full swing. When the facility relocation is complete, the factory site of about 3 hectare (355,800 square feett) will be empty. SK Hynix System IC also made it known that it will maintain its M8 internal clean room without any change.

Currently, SK Siltron has leased the M8 plant on a small scale. At the end of last year, they signed a contract with SK Hynix and decided to use roughly 7100 square feet of space. They plan on using 2% of the total site to build the SK Siltron semiconductor wafer manufacturing line.

SK Hynix decided to keep the SK Hynix System IC R&D organizations' M8 facilities. Only parts of the M8 plant is being used, by SK Siltron and R&D organizations, meanwhile the remaining hundreds of thousands of square feet are still "unoccupied."

The industry is paying close attention to the M8 facility because of the possibility of expanding foundry using idle fabs. Since clean rooms have been kept, it would be advantageous to introduce new semiconductor equipment and create new lines. Key Foundry, which was acquired by SK Hynix, is working hard to secure additional production capacity, and the possibility of expanding into an 8-inch foundry is not out of the question either.

The production capacity of Key Foundry's 8-inch semiconductor wafers is around 85,000 sheets per month. Expansion is essential to cope with the surge in demand for semiconductors, but the current site is not suitable. Due to the lack of space, production capacity is only increasing a few thousand sheets per month thanks to improving operating equipment and processes. The location of Key Foundry's plant (M4) is in close proximity with the SK Hynix System IC M8 plant.

An official from the foundry industry said, "The scenario is possible because there are many advantages to expanding Key Foundry using the M8 plant," adding, "It depends on how aggressive SK Hynix will invest in foundry."

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If the foundry is expanded, the impact on the industry is expected to be formidable. There are more than 1,000 processer equipment in the space, raising expectations for new orders for semiconductor equipment. It is possible to solve the difficulties of domestic fabless semiconductors by solving the foundry bottleneck. The SK Hynix System IC Wuxi plant is expected to actively target Chinese fabless semiconductors due to geographical conditions.

As SK Hynix has not completed its acquisition of Key Foundry, it is unlikely that an immediate decision will be made on whether to use the M8 plant. The acquisition of Key Foundry is ahead before the acquisition approval process by major competition authorities. An official from SK Hynix said, "No decision has been made on the use of the M8 plant other than the contract with SK Siltron."

By Staff Reporter Dong-jun Kwon (djkwon@etnews.com)