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Semiconductor Industry News - May 2022 Update

Semiconductor Industry News - May 2022 Update

A gloved hand holds a single microprocessor over an evaluation console.

Inflation Comes Full Circle – May 25, 2022

Earlier this month, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis published a blog outlining the relationship between the global chip shortage and the recent surge in inflation worldwide. To make a long story short, the electronic components bottleneck negatively impacted almost 40 percent of the manufacturing sector. The disruption of fabricated goods hit a tipping point in the summer of 2021 and has driven the price of everything from gasoline to food to 40-year highs.

Recently, the inflation trend has come full circle and is starting to push chip prices to multi-year highs.

Foundry Service Fees Are Skyrocketing

Samsung is best known as the world’s largest supplier of memory modules, but it’s also a leading foundry service provider. The South Korean conglomerate uses the advanced IC production technologies it spent billions of dollars developing to make components for Big Tech giants like Apple and Qualcomm.

Samsung will probably charge more for its services due to rising inflationary pressure.

Bloomberg reported the corporation might raise its contract production fees by 15 to 20 percent depending on chip sophistication level this year. Although it utilizes state-of-the-art technology to make high-performance smartphone processors, that's not the segment of its customers that will feel the biggest financial blow.

Instead, the firm wants to charge more to make legacy node electronic components for its clients. From a financial perspective, the firm being is very prudent. Last year, it committed to spending $17 billion to establish a massive, cutting-edge foundry in the United States.

Related: Datalynq - Next-Generation Case Management & Market Intelligence

To be financially viable, that facility needs to run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, because even a brief shutdown can have multibillion-dollar consequences. And the next-generation silicon chips it produces must bring in the highest return on investment possible.

Therefore, Samsung has a powerful incentive to cut costs in its foundry services portfolio so the less lucrative chip production nodes are on the chopping block. Unfortunately, especially for OEMs, CMs, and EMS companies whose designs are dependent on older microelectronic devices, the firm is not an outliner.

The Way the Wind is Blowing

First, the bad news: chipmakers are raising prices across the board because the business of making chips is getting more expensive.

According to market insiders, prices of raw materials, machinery, and chemicals used to make electronic components have gone up 20 percent. There is no one driver for the industrywide volatility. A confluence of events, including rising geopolitical tensions, had exacerbated a problem that emerged when the world embraced digitalization to overcome the difficulties introduced by COVID-19.

As a result, TSMC, the world’s largest pure-play foundry, plans to raise fees between 5 and 8 percent this year. The firm intends to initiate the price hike later this year, a change that follows the 20 percent fee bump it made last year. Industry insiders have said its higher costs will impact customers that utilize its older and newer fabrication technology.

United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC), another market-leading provider of outsourced electronic components, also plans to raise its fees. 

For OEMs, CMs, and EMS providers with endless reservoirs of cash, this worldwide trend among foundries will be a severe problem. In the near future, essential and cutting-edge electronic components will be harder to find and more expensive.

However, there is a newly launched market intelligence platform that exists to help manufacturers mitigate the impact of shortages and accelerated part obsolescence. It offers robust design and redesign risk analysis, real transaction data-based forecasts, and historical insights regarding component availability and pricing that can’t be found anywhere else.

Even better, Datalynq is offering a limited-time 30-day free trial right now.

A stylized image of India as a printed circuit board.

Make (Chips) in India - May 19, 2022

In 2017, the Indian government launched an initiative called “Make in India” designed to bolster the nation’s manufacturing capabilities through government funding and foreign direct investment (FDI).

New Delhi has recently increased its focus on developing a multifaceted electronic components ecosystem in the country, announcing a $10 billion incentives plan to enhance domestic IC design, fabrication, and packaging resources.

Due to recent events, it has gotten a lot closer to realizing that world-changing ambition.

India Government Officials Approach TSMC, Samsung is About Establishing a Local Fab

Rajeev Chandrasekhar, India’s Minister of State for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship and Electronics and Information Technology of India, told Bloomberg he has been pitching his country as the site of the next great global chipmaking hub.

The former Intel engineer has a difficult road ahead. But not because of limited interest from the industry.  

On the contrary, the world’s leading pure-play foundry service providers are currently on a production capacity spending spree. TSMC earmarked $40 billion to $44 billion to upgrade and expand its chipmaking resources this year. Samsung announced plans to dedicate $15 billion a year to launching new fabs and research centers across the world through 2030 and promised to triple its foundry resources by 2026.

Moreover, Intel intends to reassert its dominance in the microelectronics sector by significantly expanding its output worldwide. The corporation is in the process of establishing a $20 billion IC fabrication complex in Arizona, another $20 billion fab in Ohio, and an €80 billion ($93.9 billion) cutting-edge chip ecosystem in Europe.

TSMC, Samsung, and Intel have not recently announced new plans to establish silicon wafer manufacturing facilities in India. The problem is that those firms need specific infrastructural features at a location before making plans to build a foundry. If those resources are unavailable or inconsistent, chip yields could be affected, and a $10 billion plant could turn into a financial black hole with shocking speed.

That is the issue Chandrasekhar is grappling with right now. But recent circumstances have occurred that could make his job a lot easier as a huge wave of FDI capital could be on the way.

Apple Suppliers Might Reshore in India

Most of Apple’s suppliers conduct most of their manufacturing and assembly work in China. Compal, Pegatron, Quanta, Wistron, and Foxconn production sites with internal fabrication capabilities in China. Those providers have also experienced severe operational disruptions recently as a part of China’s COVID-zero protocol because they have sites in affected provinces like Shanghai and Jiangsu.

Apple announced that the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on its supply chain would curtail its Q3 2022 revenue by up to $8 billion.

The Economic Times reported Foxconn, the iPhone company’s biggest device assembly partner, had plans to ramp up output in its Chennai, India, plant significantly. A few weeks before its partner made that declaration, the EMS provider secured approval from regional leaders to turn 40 acres of land inside its local campus into a manufacturing site. It also intends to expand the facility’s headcount by nearly doubling its on-site staff due to an upswing in domestic smartphone purchasing.

Ming-Chi Kuo, an analyst with TE Securities, believes that development will kick off a new trend among Apple suppliers. The market watcher thinks the impact of China’s COVID lockdowns re-energized old considerations regarding reshoring manufacturing sites in India.

Even though Shanghai recently lifted coronavirus restrictions in six districts, the stop-start production issues in the region could prompt bigger systemic changes throughout the electronic components industry. And those shifts could reorient the global semiconductor supply chain around India.

A stylized digital image representing the country of India as a printed circuit board.

The Silver Lining – May 10, 2022

After years of unprecedented supply tightness, market analysts believe global silicon wafer output will increase this year. Moreover, many Chinese tech firms are looking to utilize TSMC’s advanced chip production technologies to optimize their products and operations.

Wafer Capacity to Rise by 8.7 Percent in 2022

For the last few years, the world has grappled with a devastating chip shortage caused by an industrywide supply-demand gulf that followed the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Because of how the contemporary microelectronics sector makes products, individual manufacturers and foundries could not quickly close the gap.

However, IC Insights recently discussed how the situation could meaningfully improve this year.

The market research company forecasts that global wafer capacity will increase by 8.7 percent in 2022. Ten new fabs will go online this year and provide the sector with its largest jump in available wafer production capability in six years. TSMC is leading the way by opening three chip factories in East Asia. Another pure-play foundry, Shanghai’s SMIC, is also bringing a new complex online to support its customers.

Beyond that, memory module providers SK Hynix and Winbond are each adding one manufacturing facility to their existing resources. Hong Kong-based China Resources Microelectronics Limited is set to activate a new power IC plant. Hangzhou Silan Integrated Circuit Co., Ltd. intends to kick off production of its power discrete and sensors fab later this year.

Texas Instruments’ RFAB2, located in Richmond, Texas, will start making analog components in the second half. Plus, STMicroelectronics and Tower Semiconductor have teamed up to launch a power, mixed-signal, and RF parts factory in the same period.

While the semiconductor industry’s global wafer output is growing, demand is not falling. IC Insights predicts worldwide production capacity utilization will only decline by 0.3 percent year-over-year. Further, the organization expects component shipments to jump by 9.2 percent despite macroeconomic instability, mounting geopolitical tensions, and growing inflationary pressure.

Nevertheless, the global chip shortage might reach an inflection point this year.

Chinese Tech Firms Securing TSMC Partnerships

DigiTimes recently reported several China-based technology companies are actively forging partnerships with TSMC, the world’s biggest and most advanced contact chipmaker.

Several mainland mobile device manufacturers have filled up space in the foundry’s state-of-the-art factories.

Oppo ordered 10 million imaging neural processing units using the corporation’s 6nm node. Unisoc requested 6nm and 12nm mobile CPUs, while ZTE wants 5nm and 7nm components to support its 5G base stations. Xiaomi, OmniVision, and Goodix Technology are also interested in using the service provider’s fabrication processes to make their smartphone and wearables parts.

Demand for TSMC’s manufacturing lines among Chinese firms extends past the consumer electronics segment.

Horizon Robotics booked various TSMC manufacturing lines to keep its automotive portfolio available. The Beijing-based company teamed with the foundry to produce its current generation offerings with its 16nm and 28nm technology. It is also collaborating with the contract chipmaker to launch its 7nm Journey 6 embedded artificial intelligence vehicle processors in 2023.

Horizon Robotics counts auto sector heavyweights Audi, SAC Motors, Bosch, BYD, and Continental as partners.

Pingtouge, Alibaba’s semiconductor unit, tapped TSMC to fabricate its designs using its 5nm, 7nm, and 28nm nodes. Cambricon Technologies, a Chinese cloud computing hardware vendor, ordered an unknown quantity of 5nm microelectronics from the Taiwanese foundry.

Moreover, Bitman Technologies, which offers cryptocurrency mining ASICs, secured places on its 5nm and 7nm production schedules.

Currently, China’s tech companies, in aggregate, only represent 11 percent of TSMC’s revenue as of Q1 2022. However, that is a significant increase from Q4 2021, when firms in the East Asian country constituted 5 percent of its income. DigiTimes expects the trend to pick up over the few years, with the regions contributing $8.5 billion to its annual returns in 2023.

So, what does that mean for the rest of the semiconductor industry?

If demand for TSMC’s leading-edge processes remains strong – and most available data suggests that it will - OEMs, CMs, and EMS providers will likely see higher prices for advanced silicon. As component manufacturers orient their output around newer technologies, shortages and obsolescence issues for older parts will become more common.

Consequently, companies navigating forthcoming industrywide pricing and availability shifts should prioritize enhancing their market intelligence resources by signing up with Datalynq.

There is another important implication of so many Chinese tech firms with different specializations partnering with TSMC. By decade’s end, the region’s domestic microelectronics output could be significantly more sophisticated than it is today.

Jump Start Needed – May 3, 2022

China’s recent COVID-19 quarantines have had a significant negative impact on the output of its domestic auto and electronic components industries. And Apple expects to lose up to $8 billion in revenue this quarter due to the same issue.

Chinese COVID Lockdowns Hurting Local Carmakers & Component Suppliers  

China’s recent coronavirus lockdowns in Shanghai and other major cities have severely affected its domestic automotive industry.

The China Passenger Car Association estimated that the government’s mandates reduced local manufacturers’ vehicle output by 20 percent. The organization explained that Beijing’s zero-COVID policies have been especially damaging because of the areas impacted. The Yangtze River Delta region is home to leading vendors SIAC Motor and FAW Group, meaning over one-fifth of the nation’s overall vehicle sector has been hindered.

The disruption of China’s industrial cores and ground transportation infrastructure has also hurt overseas car companies with local capacity.

Tesla suspended work at its Shanghai Gigafactory for over 20 days last month. The EV giant reopened its biggest manufacturing center after enacting COVID mitigation procedures on-site. Market watchers believe the temporary shutdown prevented the American manufacturer from assembling a minimum of 45,000 automobiles.

Insiders expect a shortfall of electronic components to curtail Tesla’s vehicle output until sometime this month.

In addition, German auto parts firm Bosch halted work at two plants in compliance with a mid-April lockdown order. The European supplier initiated “closed-loop” procedures – keeping staffers on campus on shift and off – at two other Shanghai facilities during the same period. 

The Chinese government has moved to support local businesses hurt by its coronavirus containment strategy.

Beijing recently named 666 companies that will receive aid in restarting or continuing their Shanghai-based operations. The initiative primarily aims to support automotive corporations, but it also includes several semiconductor industry providers. SMIC, China’s largest contract chipmaker, secured local leaders’ approval to resume operations, as did Hua Hong Semiconductor, Applied Materials, and ASML Shanghai.

TSMC, the world’s largest component foundry, kept its two mainland fabs running normally during the recent coronavirus outbreaks.

However, China’s most populated city recorded 58 new infections on May 2, and its zero-COVID directive is still in effect. Consequently, local automakers and component suppliers will likely endure more disruptions in the coming weeks and months.

Apple Expects to Lose $8B in Q3 Due to COVID Woes

Apple disclosed that it anticipates a $4 billion to $8 billion revenue hit this quarter during its Q1 earnings report. The Big Tech firm attributed its predicted underperformance to the same COVID-related problems affecting Tesla and Bosch.

Although the corporation sources its electronics components for vendors all over the world, China is its primary supply hub.

As noted last week, almost half of Apple’s top 200 part providers have suffered manufacturing and logistics problems recently. Many of its partners maintain factories in mainland cities that are under quarantine. Moreover, its leading iPhone assemblers operate sprawling complexes in Shanghai and Shenzhen to put together, test, and pack its flagship product. Consequently, the $2.5 trillion OEM anticipates a softer than regular spring sales season.

If China’s current health and safety challenges continue through Q2, Apple’s traditional September device refresh might not go as planned. Even with its vast resources, Apple cannot work around problems generated by China’s COVID lockdowns.

The corporation and its suppliers have tried to diversify their manufacturing resources outside East Asia. But the sheer volume of its consumer electronics output – it sold 60 million smartphones in the January period alone – means its factories in India and Brazil cannot replace its main production center.

Apple is not the only global manufacturer to bear the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic’s effect on the supply chain.

Microsoft and SK Hynix are currently unable to address the demand for their gaming console and memory products because of the disruptions. Similarly, GMC recorded a 24 percent drop in profit from China last quarter caused by weak local demand. MediaTek, a mobile device component vendor, recently revised down its projection of single-digit revenue growth in response to the situation in China.

Last month, Apple reportedly changed its production schedule and design cycle patterns in response to end-market volatility.

Hopefully, May will give the world an overdue opportunity to recover and recalibrate from the first four months of 2022.

No Christmas in 2022?! – April 26, 2022

Traditionally, the holiday season lifts all ships in the consumer technology sector because computers, PC peripherals, wearables, and smartphones make great gifts. However, supply-side microelectronics challenges and a semiconductor manufacturing equipment shortage are disrupting OEM, CM, and EMS provider supply chains.

While Christmas may not be canceled, many consumers may find disappointment waiting for them under the tree this year.

COVID Takes a Big Bite Out of Apple

Even though Apple is the world’s largest electronics company by revenue, it is not immune to the impact of COVID-19.

Last week, Nikkei Asia reported about 50 percent of the corporation’s top 200 suppliers are grappling with government-mandated manufacturing and logistics lockdowns in the Chinese mainland. Since The start of 2022, Beijing has restricted the activities of industrial operators in Shanghai and other major cities. As a result, the iPhone maker’s leading device assemblers and microelectronics suppliers have struggled to meet their business commitments.

The publication noted thermal parts, PCBs, displays, and acoustic components production and transportation have been significantly undercut by China’s “zero-COVID” strategy.

Local leaders are attempting to address the problem by exempting certain firms from the lockdowns. But shortages of key raw materials and truck drivers, electricity rationing programs, and various logistics chokepoints are taking a major toll on the region’s industrial cores.

Paul Peng, Chairman of AU Optronics, offered a grim assessment of the situation, noting, “the disruption is not to a single company or industry, it's a global supply chain incident that could lead to a supply chain cutoff in the worst-case scenario.” The firm, which supplies Dell, HP, and Tesla, does not expect its operations to return to normal until Q3.

Similarly, Delta Electronics, a power management pasts company, worries its overall production will fall by 20 percent in April. Nevertheless, the company believes it can make up for its lost output in May and June, barring significant new restrictions.

An unnamed parts manufacturer told Nikkei Asia if China’s components producers cannot get back on track by June, they might miss their ocean freight shipments schedules. Consequently, major electronic device brands could come into this year’s holiday sales season with insufficient product inventories.

Apple reportedly responded to the volatility of its supply chain by slashing its production quotas for iPhone SEs and AirPods. However, Bloomberg recently revealed the Big Tech giant probably would not use a new generation of microprocessors in its non-premium 2022 iPhone lineup due to shortage and manufacturing challenges. That means its next flagship product refresh could come to the market without purchase-driving hardware improvements for the first time in several years.

While Apple is the most significant player in the electronics game, it is not the only vendor facing a bleak Christmas this year.

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Lead Times for Chipmaking Equipment Reaches 18 Months

The global chip shortage that cost the automotive sector an estimated $210 billion last year is now hurting the semiconductor industry.

Applied Materials, AMSL Holdings, KLA Corporation, and Lam Research recently began informing their customers manufacturing equipment lead times will be 18 months. Before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, machine deliveries averaged around 3 to 4 months. But by last year, chipmakers had to wait 10 to 12 months to receive their orders.

The microelectronics field’s tool sourcing issues are being driven by unprecedented demand, which is causing a shortage of equipment components.

TSMC, Intel, Samsung, and other foundry service providers have rushed to expand their production capacity in response to the post-pandemic global digitalization wave. Those firms need IC, substrate, PCB manufacturing, and testing machines to build out their existing fabrication lines and outfit new fabs. But their supply partners only have so much factory space and raw materials stockpiles.

So, what does the semiconductor manufacturing space supply chain bottleneck mean for OEMs, CMs, and EMS firms?

The biggest impact will likely be continued tightness for electronic components for the foreseeable future. In addition, the shortage could severely constrain the availability of next-generation microprocessors this year and into 2023.

Earlier this month, TSMC, the world’s most advanced contract chipmaker, disclosed that “unexpected” tool delivery issues had affected its expansion plans for next year. Last year, the foundry declared it would spend $100 billion through 2023 to increase and enhance its global manufacturing resources. But the production equipment shortage might upend its long-term roadmap.

The corporation stated that its 2022 schedule has not been affected but did not go into details.

In addition, TSMC CEO C.C. Wei revealed his company’s supply chain would remain tight through year’s end. The executive also recommended its customers build up their inventories due to ongoing production and logistics unpredictability. The foundry will undoubtedly work to minimize the impact of those problems on its customers, but its mitigation measures may not be enough.

TSMC dedicates the bulk of its advanced nodes to making iPhone and Mac processors because it is its biggest client. However, noted above, Apple has seemingly shifted its product rollout strategy due to supplier limitations.

That means fabless chipmakers intending to utilize the foundry’s cutting-edge processes, such as AMD, Qualcomm, Nvidia, and MediaTek, might be unable to ship adequate quantities of their products to electronics manufacturers ahead of the holiday season.

A technician makes repairs to a automobile's electrical system.

Slam on the Brakes – April 20, 2022

Japan’s leading automakers are struggling to keep their car factories open amid unprecedented supply challenges. And Tesla has found unconventional solutions to fortify its procurement and production operations.

Japanese Automakers Grappling with Supply Chain Woes

Due to multiple overlapping events, Japan’s leading auto manufacturers are facing materials procurement problems and cost volatility challenges.

Tokai Tokyo Research Institute estimates the country’s seven passenger vehicle companies are paying $11.5 billion more for metals, microchips, and electronic components. Russia’s war in Ukraine is the primary driver of the surging raw materials costs for East Asia’s automotive firms. Eastern Europe is a leading exporter of essential car production metals like palladium, nickel, and aluminum. Because of the conflict and many international trade sanctions, the area is effectively cut off from the global supply chain.

Similarly, DigiTimes reports that vehicle manufacturers are experiencing a shortage of wire harnesses and tires due to ongoing geopolitical tensions.

Toyota, Honda, and Nissan are also struggling to source enough microelectronics for their factories amid the global chip shortage. Widespread demand for vehicle ICs is still significantly greater than the available chipmaker and contract foundry production capacity. However, market analysts and business leaders expect the bottleneck will ease up in the second half of 2022.

Finally, Japan’s auto industry is having trouble keeping its plants active because they adhere to the just-in-time (JIT) model.

The popular business methodology requires manufacturers to keep small material stockpiles on hand to keep overhead costs down. Unfortunately, for all economic benefits, that model left her automakers especially vulnerable to disruptions caused by the global semiconductor shortage.

Additionally, automobile vendors have been unable to replenish their inventories recently due to clustered COVID-19 outbreaks in China. Suppliers have been unable to get their badly needed orders because of frequent government mandates restricting production and transportation in the country’s industrial hubs. Last week, Bosch, Pegatron, and other firms closed their plants in Shanghai, Changchun, and Jiangsu amid a new coronavirus flareup.

Related: Global Electronic Component Shortage – April 2022 Update

Ultimately, the passenger vehicle sector’s sourcing problems do not have a “magic bullet” solution. Until more capacity comes online, companies will not have access to large quantities of the custom parts their fleets need. But they can be proactive about revamping their supply chains and replacing their outdated methodologies with more dynamic digital solutions.

Tesla Gets Creative to Overcome Sourcing Challenges

Tesla is dealing with the same problems as its Japanese counterparts and is employing fittingly untraditional solutions to overcome them.

The electric vehicle pioneer shuttered its car factory in Shanghai late last month following a government lockdown. As the corporation’s East Asian plant is its largest manufacturing center, the shutdown significantly affected its output. However, it secured permission to reopen the facility on April 18 after establishing a “closed-loop” system. Under the new structure, workers will sleep and eat on-site, comply with a strict hygiene regimen, and submit to daily nucleic acid COVID tests.

If all goes well, Tesla Giga Shanghai will resume rolling out 2,100 vehicles every day soon. Plus, the corporation recently opened two large manufacturing complexes in Brandenburg, Germany, and Austin, Texas. With those resources added, the carmaker should be able to correct its pandemic-related production shortfalls.

Tesla’s innovative supply chain management extends beyond expanding manufacturing capacity to avoid disruptions.

CEO Elon Musk identified availability and pricing uncertainty for nickel as a major business risk. Since the company uses the metal to make its EV batteries, delivery problems directly undercut its production rates. It made agreements with several mining companies to stabilize its nickel supply to address the issue. Simultaneously, many Tesla rivals are negotiating ways to acquire large quantities of Class 1 nickel.

In the past, manufacturers depended on providers operating in Russia to fill their inventories because the country produces 17 percent of the world’s battery-grade nickel. With that option off the table, some automobile vendors are scrambling. For OEMs, CMs, and EMS providers, the takeaway is that supplier diversification has never been more important.

Data Centers Never Sleep – April 14, 2022

AMD just paid $1.9 billion to snap up an innovative data center processor company. And an Oracle-backed server chipmaker took steps to go public quietly. Within the decade, those two events could have a big impact on the global electronic components industry.

AMD Bets $1.9B on Data Center Chip Market  

AMD announced plans to buy networking technology startup Pensando System for $1.9 billion earlier this month. The Silicon Valley giant stated it made a move to bolster its position within the booming data center space and anticipates the transaction will close in Q2 2022.Its big bet could pay off in a major way as analysts predict the segment will reach $15.64 billion in annual revenue by 2025, up from $7.72 billion in 2017.

The fabless corporation's nine-figure entry into the data center chip segment makes sense given its long-term portfolio diversification strategy.

For decades, Intel dominated the enterprise server market due to its strength as an integrated design manufacturer. By meticulously crafting its firmware, instruction sets, and silicon in-house, it produced hardware solutions that blew away the competition.

But TSMC, the world’s largest contract foundry, has outpaced it in terms of chip miniaturization and transistor density in recent years. That created an opportunity for ambitious IC design houses to claim a much bigger piece of the semiconductor market, AMD chief among them.

If the corporation can bring Pensando’s innovative tech to the global market, it could claim a very healthy slice of the pie.

The startup secured $313 million since 2017 thanks to its core compelling offering, a fully programmable microprocessor and software platform. Its technology boasts the capability to run it cloud scale, with minimal jitter and latency while only consuming 30W of power at 100GbE. And reacquisition, it counted Goldman Sachs and Microsoft’s Azure unit as customers.

However, AMD is not the only big player with eyes on the explosive datacenter chip market.

Oracle-Backed Server Processor Startup Files IPO

Ampere Computing recently filed a confidential initial public offering that could have big implications for the semiconductor industry.

Founded in 2018 by former Intel President Renee James, the fabless firm uses Arm architecture to make specialized high-performance ICs. It strived to distinguish itself in a crowded market by launching flagship general-purpose processors fabricated with TSMC’s 7nm node. The Portland, Oregon company’s strategy paid off as it counted Oracle and Microsoft as customers in 2020.

Moreover, Oracle believed in Ampere enough to have invested $426 million in it to keep its chips in production.

At present, the startup’s future is difficult to gauge because it is facing institutional competition with bottomless pockets. But its tech clearly has potential, and a successful IPO will help it bulk up its manufacturing resources and expand its customer base.

James said she would be open to working with Intel Foundry Services if certain production requirements we readdressed last year. Since Intel has earmarked over $100 billion to build the Silicon Heartland, her terms will likely be met. That means Ampere could gain an advantage in the marketplace by depending on a domestic supply chain instead of navigating the complexities of the global chip sector’s stratified “new normal.”

Regardless, AMD’s acquisition of Pensando and Ampere’s IPO means one thing for midsized OEMs, CMs, and EMS providers: less support from foundries.

The semiconductor leading contract chipmakers want to cash in on the digitalization wave that followed the COVID-19 outbreak by booking up their factories years in advance. They are also mothballing older component manufacturing processes faster than ever to make room for more lucrative next-generation production lines. While those developments are fine for large corporations, less established companies will face tighter material availability and extended lead times.

For that reason, electronics manufacturers have a greater incentive than ever to access long-term industry forecasts and stockpile at-risk parts.

Winter is Here - April 6, 2022
Volvo Cuts Car Production Amid Parts Shortage

Volvo recently announced its annual automobile output would fall below its earlier projections due to a shortage of a critical electronic component. It reportedly cut five shifts at its Torslanda, Sweden, factory that it uses to make its XC60 and XC90 SUVs.

Europe’s largest carmaker made the declaration in response to the fallout of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Right now, Ukraine produces 20 percent of the European markets’ wire harnesses. No other region or individual manufacturer can step in to fill Volvo’s needs, so its factories are ramping down production. The firm convened a 150-person working group to develop solutions to resolve its bottleneck.

BMW is also grappling with similar headwinds related to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Ultimately, Volvo has been caught up in a tangle that many other OEMs all over the world are facing right now. How do individual companies move forward with the global supply chain in disarray?

On the one hand, firms can try to wait it out and work to reorganize their vendor networks once the current market volatility stops. The problem is that under our current unprecedented market conditions, no one is sure when the thaw will begin.

Accordingly, OEMs might be better served by taking action as soon as possible to future-proof their supply chains. In Volvo’s case, it might form partnerships with providers like Sumitomo Electric Industries, Ltd. and Furukawa Electric Co. Ltd. Both Japanese companies make wire harnesses and other electronic components. The two firms are vertically integrated manufacturers, so their customers will have options if an unprecedented crisis impacts their businesses.

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TSMC to Break Ground on First Japanese fab in April

TSMC intends to break ground on its first fab in Kumamoto, Japan, next week. The foundry, a joint venture between the contract chipmaker and Sony Semiconductor Solutions, will commence production in late 2024. Once operational, the facility will employ 1,700 workers and fabricate 55,000 12-inch silicon wafers every month.

The facility will utilize a 12/16nm FinFET process and a 22/28n node. University Wafer points out that 12-inch wafers can be used to make wireless communication chips, microcontroller units, and power components for smartphones and desktop computers. But Denso, the global automotive technology giant, declared it invested $350 million in the new fab in February. It received a 10 percent ownership stake and operational control of the facility in exchange.

In recent months, many popular online publications have expressed doubts regarding the long-term profitability of the semiconductor industry. The prevailing belief is that the 19 fabs that went into production between 2019 and 2020 will soon oversaturate the market. But Denso’s investment and the Japanese government’s $8.6 billion support of the plant indicate a high-level belief in the chip sector’s long-term recovery.

March 31, 2022

TSMC Gives Major Warning Regarding Electronics Industry

Dr. Mark Liu, Chairman of TSMC, recently noted that demand for consumer electronics is slowing down due to various macroeconomic concerns.

The executive explained that buyers’ interest in televisions, personal computers, and smartphones is weakening, especially in China, the world’s largest consumer market. He also noted that electronic component and raw material costs had surged recently, making device and chip production more expensive. Dr. Liu also mused that volatility might impact shoppers, “such pressure could eventually be passed on to consumers.” TSMC's biggest customers include Apple, AMD, Intel, Qualcomm, Broadcom, Nvidia, Sony, Marvell, STMicroelectronics, and Analog Devices, Inc.

Related: Sourcengine’s Semiconductor Industry Lead Time Report

Leading market analysts and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have recently echoed the TSMC chair’s sentiments.

Last week, IHS Markit’s found semiconductor costs skyrocketed in February. The S&P Global PMI Commodity Price & Supply Indicators report revealed that upward pricing pressure for semiconductors outpaced every other item monitored last month, with its “index reaching a fresh record high of 28.3.” Simultaneously, it recorded significant leaps in the price of crucial microelectronics raw materials like aluminum and copper.

The consultancy also stated manufacturers’ uncertainties about microelectronics supply constraints hit a four-month high of 7.4. It supported its finding by explaining that recent COVID-19 outbreaks have effectively reversed the electronic components industry’s gradual recovery from the global chip shortage.

Along similar lines, the IMF reportedly intends to lower its global economic forecast for 2022 because of Russia’s war in Ukraine and other uncertainties. The organization reduced its estimate by .5 percent to 4.4 percent in January due to rising inflation and new coronavirus pandemic-related regional lockdowns. It also projected that growth for 2023 would be 3.8 percent, down 2.1 percent from 2021.

Related:

Apple, the world’s most valuable electronics OEM, has curbed its planned 2022 product output in response to predicted soft demand. Nikkei Asia reported the technology giant would make about 20 percent, or 2 million to 3 million, fewer iPhone SEs in Q2 2022 than initially intended. It also slashed its annual AirPod quota by 10 million units this year.

Foxconn in Talks to Build Dual-Line Foundry in Saudi Arabia  

Foxconn, Apple’s primary iPhone assembler, has approached the Saudi Arabian government about building a $9 billion dual-line foundry in-country. The Taiwanese corporation wants to establish the facility in Neom, a smart city development in the Northern Red Sea. If the project is greenlit, the complex will produce silicon wafers, surface mount parts, EV microelectronics, and other components like displays.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Riyadh is considering Foxconn’s offer and performing due diligence. Moreover, Foxconn has also started talks with the United Arab Emirates about building its dual-line factory within its borders.

It also noted that the Saudi government wants certain guarantees before okaying the proposal. Specifically, the kingdom wants assurances that two-thirds of the foundry’s output would be directed toward the company’s global supply chain. That way, it would have a consistent revenue stream to ensure its long-term success.

As of this writing, neither Riyadh nor Foxconn has commented on the $9 billion multipurpose fab.

However, the project offers significant benefits for both the company and the country. For Foxconn, the project would diversify its supply chain and bypass potential flare-ups in China-U.S. trade relations. For Saudi Arabia, owning a stake in a major semiconductor production hub would further its long-term ambitions to break into sectors outside the oil industry.

And for OEMs, Foxconn’s new fab would provide greater stability across the global electronic components supply chain.

March 22, 2022 Update

China’s Tech Champions Push for Digital Sovereignty

Despite being a major national priority for years, China has not yet achieved digital sovereignty. The mainland’s chipmakers cannot design, fabricate, or package cutting-edge microelectronics, so its semiconductor independence is currently impossible. As a result, the country spent $432 billion on importing electronic components in 2021, up 23.6 percent year-over-year.

But the region’s technology champions are making big moves to change that reality.

Luxshare and Goertek, two Apple device assemblers, recently took steps to move into the microchip packaging field. Luxshare is developing systems-in-package components to power its partner’s AirPod wireless earbuds. The Dongguan-based company has already taken on former Universal Scientific Industries (USI) engineers with relevant experience to execute its roadmap.

The two providers hope to win more business from Apple by adding SIP development to their knowledge bases. Though their technology is less advanced than some Taiwanese packagers, being in the mainland makes them a more cost-effective option. Luxshare and Goertek’s move into SIP development also strengthens the Chinese microelectronics supply chain.

In addition, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), China’s largest contract chipmaker, recently revealed that it is in a major revenue growth phase. The pure-play foundry generated $5.4 billion last year, up 53.8 percent from 2020, and brought in $1.22 billion in the first two months of this year. And it is aggressively working to bolster its income through capacity expansion.

Related: Global Electronic Component Shortage – March 2022 Update

The firm is building a $2.3 billion 300mm factory in Shanghai and an $8.87 billion 300mm complex in Shenzhen. Once those facilities are online, its wafer output will rise by 120,000 units per month. While its nodes are not as technologically sophisticated as its overseas rivals, its accessibility is a major market advantage. Also, it has a business relationship with the maker of the world’s most advanced semiconductor manufacturing equipment.

China’s semiconductor ecosystem is also making significant progress on the chip design front.

Earlier this month, Dr. Rui Wang, SVP and Chair of Intel China, offered intriguing commentary on the sector’s future. “So far there has not been any local companies that can deal a substantial threat to Intel,” Dr. Wang said. “But in 3-5 years, it will become clear that local companies will emerge as strong rivals.”

DigiTimes pointed out several Chinese firms have had success creating powerful microchips using x86, ARM, and indigenous IC architectures. For example, Huawei’s HiSilicon subsidiary developed mobile device processors that equaled Apple’s iPhone CPUs in performance and capability. But that company lost access to state-of-the-art component fabrication services because of U.S. government-issued technology restrictions.

However, by the end of this decade, China’s tech champions could be laying the groundwork for an independent microelectronics supply chain.  

As it happens, China is not the only region to make a significant push for digital sovereignty recently.

Intel to Invest $36 Billion on EU Production Capacity

Intel announced plans to spend $36 billion to establish and expand production capacity across the European Union last week.

The chipmaker is dedicating $18.6 billion to two large-scale fabs in Madgeburg, Germany, that will utilize advanced manufacturing technology. The company intends to commence construction in the first half of next year and begin production by 2027. The four-year project will create an estimated 3,000 permanent jobs. Pending EU approval, the German government will contribute $5.5 billion to creating the fab.

If everything goes according to plan, Intel’s “Silicon Junction” will produce next-generation 2nm ICs before the decade’s end. That means it will be the most technically sophisticated chip plant on the continent.

The corporation’s European roadmap also includes pouring $13.1 billion into its Irish fab to double its production capacity. Moreover, it will launch an R&D center in France and build fabs in Spain and Poland. And the company is in discussions to develop a $4.9 billion packaging and assembly site in Italy.

Intel’s new financial commitments are part of its €80 billion ($93.9 billion) plan to develop a cutting-edge European semiconductor ecosystem. CEO Pat Gelsinger explained the initiative would enable the IDM to reclaim its technological leadership within the electronic components sector. He also noted it would help the industry diversify its supply ecosystem.

At present, Taiwan’s contract foundries make 60 percent of the world’s microchips. While that resource concentration has its benefits, it also leaves the global supply chain vulnerable to systemic disruption. However, thanks to Intel’s actions, tomorrow’s supply chain will be much less centralized and significantly more robust.

March 15, 2022 – Update

Chinese Government to Create Committee to Boost Chipmaking Capabilities

The Chinese government plans to launch a committee made of domestic and oversee chipmakers and local universities to bolster its chipmaking capabilities. The country’s Ministries of Commerce and Industry and Information will spearhead the program. Tsinghua University, Peking University, the Chinese Academy of Sciences will likely participate alongside national technology champions SMIC, its biggest contract chipmaker, and Xiaomi, its top smartphone vendor.

Chinese President Xi Jinping wants the public-private organization to cultivate China’s digital sovereignty, meaning domestic electronic components supply chain.

Nikkei Asia reported the “cross-border semiconductor work committee” will seek the cooperation of Intel, AMD, Infineon Technologies. The group also wants ASML, the world’s foremost advanced microelectronics manufacturing equipment vendor, to join the initiative. Beijing intends to launch the organization sometime in the first half of 2022.

However, ongoing geopolitical tensions between China and the United States could thwart the committee’s goals. The U.S. Department of Commerce placed SMIC on its Entity List, which means it cannot buy advanced semiconductor fabrication technology. Similarly, the Dutch government prevented ASML from selling its cutting-edge tools in China due to concerns about its use for military applications.

On the other hand, Intel reportedly generated 26 percent of its 2020 revenue from China. Likewise, ASML derived 16 percent of its 2021 income from the East Asian country. Potentially, those two firms could broker a deal to share their mature node technologies with their overseas counterparts. Regardless, given Beijing’s support, the semiconductor work committee will be worth keeping an eye on.

Bosch Expands Production Capacity

Bosch recently announced it would expand the production capacity of its Reutlingen, Germany fab in response to the global chip shortage. The company will spend €205 million ($283 million) to create 3,600 square feet of clean room space at the facility. It is also constructing a new building on the campus to support its new and existing media supply systems.

The manufacturer expects its fab expansion to come online in 2025.

Bosch’s new capacity will utilize 150mm and 200mm wafer technologies to make products with automotive and consumer electronics applications. The firm indicated it would also address the growing demand for silicon carbide (SiC) microelectronics related to the vehicle electrification trend.

While market experts believe the chip shortage will be over by 2023, this new capacity will be invaluable to tomorrow’s supply ecosystem.

Intel Expresses Interest in Arm Ownership Consortium

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger recently touched on the corporation’s long-term plans during its investor’s day event. The executive explained that the company intends to boost its gross margin from 52 percent this year to 58 percent by 2026. He also forecasted that the firm’s revenue would rise by 10 to 12 in that same time frame. If the IDM becomes part of China’s semiconductor working committee, its income projections would be more than reasonable.

Most intriguingly, Gelsinger also said Intel is interested in joining a consortium that would own Arm.

Until last month, Nvidia looked to become the renowned design house’s new corporate parent. In 2020, it announced plans to buy the firm from Japanese investment firm Softbank Group for $40 billion. It viewed Arm as a worthwhile investment because Apple, Amazon, Google, and Tesla use its chip architecture. However, the deal ultimately fell apart due to mounting regulatory scrutiny in America and the United Kingdom.

Government watchdogs questioned if Nvidia’s ownership of Arm would undercut its partnerships with other tech firms.

However, if the consortium owned the chip design company, that could alleviate competition regulators’ concerns. It would also help Intel’s foundry services division to have access to industry-leading component architecture. Given Intel’s interest in spending big to expand its market share, investing in an association to buy Arm makes a lot of sense.

March 8, 2022 – Update

TSMC to Spend $20.94 Billion on Capacity Expansions and Upgrades

TSMC, the world’s largest contract manufacturer, authorized spending $20.94 billion on expanding and upgrading its production capacity. The firm also approved the issuance of $3.26 billion in unsecured corporate bonds to support its plans further. In January, the company announced it would spend $40 billion to $44 billion this year bolstering its fabrication capabilities.

On the bright side, TSMC’s new capital allocation will enable it to fill orders from partners like AMD, Intel, and Nvidia.

Traditionally, the process of building and equipping new fabs can take several years due to construction and shipping times. But the Taiwanese chipmaker has established new component factories in as little as 12 months in the past.

Related: Sourcengine’s Semiconductor Industry Lead Time Report

The corporation’s newly sanctioned expenditure could help it make up for lost time with its Phoenix, Arizona chip factory. Last month, Nikkei Asia reported the complex fell three to six months behind schedule because of COVID-19 flareups and labor shortages. That means the facility will not commence operations in March 2023 instead of September 2022 as intended.

In addition, TSMC’s new production lines are unlikely to address the supply constraints fueling the global component shortage. The firm revealed that 80 percent of its 2022 capex would go to expanding its advanced nodes, meaning 7nm and below. Consequently, it will not significantly increase its capacity for the mature manufacturing processes used to make badly needed MCUs and analog chips.  

Still, the company will protect itself and its customers from future disruptions by enhancing its production resources.

Toyota Supplier Cyberattack Prompts 14 Factory Temporary Shutdown  

Toyota closed 14 factories for one day after one of its suppliers, Kojima Industries Corp., suffered a cyberattack earlier this month. The Tokyo-based carmaker revealed that the disruption of 28 production lines slashed its daily output by 13,000 automobiles. Malwarebytes reported that Hino Motors and Daihatsu, Toyota affiliates headquartered in Japan, shuttered their plants because of the cyberattack.

Kojima, a plastic components and electronic parts vendor, has not disclosed the extent of the hack or the type of malware used. However, the company did reveal it found a threatening message written in English on a server.

So why did the world’s largest automaker briefly close over a dozen factories because of a supplier problem? After all, its vendor ecosystem includes more than 60,000 companies. The issue is Toyota runs its plants under an inventory management system called just-in-time (JIT), which it adopted in the 1950s.

That means its facilities cannot keep its production lines running if shipments are interrupted.

The corporation found great success with the methodology, which requires plans to hold minimal or no stock to maximize efficiency. As the car company became a major player in the worldwide automotive sector, its rivals replicated its approach. However, Toyota’s once-revolutionary practices left it particularly vulnerable to the impact of the global chip shortage.

Last summer, the corporation began shuttering its assembly centers due to widespread component availability challenges. The firm estimated the bottleneck prevented it from making 20,000 vehicles at its domestic factories in 2021.

Over a decade ago, Toyota changed tact in response to the 2011 Fukushima disaster by providing its factories with 2 to 6 months’ worth of components. Theoretically, the chip shortage and cyberattack will prompt the company to reevaluate its supply practices.  

March 1, 2022 – Update

Why Intel is Buying Tower Semiconductor for $5.4 Billion  

Intel announced it would buy Tower Semiconductor for $5.4 billion earlier this month, a significant premium on the Israeli chipmaker’s previously estimated $3.6 billion value. The American corporation anticipates the transaction will close within 12 months, barring regulatory complications. Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger commented that the purchase would expand its portfolio and bolster its foundry services business in a press release.

Although the semiconductor company’s reasoning makes sense, its newly declared acquisition breaks with its recent strategic moves.

Last year, Intel unveiled its IDM 2.0 initiative, a program designed to bring the firm back to the forefront of the electronic components industry. The project entails spending billions of dollars to expand its manufacturing capacity significantly worldwide. It also involves the company using its new resources to accept orders from other chipmakers. So far, it unveiled plans to establish new largescale chip factories in Arizona, Ohio, and Europe to support its foundry service roadmap.

But in snapping up Tower, Intel will expand its specialty semiconductor assets instead of its state-of-the-art capabilities.

Tower maintains five fabs across Israel, Italy, and the U.S. that produce PMICs, CMOS sensors, analog RF parts, and display chips. It also has a controlling stake in three Japanese facilities that manufacture analog, CIS, SOI, and power discrete microelectronics. That capacity enabled it to rank as the world’s ninth-largest pure-play foundry by revenue in Q4 2021.

While Intel will not outpace TSMC and Samsung because of its tie-up with Tower, it will own a bigger slice of a lucrative market. TrendForce pointed out the corporation will gain 6.2 percent of the world’s 8-inch wafer capacity in the deal. The market research group expects the transaction will help it improve its position in the automotive, industrial, mobile device markets.

Plus, in the post-global chip shortage landscape, any transaction that involves the acquisition of component factories is worth pursuing.

Intel’s deal will also further its ambition to cultivate production resources outside Asia.

Intel reportedly tried to buy GlobalFoundries for $30 billion for similar reasons last summer, but a deal failed to materialize. Its purchase of Tower provides many of the same benefits with a lower cost and fewer regulatory hurdles. It will also help the semiconductor firm address a predicted paradigm shift occurring in the vehicle sector.

Gartner: 50 Percent of Auto OEMs to Develop Chips In-House By 2025

Gartner recently published a piece identifying five automotive technology trends that will shape that industry in 2022. The consulting firm forecasts that half of the world’s top 10 automotive OEMs will be designing chips in-house by 2025. It lists the global push toward vehicle electrification and autonomous operation as key contributors to the change.

However, Gartner noted chip shortages are the primary driver of auto part companies taking a page out of Big Tech’s playbook.

Gaurav Gupta, research VP at Gartner, explained that automobile component vendors are moving to reduce supply chain complexity. “In most cases, chip makers are traditionally Tier 3 or Tier 4 suppliers to automakers, which means it usually takes a while until they adapt to the changes affecting automotive market demand.” He explained that vehicle sector OEMs would gain much greater visibility by taking microelectronics development in-house.

Related: Automakers moving away from JIT inventory model post-global chip shortage

Moreover, outsourcing custom chip production has never been easier.

Last November, Samsung, the world’s second-largest foundry service provider, committed to tripling its global production capacity by 2026. Later that month, it announced it would establish a $17 billion fab in Texas to support its American clients better. Similarly, TSMC, the world’s top contract chipmaker, declared it would spend $100 billion over the next three years to ramp up its manufacturing capabilities. It also set its 2022 capex at $40 billion to $44 billion, up from $30 billion in 2021.

Automotive OEMs will have their pick of service providers in a few years’ time due to all the foundry sector competition. However, Intel may have the edge over its rivals thanks to its acquisition of Tower. The Israeli chipmaker’s 8-inch wafer fabrication resources are ideal for tackling manufacturers’ mature component orders.

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February 22, 2022 – Update

Nintendo Switch Sales Significantly Undercut by Chip Shortage

Earlier this month, Nintendo revealed it would miss its annual sales goal for its Switch console by 1 million units. The corporation anticipated moving 24 million gaming systems in the fiscal year ending March 2022, but it revised its forecast due to the global chip shortage. It also revealed that purchases of its flagship product fell 21.4 percent annually in the nine months ending December 2021.

Nintendo also stated it had no visibility regarding the end of its component sourcing difficulties.

The Japanese company is one of many video game industry players that could not meet demand last holiday season. Sony recently lowered its PlayStation 5 fiscal year sales projection from 14.8 million units to 11.5 million. Microsoft has encountered similar procurement issues with its Xbox Series S|X consoles since launching them in November 2020.

Kantan Games, a consultancy, expects Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft’s supply issues to remain a consistent problem until 2023.

At present, chip sector leaders expect that the microelectronics bottleneck will start easing up in the second half of this year. But contemporary gaming systems require a unique mix of customer premium processors and highly in-demand PMICs. Plus, the comparatively small production orders for popular hardware mean console components are less of a priority for contact foundries.

For instance, Nintendo recently announced that its Switch lineup had moved 103.54 million units since its launch in 2017. But Apple moved an estimated 40 million iPhone 13s since it went on sale in September 2021. Consequently, popular gaming hardware might not be widely available until sometime next year.

Consequently, dedicated gamers may need to face the unconscionable and touch some grass in 2022.

GlobalWafers to Invest $3.6 Billion in Expanding Capacity

GlobalWafers, one of the world’s largest silicon wafer manufacturers, recently revealed it would spend $3.6 billion to expand its production capacity through 2024.

DigiTimes reported the corporation would spend $2 billion to establish a new fab and $1.6 billion enhancing its existing sites. It intends to develop new 200m and 300m production lines and diversify its output to include silicon carbide (SiC), gallium nitride on silicon (GaN on Si), and silicon on insulator (SOI) wafers.

The company expects to start bringing its new fabrication resources online in 2H2023.

GlobalWafers’s declaration follows its failed $4.89 billion acquisition of Siltronic, a German wafer supplier. The two corporations announced their merger in 2021 and aimed to close it before that year’s end. But the deal collapsed because European regulators did not approve it before its January 31 deadline.

Nevertheless, both providers are moving on from their unsuccessful tie-up with a positive perspective.

Siltronic CEO Christoph von Plotho recently commented that the transaction no longer made financial sense for his company following the post-COVID digitalization boom. Similarly, GlobalWafers CEO Doris Hsu expressed excitement about pursuing the manufacturer’s new roadmap. Also, continued competition in the wafer fabrication space should benefit chipmakers in terms of materials pricing and availability.

February 15, 2022 Update

EU Gives Domestic Chip Sector $49 Billion Boost

The European Union recently adopted the European Chips Act to bolster the region’s digital sovereignty and microelectronics production resources. Most notably, the legislation set aside €43 billion ($49 billion) in private-public capital to boost its local chip sector. It aims to make the trade bloc responsible for producing 20 percent of the world’s electronic components by 2030.

Related: What the Global Semiconductor Supply Chain Could Look Like in 2030

However, the specifics of the EU’s plans could blunt its impact.

The European Chips Act includes €15 billion ($17 billion) in government and business funding for semiconductor research and development. It also features €30 billion ($34.2 billion) in previously announced chip sector support initiatives. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen explained the body designed the initiative to establish advanced IC manufacturing capacity within the continent.

Von der Leyen also noted COVID-19 and the global chip shortage emphasized the need for greater microelectronics infrastructure in Europe.

While the EU’s ambitions are laudable, its current framework is more of a first time than a comprehensive strategy.

The plan only provides €5 billion ($5.7 billion), or 15 percent of the overall proposal, in direct government funding. The legislation calls on the EU’s member states to approve the Act and put up the bulk of its financing. The bloc’s member countries might have different priorities, so the program might encounter significant roadblocks.

Nevertheless, the region is still evolving into a major semiconductor production hub in the coming years.

Last summer, TSMC, the world’s leading contract foundry, said it was reviewing the possibility of building a new fab in Germany. Bosch, a leading automotive component manufacturer, opened a €1 billion ($1.21 billion) component factory in June and is investing €400 million ($451.8 million) in expanding its capacity. Plus, Intel declared its intention to create a $100 billion microchip ecosystem in Europe, including potentially constructing two factories in Belgium, France, Germany, or the Netherlands.

Hopefully, the European Chips Act will entice other corporations to support the region’s future digitalization.

Semiconductor Industry Labor Shortage

The EU is not the only region that has recently made a significant commitment to bolstering its electronic component capabilities. Earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the America COMPETES Act to provide $52 billion in semiconductor sector subsidies. Similarly, the Indian government approved a $10 billion proposal to kickstart its domestic microelectronics production.  

Ironically, these initiatives, created to address the vulnerabilities highlighted by the global chip bottleneck, are driving another kind of shortage.

Related: Sourcengine’s Semiconductor Industry Lead Time Report

Eightfold, a talent intelligence provider, estimates the United States needs to increase its IC sector workforce by 70,000 to 90,000 people to meet its critical application semiconductor needs. Moreover, it believes the country needs 300,000 new component production experts to achieve self-sufficiency. America is not the only region that must significantly increase its chip industry labor force to address post-pandemic demand.

The Wall Street Journal reported Taiwan, a global leader in microelectronics production, is facing a similar challenge. 104 Job Bank, a human resources company, found the area’s components segment had a 27,700-worker shortfall, up 44 percent year-over-year. Notably, its labor shortage has surged even though wages have reached a decade high.

Some of the world’s leading chipmakers have also highlighted the shallowness of the skilled labor pool recently.

Related: The Sourcengine Engineer’s Scholarship

Intel EVP Ann Kelleher told Congress that the U.S. needs to expand its semiconductor workforce to staff its new fabs appropriately. ASML, a Dutch manufacturer of cutting-edge microelectronics production equipment, anticipated staffing needs will grow by 10 percent annually amid rising demand. GlobalFoundries, a leading contract manufacturer, expects the already competitive American labor market will remain tight for several years.

Thankfully, the industry is taking action to rectify its labor issues.

Last spring, Taiwanese leaders passed legislation to support the area’s technology sector, which led to multiple universities launching IC-focused colleges. In Mainland China, several higher education institutions, including Peking University, created chip-centric colleges as part of a national push toward digital sovereignty. And the America COMPETES Act sanctions billions of dollars in federal spending on training and STEM education.

Currently, demand for skilled semiconductor industry workers dramatically outstrips supply. Hopefully, the last two years have convinced the world’s governments and chipmakers that supporting the sector long-term is a global priority.

February 8, 2022 Update

AlixPartners, a consulting firm, estimated that the global chip shortage cost the automotive industry $210 billion in lost revenue last year. The component crush forced the sector’s most prominent providers to shutter their factories because they could not complete their vehicle assemblies.

Recently, several leading automakers have detailed how the ongoing bottleneck will impact their operations in 2022. Across the board, the segment’s top companies believe the shortfall will affect their business in the short term. But they also share a belief that a major turnaround is coming.

Toyota Wants to Stage a Major Comeback in 2022

Toyota announced plans to roll out 11 million automobiles in the 2022 fiscal year, a 20 percent annual increase.

The Japanese corporation intends to ramp up production as time goes by, aiming to produce a record 1 million units in April. It expects to make more personal transports by working with its suppliers to create more extensive IC stockpiles. Though an innovator of the just-in-time model in the vehicle space, it changed tactics following the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

Unfortunately, Toyota’s reach may exceed its grasp.

Nikkei Asia revealed its output would decline by 20 percent this month because adequate IC quantities are not available. The publication also noted one of its midsize suppliers is grappling with a worker shortage. The manufacturer’s labor force has diminished due to rising COVID infection rates, and national entry restrictions are preventing its overseas recruitment efforts.

Although Toyota admitted reaching its production goal would be “extremely difficult,” its plans are not unfeasible.

The corporation sold more cars in the U.S. than any other company, a feat no foreign provider had ever achieved. If any vehicle manufacturer can set a sales record amid a historical materials shortage, it would be Toyota.

Volkswagen Cuts Shifts at Main Auto Plant

Volkswagen decided to slash almost all night shifts at its main plant in Wolfsburg, Germany, due to the component shortage.

The motor company will initiate the cutback in the second quarter on three of the facility’s four assembly lines. It made the change because the bottleneck previously forced it to lay off staffers or abruptly curtail production work. Last January, it furloughed 10,000 workers due to a lack of in-stock microelectronics.

In addition, a recent COVID-19 flare-up in China exacerbated VW’s sourcing difficulties.

The firm operates two factories in Tianjin with FAW Group, one for cars and another for chips. It closed the facilities on January 10 after both recorded new cases of the respiratory illness. Two weeks later, the complexes reopened as their respective workers had completed coronavirus testing.

VW said it anticipates that the chip shortage will last through 2022 but will ease by mid-year. It anticipates creating better forecasts in 2023 as additional production capacity will have come online.

The corporation’s projections dovetail with its plans to capitalize on the demand for electric vehicles in the world’s largest auto market.

Last year, VW sold 70,625 battery-powered vehicles in China, a big miss of its 80,000 to 100,000 sales goal. Its growth in the region suffered due to COVID-19 and chip crunch-related assembly problems. But by 2023, the company and its partners will operate three plants with a total annual throughput of 1 million units in the country.

Ford Cutting Vehicle Production At 8 Factories

Ford declared it would cut production at eight of its North American factories in response to insufficient IC supplies. However, despite its current situation, it expects to do strong business in 2022.

The automaker suspended vehicle assemblies at its Chicago, Michigan, and Cuautitlan, Mexico facilities on February 7. It paused the production of its iconic F-150 pickup trucks at its Kansas City complex and is ramping down work at its Dearborn and Oakville, Canada plants, as well as both of its Louisville sites.

Related: Global Electronic Component Shortage - February 2022 Update

On the plus side, Ford anticipates increasing its vehicle rollouts in 2H22 to address healthy consumer interest in its EV fleet.

The firm has taken 275,000 orders for its F-150 Lightning pickup trucks, Mustang Mach-E crossover SUVs, and Transit vans. Consequently, its long-term strategy involves betting big on the electrification trend. It wants to make 600,000 EVs annually by 2023, doubling its current capacity.

The manufacturer also recently tapped contract chipmaker GlobalFoundries to produce its parts alongside TSMC, its existing service provider.  

Hyundai Aiming for 12 Percent Growth in 2022

Hyundai took a significant financial hit from a global chip shortage last year, but it sees a recovery on the horizon in 2022.

The company aims to grow its business by 12.1 percent this year, even with the lingering effects of the component crunch. In tandem with its subsidiary Kia, it intends to move 7.47 million automobiles in 2022. Its roadmap to that destination includes stabilizing its supply chain, boosting its yields, and enhancing its EV fleet.

That outlook represents a significant change from 2021; it sold 6.67 million units last year, 3.7 percent less than planned. Its procurement issues contributed to its Q4 2021 profits dipping by 50 percent from the year prior.

Related: Sourcengine Q1 2022 lead time report highlights

The South Korean giant stated Omicron variant-related disruptions would continue disrupting its operations in the first quarter. But it anticipates the chip crunch becoming less intense in Q2 and a return to supply-chain normalcy in Q3. Its leaders believe those developments will enable it to boost its annual sales by 20 percent in its primary market, North America.

Further out, Hyundai reportedly intends to bolster its component ecosystem through a new partnership with Samsung.

The corporation sourced memory modules for its vehicles from the conglomerate in the past. But in the future, it might contract the chipmaker to fabricate other automotive-grade ICs using its advanced nodes. As of this writing, neither firm has publicly confirmed plans to form a new alliance.

Even so, OEMs, CMs, and EMS providers should be aware that change is coming to the semiconductor industry.

EVs require around 2,000 microelectronic devices to function, roughly double the amount of gas-powered cars. As more top automakers push to electrify their fleets, they will increase their component purchases. That means their suppliers will consume more production line space to fill their orders, making procurement more challenging for companies in other sectors. Professional buyers should prioritize supply chain diversification as soon as possible to stay ahead of the curve.

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January 31, 2022 Update

The global chip shortage happened because demand for electronic components vastly exceeds available production capacity. Thankfully, the industry’s leading chipmakers are working to address that problem by building new factories as quickly as possible.

Even better, many national governments are pushing to bring fabs to their countries, making the microelectronics supply chain more diverse. That development is important because recent COVID-19 flareups highlighted the risks of concentrating too many manufacturing clusters in one region. Even before the shortage began, rising international trade tensions showed the importance of launching new facilities in new areas.

Along those lines, leaders and companies in mainland China and India are taking steps to make their regions prominent IC production hubs.

China’s Rapidly Expanding Chip Ecosystem

According to the South China Morning Post, microchip production by Chinese companies surged by 33 percent year-over-year in 2021. The East Asian country chipmakers fabricated 359.4 million electronic parts at their domestic and overseas plants. As a result, the superpower ranked as the world’s third-largest seller of components behind America and South Korea.

China’s massive 2021 component output spike is a huge milestone for its public-private drive to establish semiconductor independence. That said, it still is a long way to go to reach that goal.

For one thing, none of the region’s microelectronics manufacturers can produce cutting-edge ICs. Because its component technologies are lagging edge, it is still highly dependent on foreign providers to meet its needs. Last year, the nation imported $432 billion in chips, up 23.6 percent from 2020. Its semiconductor spending will remain significant until it establishes a greater, more advanced chip manufacturing ecosystem.

However, Beijing’s efforts to develop robust domestic chip resources are paying off better than the Cincinnati Bengals drafting Joe Burrow.

Related: What the Global Semiconductor Supply Chain Could Look Like in 2030

The national government’s cash grants, tax abatements, and land discounts have seeded fertile ground for local and international entrepreneurs. Over the last 12 months, 105,000 semiconductor sector businesses opened up shop in the country. Alibaba and Tencent, two of its national technology champions, recently unveiled their first self-designed hardware. Plus, it launched 28 fab construction projects last year, supported by $26 billion in funding.  

Industry experts estimated China produced 9 percent of the world’s IC in 2020 and that its market share would reach 17.4 percent by 2024. Just a few years ago, that projection felt almost overly enthusiastic, but today it seems too cautious.

India Invests $10 Billion in Its Future

India is another region that recently moved to better its position in the global semiconductor ecosystem.

In mid-December, New Delhi approved a ₹760 billion ($10.1 billion) package to incentivize chipmakers to create local production nodes. The fund will cover half the cost of establishing front-end capacity in-country, like new wafer fabs. It also offers financial support to cultivate new local talent and firms looking to set up back-end manufacturing facilities.

Moreover, India’s microelectronics program includes creating domestic industrial parks that feature ample water, energy, and transportation resources. That is especially crucial as Nikkei Asia reported a lack of production infrastructure stood as a significant obstacle to attracting leading component manufacturers.

But the South Asian republic is pushing to overcome that hurdle with the power and grace of Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase.

That said, the Indian government correctly views building the national semiconductor ecosystem as a complex, multi-year process.

Luckily, New Delhi’s efforts are resonating with local businesses. Vedanta, a natural resources conglomerate, recently declared its intention to break into the microelectronics field. The corporation aims to begin fabricating 28mm and 65mm wafers at a volume of 40,000 units per month in its home market by 2026.

Vedanta is investing in older manufacturing processes because that is where it sees the market potential in India. AvanStrate, a glass substrate manufacturer and a Vedanta subsidiary, is spearheading its parent company’s semiconductor initiative. It intends to fabricate ICs with applications in the consumer electronics and automotive segments.

At present, India is 100 percent dependent on outside vendors for its microelectronic. But China’s success in developing a vibrant domestic electronic components ecosystem proves that what India wants is achievable. Like the Cincinnati Bengals heading to the Super Bowl, India is ready to show the world the impossible can become doable.

January 24, 2022 Update

Earlier this month, ASML Holdings disclosed that a fire broke out at its Berlin, Germany factory that could affect its equipment deliveries. But like John Wick in the third act of the movie, the corporation is driven to make a comeback.

The equipment manufacturer revealed it would greatly expand its headcount to better address the impact of the global chip shortage on January 19.

In more expensive news, ASML announced plans to supply Intel with a next-generation lithography machine that costs over $380 million.

ASML to Add 3,500 Employees by Year’s End

During a recent interview, ASML CEO Peter Winnick discussed the firm’s outlook on the components sector.

He explained that the manufacturer aims to hire 3,500 new workers to meet chip shortage prompted demand. Last year, it added 6,000 people to its headcount for the same reason. It also started delaying its testing procedures to expedite its deliveries. The corporation anticipates its army of workers will correct that imbalance in two to three years.

ASML’s chief executive also offered new details on the blaze that hit its Berlin factory. Though the fire affected 200 square meters of the plant, it will not “significantly impact” its 2022 production schedule. OEMs should not see significant delays in their sourcing of next-generation microelectronics, thanks to its efforts.

However, Winnick warned that the semiconductor industry’s push to expand capacity could create an oversupply glut by the middle of the decade.

Relatedly, DigiTimes recently estimated global fab equipment revenue would hit a record $98 billion in 2022, up 10 percent year-over-year. While a lot of money is being poured into expanding production capacity, demand remains incredibly strong. Market intelligence firm Gartner recently reported electronic components sales hit $583.2 billion last year.

The semiconductor market’s robust continued growth suggests the post-COVID digitalization wave will not crest until the third Robert Pattinson Batman movie hits theaters.

ASML and Intel Team Up to Advance Chipmaking Technology to Infinity and Beyond

In addition, ASML announced that Intel had arranged to purchase its next-generation extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV) machines. The manufacturer pledged to deliver a High NA TWINSCAN EXE:5200 system to the chipmaker in 2025. The new tool features a more precise aperture, decreased complexity, and reduced energy usage and cycle time than current generation EUV machines. It is also a productivity beast capable of fabricating more than 200 silicon wafers per hour.

In practical terms, the TWINSCAN EXE:5200 offers enhanced chip performance, faster throughput, and better production yields.

Intel intends to begin mass production using the system in 2025.

The Dutch corporation has had a consistent partner in the American chipmaker in its quest to advance EUV tech. In 2018, it sold the firm a TWINSCAN EXE:5000 system, its next-gen lithography system prototype. The manufacturer stated it would deliver the high-end equipment to its customers in 2023.

Reuters revealed ASML, the sole vendor of EUV tools, is charging a premium rate for its new products. The firm’s current generation machines retail for around $169.5 million, and the EXE:5000 sells for about $339.1 million. ASML CTO Roger Dassen said the EXE:5200 units cost “significantly” more than $384.3 million.

Although the cost of innovation is high, Intel has a significant incentive to pay the manufacturer’s eye-watering fees. Though it is still the world’s leading IDM, its East Asian rivals have developed far more advanced production tech. Its inability to make advanced hardware led it to book space in TSMC’s 3nm production lines.

However, if Intel can utilize ASL’s innovative High NA equipment to its full potential, it could regain its standing as the semiconductor industry’s top provider. Plus, since the corporation is pursuing a dominant position in a half a trillion-dollar market, a $384 million investment makes sense.

How ASML’s Factory Fire Could Undermine the Global Chip Shortage Recovery

ASML is the sole manufacturer of state-of-the-art lithography machines chipmakers use to create sub-7nm components. The corporation’s technology enables the world’s tech giants to make components for their bestselling smartphones and computers. Last year, it posted record revenues as chipmakers and foundries spent an estimated $87.8 billion to buy new semiconductor production equipment, expenditures driven by the global chip shortage.

Unfortunately, a recent fire at ASML’s Berlin, Germany plant could undermine the industry’s recovery efforts.

The Dutch company revealed the blaze disrupted the fabrication of its deep (DUV) and extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography machines. It anticipates the production of its DUV tools will not be impacted but is unsure of its EUV equipment output. Potentially,  the firm’s deliveries could be delayed and curtail its customers’ capacity expansion plans.

Consequently, OEMs, CMs, and EMS providers might struggle to source certain premium processors and memory chips later this year.

That said, ASML maintains an extensive manufacturing network, so it could use another facility to fill the affected orders. Plus, TrendForce reports that it takes 12 to 18 months to make its EUV machines, meaning the fire might only minimally affect its supply chain. Hopefully, this incident will only be a bump in the road chip’s sector recovery. At this point, the entire industry is overdue for a win.

TSMC to Give Major Chipmakers a Manufacturing Boost in 2022

With the bad news out of the way; TSMC, the world’s biggest contract foundry, will make next-generation products for AMD and Intel later this year.

AMD CEO Dr. Lisa Su revealed the chipmaker would begin selling Zen 4 chipsets made using TSMC’s 5nm node in 2022. She also noted its products would be made with bleeding-edge manufacturing and packaging processes to enable high-performance computing. DigiTimes reported the firm would utilize the foundry’s 3D SoC tech for its recently announced Ryzen 7 5800X3D desktop processors at its Chunan, Taiwan-based factory in 2H22.

Ideally, AMD will be able to keep its new hardware consistently in stock with TSMC’s robust support.

In addition, TSMC plans to commence mass production with its N3 node in Q4 2022. The corporation’s 3nm process can make components with 70 percent greater logic density, 30 percent lower power consumption, and 15 percent more processing speed than its 5nm chips. This year, it will deploy its technology to serve Apple, its biggest client, followed by AMD, Broadcom, MediaTek, and Nvidia in 2024.

TMSC also plans to use its 3nm node to make products for Intel before year’s end, likely because the firm is its second-largest customer. The contract manufacturer is also converting production space at a Hsinchu plant to fabricate chipmaker’s offerings. The former research and development facility site can put out 20,000 silicon wafers per month.

Together, AMD, Intel, and TSMC are opening up the bottleneck that has gripped the semiconductor industry since late 2019.

But wait, there’s more!

Intel’s Plans to Establish a European Chip Ecosystem

Although Intel is outsourcing its next-gen hardware, it is also working on expanding its manufacturing resources.

Last month, Reuters reported the chipmaker and the Italian government are “intensifying talks” about building a chip plant within the country. Once operational, the $9 billion plant will use advanced packaging technology to produce high-performance components.

Bloomberg noted Intel is looking at Sicily as a potential building site. The corporation intends to establish a large-scale fab in Germany, with Saxony-Anhalt and Bavaria as possible locations. It also wants to create a new research and development facility in the French cities of Paris or Grenoble.

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger declared that his corporation would create a $94 billion European semiconductor ecosystem over the next decade. Gelsinger previously said public funding would expedite its capacity expansion. But the firm’s high-level government negotiations and $28 billion planned capital expenditure suggest it is eager to break ground sooner rather than later.

The world’s foremost IDM would benefit in multiple ways from creating a leading-edge chip supply chain in Europe.

The chipmaker would become more competitive with Samsung and TSMC by establishing new advanced labs and factories. It would also appeal to component companies and OEMs that want geographically diffuse supply options. The U.S.-China trade war, the global chip crunch, and disruptive COVID-19 outbreaks have highlighted why it is a monumentally bad idea to concentrate most of the world’s chip factories in one region.

Plus, the coffee over there is infinitely better than the brews produced in the United States.

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