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Small feature size seen to drive foundry sales

Posted: 23 Oct 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:wafer? foundry? 45nm? 16nm?

The leading pure play foundry companies present varying revenue per wafer start (expressed in 200mm equivalents) as shown in Figure 1.

Among the Big 4 pure-play foundries, TSMC is forecast to have the highest revenue per wafer in 2014 at $1,328, 27 per cent higher than GlobalFoundries. UMC's revenue per wafer in 2014 is expected to be only $770, 42 per cent less than TSMC's revenue per wafer. Although the average revenue per wafer of the Big 4 foundries is forecast to be $1,145 in 2014, the actual revenue per wafer is highly dependent upon feature size.

In lieu of this, TSMC plans to increase its capital expenditures to more than $10 billion next year, coinciding with the chip foundry's plan to accelerate its ramp-up to commercially produce 16nm FinFET chips. UMC, on the other hand, is entering into a three-way agreement venturing in a new foundry in Xiamen, China. It will be a joint venture with a total investment of $6.2 billion, aimed at producing 50,000 12-inch wafers a month using 55nm and 40nm process technologies.

Revenue per wafer

Figure 1

Figure 2 shows IC Insights' 2014 forecast of pure-play foundry revenue by feature size. As shown, 60 per cent of TSMC's 2014 revenue is expected to be from devices manufactured using 45nm geometries. As expected, a large portion of GlobalFoundries' wafer fab capacity is dedicated to producing AMD's MPUs, so its process technology is also skewed towards leading edge feature sizes. In 2014, 57 per cent of GlobalFoundries' sales are forecast to be from 45nm production.

Sales by feature size

Figure 2

Although TSMC and GlobalFoundries are expected to have a similar percentage of sales dedicated to 45nm technology in 2014, TSMC is forecast to have almost 6x the dollar volume sales at 45nm as compared to GlobalFoundries this year ($14.8 billion for TSMC and $2.5 billion for GlobalFoundries).

SMIC started manufacturing devices using 45nm technology in early 2012, more than three years after TSMC first put its 45nm process into production. Only 15 per cent of SMIC's 2014 sales are expected to come from devices having 45nm feature sizes, which is the primary reason why its revenue per wafer is so low as compared to TSMC and GlobalFoundries.

The vast majority of the increase in pure-play foundry sales in 2014 is forecast to originate from sales of devices built using 28nm feature sizes. The 28nm pure-play foundry market is expected to increase to $12.3 billion in 2014, a jump of $5.1 billion or 72 per cent as compared to 2013, and account for 29 per cent of total pure-play foundry market share this year. Meanwhile, the market for devices built using >28nm technology, while forecast to represent 71 per cent of total pure-play foundry sales in 2014, is forecast to increase only four per cent this year.

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