Heavyweight chipmakers upgrade to 300mm wafer fabs

October 26, 2001 – Taipei, Taiwan – Chipmakers including Intel and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) plan to retool portions of their 200mm wafer fabs into 300mm wafer facilities to sharpen their competitive edge, according to Financial Times.

The decision to upgrade older facilities rather than go ahead with the construction of new 300mm fabs comes as the global chip sector is saddled with overcapacity. Many chipmakers in the US, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea have shelved plans to build new 300mm fabs in view of the oversupply.

Intel said it will delay the upgrading of an 200mm wafer fab in Ireland for 300mm wafer production, citing insufficient demand. The project completion date, originally set for next year, has been moved back to the 2H03. TSMC retooled its 200mm factory in Tainan Science-based Industrial Park, southern Taiwan, for 300mm wafer production two years ago. The line now turns out 4,500 300mm wafers/month and will be moved to a 300mm factory planned at the Hsinchu Science-based Industrial Park. The 200mm wafer factory is reportedly running at half its monthly capacity of 43,000 wafers.

United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC), Taiwan’s second-largest chip foundry provider, is constructing three 300mm fabs at home and abroad. The company plans to cut its output of 200mm wafers by a third and retool three of its 200mm fabs into 300mm factories. It is estimated to start pilot production at the retooled facilities as early as 2004.

Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing, the world’s third largest chip foundry provider behind TSMC and UMC, also plans to churn out 300mm wafers at a retooled 200mm wafer fab in Singapore at a cost of about $900 million. The company will delay the launch of pilot production at the plant to 2003, a year later than the original date.

ProMos Technologies Inc., a Taiwan-based computer memory maker, began pilot production in August this year at an 200mm wafer fab retooled for 300mm wafer production. The production line uses 0.14-micron process technology.

PowerChip Semiconductor Corp. is one of the few major chipmakers on the island that is slowing its move to 300mm wafer production and increasing 200mm wafer output. The company has delayed the construction of a planned 300mm wafer fab by at least six months and will increase capacities at its 200mm wafer fabs to account for 70% of its revenue next year. The company will upgrade to 0.13-micron process technology in order to stay competitive with rivals. The company previously planned to tool up the 300mm wafer fab in the 1Q02, begin pilot production in the following quarter, and start volume production in the third quarter.


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