Intel Ireland is lodging a fresh planning application with Kildare County Council for an estimated $4 billion new chip manufacturing facility at its headquarters in Leixlip.
It is not clear if the project will go ahead as Ireland is competing with other locations, most notably Israel, to land the investment. It received a 10-year permission for the plant in 2013, which its local management said “sits ready to be used when the corporation needs it”.
Since then the standard design of Intel’s “fabs” has changed and new planning approval would be needed.
The latest application is for a smaller facility than the one for which it got permission in 2013, which at the time was estimated could create more than 3,000 jobs during construction and fit out, and would cost $4 billion.
Intel said the new application, as well as reducing the footprint, would also site the proposed manufacturing plant further back from the N4 road. It would also be lower in height than the 2013 version.
The latest application also seeks permission for a car park to hold 2,200 cars, indicating that, if the project proceeded, it would likely provide a significant permanent employment boost to the area.
Apparently Chipzilla Ireland is still waiting on Intel HQ to give the project the nod.
TSMC has signed an agreement with the Nanjing City Government to invest $3 billion building an advanced wafer manufacturing facility in China.
TSMC said in December it planned to set up its first wholly owned advanced fabrication plant in China with a $3 billion investment, highlighting the growing importance of the Chinese market for semiconductor giants.
Now TSMC Chairman Morris Chang has given out some details on the project saying that a 12-inch fab and our design service centre will be established in Nanjing.
“We aim to provide closer support to customers as well as expand our business opportunities in China in step with the rapid growth of the Chinese semiconductor market over the last several years,” said
The new plant will make 20,000 12-inch wafers per month. Production will begin in the second half of 2018.
It was not that easy to get the deal past the Taiwan government. Taiwan has restricted manufacturing activities of its prized semiconductor sector in China, amid political tension between the neighbours. However, competition from China’s fast-growing, though fledgling chip industry has put pressure on Taiwanese companies to widen their mainland footprint.
TSMC had urged authorities to allow 12-inch facilities, which use more advanced technology processes than 8-inch plants, to be wholly owned out of concern for intellectual property protection. TSMC already has a wholly owned 8-inch chip making plant near Shanghai.
Samsung Electronics has written a $9.2 billion to boost capacity at its new South Korean chip plant.
This represents a 64 percent increase over announced investment plans and is its biggest ever commitment to a single production facility.
It is being seen as a move to make semiconductors to offset slowing smartphone earnings.
The plant is scheduled to begin production in 2017 and will make DRAM memory chips and some mobile processors.
A Samsung spokeswoman said the firm has not decided on any additional investments or what products the new plant would make.
The new plant, which will be located in Pyeongtaek south of Seoul, has led to some worries about the industry’s medium-term outlook.
Samsung and SK Hynix have reported robust memory chip earnings in recent quarters, partly because careful capacity management across the industry.
Samsung has always said it will seek sustainable memory chip profit growth, suggesting that it will not initiate a price war.
But the investment does mean that it will be investing shedloads into expansion in what is likely to be DRAM.
Rumours that fashion bag maker Intel might pick up some of Apple’s chip making work might not be such good news, according to Goldman Sachs’ top beancounter.
Barrons reports James Covello dashed off a note to clients that warns that it could harm Intel if it gets some of Apple’s contract manufacturing business.
Apple and Samsung are keen to part company and that means Apple has to find a new contractor to make the chips for its future shiny toys.
But Covello warns that the prospect, he writes, should concern investors if it were to come to pass.
He said that investors were on the blower all the time wondering if Intel becoming Apple’s foundry was a good thing, given Intel’s current excess capacity and manufacturing ability.
Covello said that he has been telling them that it is not because getting Apple’s business would be bad for Intel’s gross margin, at an estimated 25 percent to 30 percent.
This will mean a “drag of about 400 basis points” to Intel’s gross margin, on a blended basis with the rest of Intel’s business. That is assuming that Chipzilla could get a total revenue of perhaps $8.9 billion by 2016 if the deal worked.
His figures are based on estimates from his chum Michael Bang, who predicts Samsung will see as much as 80 percent of its foundry business with Apple go away over the next five years.
The whole deal reminded Covello of how Intel bounced when it started making NAND memory chips with Micron in 2005, only to be followed by an 11.5 per cent fall in the three months that followed.
Covello thinks it would be better for Chipzilla to stop going after foundry businesses, and rein in capacity to boost margins.
Intel could save money on capital investment and capacity and this would help margins to recover to 60 percent plus during the next cycle by keeping its factories full with its own higher-margin MPUs.
Qualcomm has signed up foundry United Microelectronics and Samsung Electronics to supply it with 28nm chips in what appears to be a revolution against its old relationship with TSMC.
According to Taiwan Economic News, the move is designed to help Qualcomm cope with problems that TSMC is having making enough chips for it.
UMC will start supplying Snapdragon S4 processors and 3G/4G baseband chips made using 28nm process in the fourth quarter of 2012.
Apparently UMC is signed up to make 3-5,000 wafers per month which is a third of TSMC’s volumes. The chips have been taped out in a UMC 28-nm CMOS process and passed verification.
The Economic News could not provide any details of the supply deal with Samsung.
Interestingly UMC rushed out and bought a licence for 20nm CMOS process including FinFETs from IBM, which might help its manufacturing process roadmap.
The whole thing looks fairly bad for TSMC which seems to be in Qualcomm’s bad books. Last week Paul Jacobs, CEO of Qualcomm Inc., reportedly said he has not ruled out owning a wafer fab or putting large amounts of cash down to ensure the firm’s supply of semiconductor chips.
TSMC wants to build bigger silicon wafers that could lower the cost of chip production.
The Taiwan government has approved a request by TSMC to build a new 450 millimetre wafer factory in the central part of the island, with the investment amount valued at $8-10 billion.
TSMC warned that technical difficulties will remain in the next five years so people should not get too excited yet.
Bigger wafers could lower chip production costs. At the moment 300 mm is the largest size possible.
Intel also has plans to invest up to $8 billion to expand high-tech manufacturing facilities in Arizona and build a new site in Oregon, which would be able to produce 450mm wafers.
According to Reuters, TSMC Chairman Morris Chang told his AGM that he expects other rivals such as Samsung to be flat out working on a 450mm wafer.
He said that he would like 18 inches, but the technology is not ready yet. If TSMC can overcome something that size, it will be a big breakthrough.
TSMC raised its 2012 capital spending to a record high in April. Apparently it has a cunning plan for big acquisitions to squeeze more dosh out of the booming mobile market.
Chang expected TSMC would gain “lots of” business over the next five years from Japan’s Renesas Electronics to make chips on a contract manufacturing basis.
Intel is expanding its plant in Leixlip, Co Kildare so that it can produce its future generation of chips.
According to the local press, the move secures the future of hundreds of jobs at the Leixlip plant and is likely to lead to the creation of thousands of temporary construction jobs when investment takes place.
Intel announced a $500 million upgrade of its Fab 14 plant in anticipation of a new production line being installed there, but there were fears the expansion project would not go ahead.
Israel had been competing with Ireland to get the extra Intel work. Both governments had been plying Chipzilla with sweeteners until they had diabetes scares.
Two weeks ago, Intel President, Paul Ottelini, told investors in California that Ireland, along with Arizona and Oregon, would be one of three new manufacturing bases for next generation 14 nanometer chips, or their successors.
Intel Ireland has since confirmed that Ireland is now on the parent company’s “roadmap” for the production of future generations of chips.
It is a turn around for Intel which has not invested in producing a new technology in Leixlip since 2004, and it is expected to cost €1 billion to set up. It will take two years to build.
United Microelectronics Corporation is investing in a new $8 billion fab to drive 28nm production and move towards a future generation of 20nm production.
The semi firm broke ground on the factory today, and will start moving towards phases 5 and 6 of production. UMC has already invested $8 billion in its Fab 12A and the next two phases will mean the same amount of money. UMC also has plans for phases 7 and 8 at the plant.
UMC, the main foundry competitor to domestic rival TSMC, is investing a sizeable wad of cash in the 300mm fab at its Tainan, Taiwan complex, in order to expand capacity for 28nm production.
The extra capacity at 28nm will be welcomed in the supply chain, with reports that TSMC has struggled to maintain production at this process size.
Customers such as Qualcomm, AMD and Nvidia ended up switching some orders to UMC after 28nm production delays from TSMC.
Production will also get started for UMC at the 20nm process as foundries try to keep up with Intel’s trailblazing, and will also provide some 14nm capacity when equipment moves during the latter part of 2013.
TSMC has started rolling out a 28-nanometer ARM chip which can run at 3.1GHz.
As CNET has pointed out, this is pretty fast for a mobile chip and while Intel’s higher-end mobile parts are rated close to 3GHz they suck up more juice and are more expensive.
The TSMC chip is a dual-core A9 managed to do its speed feat under under typical conditions. In other words, in a machine and not sitting in a bucket of liquid nitrogen.
TSMC said that its 28-nanometer HPM process was developed for tablet and mobile consumer products. It claims that it’s twice as fast as an equivalent chip built on an older 40nm process.
Using scalable design conditions, ARM A9 at TSMC 28HPM delivers performance speed ranging from 1.5GHz to 2.0GHz and to 3.1GHz, the company said.
Cliff Hou, TSMC Vice President, Research & Development said that the work demonstrates how ARM and TSMC can satisfy high performance market demands.
There is no indication where the chip will end up, or if TSMC has any clients for it.
Any arguments for chip makers not to make their own chips are fast falling by the wayside, according to Chipzilla.
While it is still expensive to build, own and operate fabs, Intel which happens to own rather a lot of them, claims that as process technologies get thinner and processors more sophisticated, the pure play foundry model may fail.
But Intel’s Mark Bohr,who is the director of process architecture & integration and senior fellow of technology and manufacturing group at Intel, told EETimes that the foundry model is collapsing. Chipmakers like Qualcomm will not be able to use TSMC’s single 20nm process.
TSMC recently announced that it would offer only one version of 22nm process technology that would be aimed at both low-power and high-performance devices.
But Intel, which has been manufacturing commercial chips using 22nm process technology for several months, claims that it can create a version of the 22nm manufacturing technology for system-on-chip devices.
It can only do that because it can get under the bonnet of the fabrication processes for chip design. This is not possible for contract chipmakers who need to have a “one size fits all” system.
Bohr claimed that the fact that Intel was an integrated device manufacturer really helps it solve the problems dealing with devices this small and complex.
He thinks that far too many chip designers are fabless, which means that contract makers of semiconductors will have to ensure the best possible process technologies in order to stay competitive.
As a result, process technologies will get better and the foundry industry will prosper in the coming decades. Which means that AMD was probably silly to spin off its fabs.