Foundries booming near-term but Samsung faces risks

November 23, 2020 // By Peter Clarke
Foundries booming near-term but Samsung faces risks
Semiconductor foundry revenues are expected to rise 23.8 percent year-on-year in 2020, according to market analysis firm TrendForce.

This is the highest rise in ten years and comes because of – rather than despite – the Covid-19 pandemic. Trends such as work-from-home, distance education and telephone infrastructure build-out, have helped drive demand.

As a result wafer supply is tight and is expected to be so at least until some point in the 1H21. For processes below 10nm both TSMC and Samsung, the only two foundries capable of such production, are close to fully loaded. However, in the longer term while TSMC may grow even stronger Samsung could experience customer losses in the foundry business, TrendForce predicts

With 4nm and 3nm processes are expected to arrive in 2021 and 2022 respectively extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography machines are also becoming more sought after.


Annual foundry revenue 2017 to 2021 (millions of US$) and annual growth (percentage). Source: TrendForce.

For mature processes at the 28nm node and above are gradually exhibiting a tight supply, with numerous applications in strong demand – CMOS image sensors, ICs for solid-state drives, RF front-end, WiFi, Bluetooth, and TWS chips. Also WiFi-6 chips and AI memory chips.

Notably, there are almost no semiconductor manufacturing equipment suppliers producing 200mm wafer processing kit at present and the price of this equipment on the second-hand market has skyrocketed (see Used semiconductor equipment broker comes to Europe). As a result 200mm wafer capacity has been in severe shortage in 2020.

This has been impacting supplies of PMICs, used in smartphones and base stations.

Next: TSMC's expansion

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