IDM or foundry: CanSemi builds on analog, MCU strategy

July 27, 2018 // By Peter Clarke
IDM or foundry: CanSemi builds on analog, MCU strategy
There's a startup chip company in China that is building its own 300mm wafer fab to help it address opportunities in analog, power and microcontrollers. But will it be foundry or integrated device manufacturer (IDM) with its own branded ICs?

CanSemi Technology Inc. broke ground on its 300mm wafer fab on December 26, 2017 and claims to have 7 billion yuan (about US$1 billion) of investment available. It will make chips using manufacturing processes from 0.18-micron down to 0.13-micron but what remains unclear is whether CanSemi will be an integrated device manufacturer or a foundry – or will try to fulfil both functions.

The wafer fab site covers 140,000 square meters and manufacturing capacity will ramp up to 40,000 wafer starts per month, the company states on its website. First wafers are expected out in 2019. CanSemi states that it is committed to becoming an international top-tier IDM. It will do that by providing chips for the IoT and automotive markets with product lines in MCUs, PMICs, analog ICs and power discretes.

The company may itself be customer for foundry services in microcontrollers if its own fab is focused on analog manufacturing. It states on the website that it wants to go from being a virtual IDM today to a real IDM in the future.

However, the project is reportedly led by Richard Chang, the founder of China’s largest foundry, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC) and to be funded by the pooling of investments by local fabless chip companies who do so presumably in return for guaranteed supply in a fabless-foundry relationship.

Both cases could be true with fabless orders intended to load the wafer fab initially while it develops its IDM product lines and credentials over time. But it should be pointed that trying to do both could be unsustainable with the potential for conflicts of interest and distrust from potential customers who think information about their projects could leak to the IDM side of the business.

Next: Like Samsung or TI

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