Top 8 Predictions for the Semiconductor Industry in 2023 [Part 1]

March 1, 2023
Top 8 Predictions for the Semiconductor Industry in 2023 [Part 1]
According to TrendForce, mature manufacturing processes will still account for 76% of the market share in wafer foundries in 2021. In 2022, the annual capacity increase of global wafer foundries will be about 14%, of which about 65% of the 12-inch new capacity will be mature processes (28nm and above).

1. From a global perspective, mature technology is still the mainstream

In the world’s three major wafer foundry giants (TSMC, UMC, GlobalFoundries), mature technology accounts for about 74% of the total production capacity.

TSMC: Mature processes account for about 64% of production capacity and 34% of sales

It is estimated that the production capacity of TSMC is 1.2 million pieces/month (12 inches), the production capacity of 16nm/7nm/5nm is about 13.7/17.8/120,000 pieces, and the production capacity of the advanced process is about 435,000 pieces/month, accounting for 36%. Its mature production capacity will be expanded by 50% by 2025.

UMC: Give up the advanced manufacturing processes and focus on mature technology

UMC announced in 2018 that it would no longer invest in advanced processes below 12nm, and since then has focused on expanding the market in mature processes. At present, UMC’s production capacity is 400,000 pieces per month (12 inches), all of which are concentrated in mature processes. In addition, the company has invested approximately US$3.6 billion in 2021 to expand its 28nm chip production capacity.

GlobalFoundries: Mature process production capacity accounts for about 83%, withdrawing from advanced processes below 10nm

GlobalFoundries announced in 2018 that it would withdraw from the research and development of advanced processes of 10nm and below, and currently has an advanced process of 12nm. It is estimated that the current production capacity of GlobalFoundries is about 200,000 pieces/month (12 inches), and New York fab8 with advanced manufacturing processes accounts for about 17%.

2. Global semiconductor industry policies are entering a period of high-intensity intervention

According to SIA, the semiconductor industry structure (by output value) in 2021 is the United States (46%), South Korea (21%), Japan (9%), Europe (9%), China Taiwan (8%), and China (7%). With the maturity of the semiconductor industry and drastic changes in the competition, global semiconductor industry policies are entering a period of high-intensity intervention, and the policy mainly revolves around the two main lines of “strengthening its own supply chain” and “strengthening R&D efforts”.

3. Chiplet will become an important technology for future industry development

Chiplet will realize the system packaging of multiple module chips and underlying basic chips through Die-to-Die internal interconnection technology for chips that meet specific functions and realize a new form of IP multiplexing. Chiplet is not only the key to the continuation of the post-Moore era but also one of the solutions for the domestic deployment of advanced manufacturing processes, which will become the main line of future industry development.

Chiplets are the key to solving industrial development problems

Chiplets can greatly improve the yield rate of large chips

the huge computing requirements in high-performance computing, AI, etc. have caused the number of transistors in the entire chip to skyrocket, the area of the chip is also increasing, and the loss caused by the inherent defect rate is increasing. Chiplets can be cut into independent small chips, which can effectively improve the yield rate and reduce the cost increase caused by the defective rate.

Chiplets can reduce design complexity and design costs

if a large-scale SoC is decomposed into chips according to different modules, a similar modular design can be reused in different chip products. This can greatly reduce design difficulty and cost, is conducive to the iteration of subsequent products, and accelerate the product launch cycle.

Chiplets can reduce chip manufacturing costs

In SoC, the main logic computing unit relies on advanced processes to improve performance. After using Chiplets, you can choose the appropriate process according to different chips, manufacture them separately, and then assemble them with advanced packaging, which greatly reduces the cost. Chip manufacturing costs.

Chiplet is an important solution for China to break through the technological blockade and layout advanced manufacturing processes

There are three types of chips based on performance

135-28nm chips: 3G mobile phones, home appliances, and consumer electronics industries
14-7nm chip(including chiplet): 4G mobile phone, L2 assisted driving, common cockpit
7-2nm cutting-edge process chips: 5G mobile phones, L5 unmanned driving, advanced cockpit

4. FD-SOI will provide the possibility for China to open the door to an advanced manufacturing process

With the rise of trends such as 5G communication, intelligent driving, and artificial intelligence, SOI technology, with its advantages of high performance and low power efficiency, has driven a substantial increase in the demand for SOI silicon wafers. FD-SOI based on SOI materials is one of the two major technical routes of advanced technology (below 28nm), and it is also one of the solutions for China to break through advanced technology.

A. Two technical routes based on SOI: RF-SOI technology is used in 5G radio frequency chips, and FD-SOI opens advanced processes below 28nm

RF-SOI (radio frequency silicon on insulator): Compared with traditional GaAs and SOS technologies, it not only has lower cost and higher integration but also takes advantage of the SOI material structure. The realized devices have high quality, low loss, and RF performance such as low noise is mainly used in the manufacture of RF front-end chips on smartphones and wireless communication devices.

FD-SOI: FinFET and FD-SOI are two major solutions for the development of advanced processes (below 28nm). The advanced process of the FinFET technology route has brought about problems such as complex processes, numerous processes, and reduced yield, which makes the cost per gate of the process below 28 nm rise instead of falling. The FD-SOI technology route has gradually attracted the attention of the industry.

FD-SOI products manufactured using DUV lithography machines can achieve comparable performance to FinFET products manufactured using EUV lithography machines.

B. Materials: The core technology is mastered by French Soitec

The core technology of 300mm SOI silicon wafers is mastered by Soitec of France, and a few companies such as Shin-Etsu Chemical, SUMCO, and Global Wafer of China Taiwan have production capacity.

C. Foundry: The process is dominated by GlobalFoundries, STMicroelectronics, Samsung, etc.

STMicroelectronics launched the 28nm FD-SOI process platform in 2012 and licensed the technology platform to Samsung in 2014.
GlobalFoundries released the 22nm FD-SOI foundry platform in 2017. As of the end of 2020, it has achieved revenue of US$4.5 billion and delivered more than 350 million chips.
GlobalFoundries’ 12 nm FD-SOI foundry platform, which was put into production in 2018, has almost the same performance as 10 nm FinFET process products, but the power consumption and production cost are lower than 16 nm FinFET process products.

5. RISC-V will lead China’s CPU IP to break through the instruction set blockade

The open positioning of RISC-V is the necessary basis for China’s chips to realize independent control of the entire industry chain. Conditional constraints and technological advantages determine the two-way choice between RISC-V and China’s semiconductor industry. From technical architecture, software, and hardware ecology to mass production applications, China’s RISC-V industry is accelerating toward maturity. With the official entry into the high-performance computing scene in 2023, the CPU IP developed based on RISC-V will become the main line of IP in China in 2023.

6. Anti-globalization continues, and China’s semiconductor internal cycle opens

In 2022, the United States will pass the “American Chip and Science Act”, which targets the semiconductor industry and plans to invest 52.7 billion US dollars in government subsidies within five years. In addition, the “China Guardrail” clause was added to prohibit companies receiving federal funds from substantially increasing the production of advanced process chips in China. This marks that the semiconductor industry will shift from a global division of labor to anti-globalization.

[Part 2]: Top 8 Predictions for the Semiconductor Industry in 2023