IDM or foundry: CanSemi builds on analog, MCU strategy

IDM or foundry: CanSemi builds on analog, MCU strategy

Business news |
By Peter Clarke

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

Samsung is one company striving to act both as an IDM and a foundry so it is possible but Samsung is finding itself having to emphasize and increase the distance between its foundry operations and Samsung branded semiconductor production.

If Richard Chang is leading the project then he appears to be taking on board a lesson from Texas Instruments, where he served for many years prior to forming SMIC. And that lesson is that there are numerous analog circuits that can be made on 300mm-diameter wafers with a cost benefit over 200mm-diameter wafers.

CanSemi points out that China’s domestic manufacturing capacity met less than 50 percent of the analog IC needs of the China semiconductor market. For now, China’s 300mm wafer fabs – meaning SMIC and upcoming memory fabs – are focused on advanced node process development and digital circuits. In other words, there is a domestic market opportunity. The company is looking to the growth of demand for analog and power circuits in automotive and IoT applications.

The question remains will they be served by a foundry, and IDM, or a mixture of both. The company’s motto is “CanSemi: We can.”

Related links and articles:

News articles:

200mm wafer demand driving growth in Asia

How megatrends will drive More-than-Moore wafer usage

SMIC preps the world’s largest 200mm wafer fab

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