Top five chip makers dominate global wafer capacity

Market news |
By Nick Flaherty

Samsung and TSMC dominate global wafer capacity for chip making says the latest report from IC Insights. The top five suppliers account for 54 percent of the wafer market.

The Global Wafer Capacity 2021-2025 report includes the 25 largest wafer capacity leaders in terms of monthly installed capacity in 200mm-equivalents as of December 2020. While there has been focus on TSMC as a pure foundry, Samsung is a significantly larger user of wafers for its memory chips and in-house processors.

Each of the top-five wafer capacity leaders had capacity of at least 1.5 million wafer starts per month. The combined capacity of the top five companies represented 54 per cent of total global wafer capacity in December 2020, up one point from 53 per cent in 2019.

For comparison, it was the top 10 wafer capacity leaders that held 54 percent of total global capacity in 2009 and the top five leaders accounted for 36 percent of capacity.

After the top five, wafer capacity at other semiconductor leaders quickly falls off. Intel (884K wafers/month), UMC (772K wafers/month), GlobalFoundries, Texas Instruments, and SMIC rounded out the top 10 capacity leaders.

Samsung had the most installed wafer capacity with 3.1 million 200mm-equivalent wafers per month.  That represented 14.7 per cent of the world’s total capacity.  Capacity growth in 2020 appears lower than expected because the company’s Line 13 fab was partially excluded from 2020 since a portion of the fab was converted from DRAM to image sensor production in 2020.  If all of Line 13 was included in 2020, Samsung’s capacity growth would have been 11 percent.  Much of Samsung’s huge 2020 expenditures will show up in 2021 capacity numbers, especially since $10.5 billion of its total 2020 outlays of $28.1 billion was spent in 4Q20.

As the largest pure-play foundry in the world, TSMC uses 2.7 million wafers per month capacity, or 13.1 per cent of total worldwide capacity.  In 2020, the company opened the first two phases of a new fab complex near its Fab 14 site in Tainan, Taiwan.  Phases 1 and 2 of Fab 18 are in mass production and the facilities for Phases 3-6 are under construction.  TSMC also opened a Phase 10 line at Fab 15 in Taichung, Taiwan, during 2020.

Micron had the third largest amount of capacity at the end of 2020 with a little more than 1.9 million wafers, or 9.3 per cent of worldwide capacity.  The company’s capital expenditures in 2020 were mostly for upgrading existing fabs with more advanced equipment, but some new capacity was being added at its fab sites in Hiroshima, Japan, and Taichung, Taiwan.  A second fab is being built in Manassas, Virginia, where the company manufactures long-lifecycle products.

The fourth largest capacity holder at the end of 2020 was SK Hynix with nearly 1.9 million in monthly wafer capacity (9.0 per cent of total worldwide capacity), with more than 80 per cent of it being used to make DRAMs and NAND flash chips.  The company completed two new large fabs in 2019 in Cheongju, Korea, and Wuxi, China.  A new Fab M16 at its site in Icheon, Korea, is due to start mass production in 2021.

Rounding out the top 5 companies was another memory supplier Kioxia with 1.6 million wafers/month (7.7 per cent of total worldwide capacity) including a substantial amount of NAND flash memory capacity for its fab investment and technology development partner Western Digital.  In 2020, the partners opened a new 300mm wafer fab in Kitakami, Japan.  Construction on Fab 7 at the complex in Yokkaichi, Japan, will start in 2021.

The five biggest pure-play foundries— TSMC, UMC, GlobalFoundries, SMIC, and Powerchip (including Nexchip)—are each ranked within the top 12 capacity leaders.  In total, these five foundries had a combined capacity of about 5.1 million wafers per month as of December 2020, representing about a quarter of the total fab capacity.

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