Trade war risks for wafer supply

September 28, 2020 // By Nick Flaherty
Trade war risks for wafer supply
The US-China trade war risks the global supply chain, particularly for the supply of wafers, says the chief executives of Global Foundries and X-Fab.

"We need a little more balance in the supply chain," said Tom Caulfield, CEO of Global Foundries. “Wafer supply is dominated by Taiwan.” GF has 300mm fabs in the US and Germany, as well as a 200mm fab in Singapore.

That view is reflected by European foundry X-Fab, which also has a fab in the US at Lubbock, Texas.

“The evolution of the global politics and the whole trade war is of course not good for the semiconductor industry and for industry overall as it puts in barriers and that’s not good,” said Rudi de Winter CEO of German foundry X-fab (above). “At the same time it drives changes and that maybe opens up opportunities but overall is more negative than positive

“There are in certain areas definitely concentrations that could pose risks,” he said in agreement. “We source wafers all regions in the world – we have a wide diversity of technologies from more mature on 6in and 8in wafers, but we don’t have particular problems but we do see the whole evolution of the trade war as an obstacle to doing business when people should be focussing on growing business and removing barriers.”

STMicroelectronics has also been securing its supply chain for its specialist wafers, with deals to buy wafer makers Norstel for silicon carbide (SiC) and ExaGaN for gallium nitride (GaN). It works with TSMC in Taiwan for mainstream silicon process technologies.  

Like Global Foundries, de Winter is also looking at local financial support, whether that is called co-investment or subsidy, particularly with the US Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) for America Act signed in June.

Next: X-Fab CEO on subsidies

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