How many 12 inch and 8 inch wafer factories are there in the world?

28 August 2023

Recently, Stephen Rothrock, president and CEO of ATREG, and Jean Christophe Eloy, president and CEO of Yole Group, discussed the emerging business models, which can enable the global semiconductor industry to transfer to cutting-edge and mature technologies with the best capacity. The global epidemic initially led to the reduction of investment in wafer factory transactions. However, due to the potential financial support provided by chip legislation in the United States and Europe, the tenacious semiconductor industry has received new attention. The industry is struggling with supply chain problems and the lack of skilled workers.

In the analysis, both parties pointed out that, due to the limited supply chain, except for the memory market, all the market segments of the semiconductor industry experienced significant price increases during the COVID-19 epidemic. In 2021, semiconductor sales will increase by 25%, and this year is expected to decline to 11%, partly due to the price rise. Due to the rapid development of electric vehicle technology, especially the automobile industry has experienced tremendous growth. However, high demand has also led to higher prices in the industrial and data center markets. Inflation is another reason for the slowdown, which has led to fewer orders for mobile phones and other consumer goods. Due to the war in Ukraine, as well as the expansion of super system manufacturers, start-ups and artificial intelligence (these fields have an increasing impact on the semiconductor industry), the semiconductor supply chain has also been blocked, thus driving the increase of global demand for microchips.

There is no doubt that the wind of recession is blowing, and chip companies must take this into account when deciding whether to increase chip production. However, as the experts pointed out, the slowdown does not mean that the manufacturing demand of many companies' products will also decrease.

End to end design and manufacturing skills are attracting more and more enterprises' attention. Extensive R&D programs will benefit from cutting-edge technology, but the main problem is the lack of such a level of wafer fabs. The high cost of developing wafer fabs and putting them online is an important factor in the small number of wafer fabs in the world.

The government's incentives will undoubtedly help, but China has promised to grant about $73 billion in semiconductor subsidies (excluding grants, equity investments and low interest loans totaling more than $50 billion), which the United States, Europe and Japan cannot reach.

There has been no significant investment consolidation in the past three quarters, so everyone is investing to catch up. As more sophisticated equipment is needed, the output must be further increased. There are only more than 150 300mm wafer fabs in the world, 42 of which are in Taiwan, China, 33 in Chinese Mainland, 19 in the United States, and only 12 in Europe and the Middle East, so the supply is limited. Although cutting-edge technology is crucial and has attracted a lot of investment, a large proportion of production activities still take place in 200mm wafer plants, with the largest demand for 90nm to 180nm process nodes. There are about 230 200mm wafer fabs in the world, including 51 in the United States and 49 in Europe and the Middle East.

The construction of a new wafer factory (which is being built with advanced geometry) must be balanced with the long-term need to manufacture chips on less advanced nodes. According to experts, the current environment is promoting chip companies to work more intelligently and work together to make full use of their limited resources and reduce manufacturing costs; One of them is the cooperation between STF Semiconductor and Lattice.