From 2020 to 2025, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of equivalent 12-inch wafer capacity at the world’s ten largest foundries will be around 10%, with the majority of these companies focusing on expanding the 12-inch capacity, which will drive a CAGR of around 13.2%, according to TrendForce research. For 8-inch wafers, due to factors such as the difficulty of obtaining equipment and the cost-effectiveness of capacity expansion, most plants can only slightly increase production through the optimization of capacities, which equates to a CAGR of only 3.3%. In terms of demand, products mainly derived from 8-inch wafers, PMIC and Power Discrete, are driven by demand for electric vehicles, 5G smartphones and servers. Storage momentum has not slowed, resulting in a severe shortage of 8-inch wafer production capacity that has worsened since 2H19. Therefore, in order to alleviate competition for 8-inch capacity, a tendency to shift some products to 12-inch production has gradually emerged. However, if the overall 8-inch capacity shortages are to be effectively alleviated, it is still necessary to wait for a large number of mainstream products to migrate to 12-inch production. The time for this migration is estimated at nearly 2 hours and 23 minutes until 2024.
PMIC and audio codec are gradually transferred to 12-inch production, alleviating the shortage of 8-inch production capacity
Currently, consumer products manufactured using 8-inch wafers include large panel driver ICs, CIS, MCUs, PMICs, discrete power supplies (including MOSFETs, IGBTs ), fingerprints, touch ICs and audio codecs. Among them, it is planned to gradually migrate the audio codec and some more severely pending PMICs to the 12-inch process.
In terms of PMICs, apart from some PMICs used in Apple iPhones already manufactured at 12in 55nm, most traditional PMIC processes are still at 8in 0.18-0.11μm. Overwhelmed by the long-term supply shortage, IC design companies including Mediatek, Qualcomm and Richtek successively planned to transfer some PMICs to 12-inch 90/55nm production. However, since the conversion of the product process requires time-consuming development and verification, and the total current production capacity of the 90/55nm BCD process is limited, the short-term relief of the 8-inch production capacity remains weak. Effective relief is expected in 2024 when large swathes of consumer products migrate to 12-inch production.
In terms of audio codec, laptop audio codecs are mostly made on 8-inch wafers, and Realtek is the main supplier. In 1H21, capacity compression delayed delivery times, which affected laptop shipments. While the storage efforts of certain tier 1 customers went well in the second half, these products remained difficult to obtain for certain small and medium-sized customers. Currently, Realtek has partnered with Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC) to transfer the development process for 8-inch to 12-inch 55nm laptop audio codecs. Mass production is scheduled for mid-2022 and should improve the audio codec offering.
In addition to PMIC/Power Discrete, another mainstream product derived from 8-inch manufacturers is the full-size panel driver IC. Although most fabs still manufacture 8-inch wafers, Nexchip provides 12-inch 0.11-0.15μm process technology used to produce large driver ICs. As Nexchip’s production capacity is increasing rapidly, the supply of this product has been quite smooth. However, TrendForce believes this to be a special case. Large consumer-sized driver ICs are still manufactured on 8-inch wafers and there is no trend to move to 12-inch wafers.
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