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More wafer fabs to close up shop

Posted: 03 Jul 2014  Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:wafer  fab  chip 

Chip manufacturers put up the shutters on as many as 72 wafer fabs between 2009 and 2013, and they will pull the plug on nine more this year, according to an IC Insights report.

While far from being unsustainable, the fabs were closed down to shed deadweight capacity that of below 200mm wafers in order to produce devices more cost-effectively on larger wafers. Few fabs underwent refurbishing for production using larger wafers or for fabrication of non-IC products.

One such example is a 300mm wafer fab operated by Sony that closed, but was retrofitted and has since returned to service, manufacturing image sensors for the company. Figure 1 shows that 40 per cent of fab closures since 2009 have been 150mm fabs.

Qimonda was the first company to close a 300mm wafer fab after it went out of business in early 2009. ProMOS and Powerchip closed their respective 300mm wafer fabs in 2013.

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Figure 1: Fab closures by wafer size, 2009-2013. Source: IC Insights

Regionally, semiconductor suppliers in Japan have closed 28 wafer fabs since 2009, more than any other country/region over the past five years. Meanwhile, both North America and Europe also had double-digit fab closures (see figure 2).

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Figure 2: Wafer fab closures by region, 2009-2013. Source: IC Insights

Among the fabs closed or on the bubble in 2014 include the following: Intel's 200mm Fab 17 in Hudson; International Rectifier's 150mm Fab 10 in Newport; two 150mm fabs and one 125mm at Renesas Electronics; two outdated NXP fabs, 100mm and 150mm, in Nijmegen; and a 75mm wafer GaAs fab used by Panasonic Semiconductor to produce optoelectronic devices.

The closing of the two NXP fabs was announced a few years ago and was expected to be finalized in 2011, but was delayed due to strong demand for analogue and logic ICs and some discrete components that are manufactured at these facilities. A 200mm fab continues to operate in Nijmegen.

As the cost of new wafer fabs and manufacturing equipment skyrockets, IC Insights expects several more companies to shutter older fabs and transition to a fab-lite or fabless business model in the coming years—news that makes foundry suppliers smile, and equipment and material suppliers a little bit nervous.





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