8-inch wafer capacity remains tight, shortage to ease in 2H23
From 2020 to 2025, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12-inch equivalent wafer capacity at the world's top ten foundries will be approximately 10% – with the majority of these companies focusing on 12-inch capacity expansion, which will see a CAGR of approximately 13.2%, according to TrendForce’s research.
In terms of 8-inch wafers, due to factors such as difficult to obtain equipment and whether capacity expansion is cost-effective, most fabs can only expand production slightly by means of capacity optimisation, equating to a CAGR of only 3.3%.
In terms of demand, the products primarily derived from 8-inch wafers, PMIC and Power Discrete, are driven by demand for electric vehicles, 5G smartphones, and servers. Stocking momentum has not fallen off, resulting in a serious shortage of 8-inch wafer production capacity that has festered since 2H19. Therefore, in order to mitigate competition for 8-inch capacity, a trend of shifting certain products to 12-inch production has gradually emerged. However, if shortages in overall 8-inch capacity is to be effectively alleviated, it is still necessary to wait for a large number of mainstream products to migrate to 12-inch production. The timeframe for this migration is estimated to be close to 2H23 into 2024.
PMIC and Audio Codec gradually transferred to 12-inch production, alleviating shortage of 8-inch production capacity
At present, mainstream products produced using 8-inch wafers include large-sized panel Driver IC, CIS, MCU, PMIC, Power Discrete (including MOSFET, IGBT), Fingerprint, Touch IC, and Audio Codec. Among them, there are plans to gradually migrate Audio Codec and some more severely backordered PMICs to the 12-inch process.
In terms of PMICs, other than certain PMICs used in Apple iPhones already manufactured at 12-inch 55nm, most mainstream PMIC processes are still at 8-inch 0.18-0.11μm. Burdened with the long-term supply shortage, IC design companies including Mediatek, Qualcomm, and Richtek have successively planned to transfer some PMICs to 12-inch 90/55nm production. However, since product process conversion requires time-consuming development and verification and total current production capacity of the 90/55nm BCD process is limited, short term relief to 8-inch production capacity remains small. Effective relief is expected in 2024 when large swathes of mainstream products migrate to 12-inch production.
In terms of Audio Codec, Audio Codecs for laptops are primarily manufactured on 8-inch wafers, and Realtek is the main supplier. In the 1H21, the squeeze on capacity delayed lead times which affected notebook computers shipments. Although the stocking efforts of certain tier1 customers proceeded smoothly in the second half of the year, these products remained difficult to obtain for some small and medium-sized customers. At present, Realtek has partnered with Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC) to transfer the process development of laptop Audio Codecs from 8-inch to 12-inch 55nm. Mass production is forecast for mid-2022 and is expected to improve Audio Codec supply.
In addition to PMIC/Power Discrete, another mainstream product derived from 8-inch manufacturers is the large-sized panel Driver IC. Although most fabs still manufacture 8-inch wafers, Nexchip provides a 12-inch 0.11-0.15μm process technology used to produce large-sized Driver ICs. As production capacity at Nexchip grows rapidly, the supply of this product has been quite smooth. However, TrendForce believes that this is a special case. Mainstream large-sized Driver ICs are still manufactured on 8-inch wafers and there is no trend to switch to 12-inch wafers.
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