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This small device becomes the next battlefield for semiconductors

2021 was supposed to be the year of AMD’s explosion.

Relying on the TSMC process, which is one generation ahead of Intel, AMD will continue to push Intel step by step. Bernstein Securities optimistically predicts that AMD’s market share in CPU this year will further surge from 10% in 2020 to 13%. It is expected that it will become the top three customers of TSMC.

However, a small piece of inconspicuous substrate (substrate) made AMD CEO Su Zifeng fall heavily.

“AMD couldn’t get the carrier board, and Lisa Su was furious within the company,” said a senior tech analyst.

Fubon Investment Consulting’s March report pointed out that the tight supply of ABF carrier boards is affecting AMD’s full range of deliveries.

In contrast, Intel, which has been in a beating situation in the past, is scheming. “Intel is well aware that its manufacturing process is lagging behind, and in order to avoid the loss of market share in the PC and server fields to AMD, it has already locked in the production capacity of carrier boards this year,” Fubon Investment Consulting pointed out.

After the wafer is fabricated, the wafer will be cut into small pieces and packaged on the IC carrier board, so it can be said to be a smaller and more precise PCB printed circuit board. After being sealed on the carrier board, it is further assembled on a larger PCB. When some active components (chips) and passive components (capacitors, resistors, inductors) are assembled on the PCB, it can be installed in computers, mobile phones or other in Electronic products. Therefore, don’t underestimate a small piece of carrier board, as soon as the carrier board is out of stock, the chip factory will have a big head.

The process only takes 2 to 3 weeks, but it takes 24 weeks to queue

A director of a touch panel parts factory that is specially delivered to laptop and mobile phone brand factories told World Magazine that the time went back to August 2020. During the epidemic, the demand for laptops was high. At that time, it took half a year to supply the carrier board. .

“Although the manufacturing process only takes 2 to 3 weeks, the waiting list is very long, and the first wait is 24 weeks,” the supervisor said bitterly.

The carrier board is stuck in traffic, and the stock prices of major carrier board manufacturers including Xinxing and Nanya Electric have soared. For example, the stock price of Nanya Electric has risen by 40% in the past quarter, which directly affects the battle between AMD and Intel.

“Intel has long been a book (carrier board),” a Taiwanese pen power plant executive told The World. Two years ago, Intel, which was in short supply of 14-nanometer CPUs, has relatively abundant CPU supply from the second half of last year to this year. “If AMD’s CPU can’t be obtained, we will turn to Intel,” the executive of the pen power plant said frankly. Intel’s “advanced deployment” of the carrier board “may cause AMD’s market share to decline in the short term.”

At the AMD online technology and communications conference held by Morgan Stanley in early March, Morgan Stanley semiconductor analyst Joseph Moore asked AMD about the shortage of carrier boards. AMD Chief Technology Officer Mark Papermaster did not answer directly, but said, “Demand is still high in 2021, and we are still supplying climbing. Even if the supply is tight in the general environment, we are confident in growth.”

But in fact, it has long been rumored in Taiwan’s technology supply chain that Intel is in the “factory contract” Model, out of the wallet to get the first of the three giants of Taiwan’s carrier boards – Xinxing Electronics to expand the production capacity of the factory.

Intel’s “factory contract” has become the perfect weapon against AMD

Back in 2019, the US-China trade war was in full swing, setting off a wave of Taiwanese businessmen returning to buy land and set up factories. A memorable landmark investment is a new Yangmei factory in Taoyuan, where Xinxing Electronics invested 20 billion yuan. At that time, it was announced that it would build the largest ABF carrier board production line on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Zeng Zizhang, the always low-key chairman of Xinxing, revealed at the shareholders’ meeting in June that year, “This new factory will cooperate with the CPU and GPU factories in the United States,” and the production capacity will be opened in 2021.

“World” called Xinxing, and the speech system responded that Yangmei Factory did cooperate with specific customers, but would not comment on specific customers.

According to Xinxing’s announcement on the Public Information Observatory on May 9, 2019, it was mentioned that this factory is a high-end IC flip chip carrier factory, “I hope to cooperate with world-class leading companies through the way of technology and business. Cooperation.”

Unexpectedly, Intel’s deployment 2 years ago, and now the carrier board is out of stock, it happens to be the perfect weapon against AMD.

Intel has Xinxing, “but now AMD can’t find anyone to help it,” said a Taiwanese IC design company executive familiar with AMD.

This wave of carrier boards is out of stock, how did it happen?

First of all, it is necessary to understand the past situation of the carrier board factory.

A senior executive of a US-based semiconductor packaging and testing service factory recalled that the three carriers of Xinxing, Nanya, and Jingshuo, whose share prices and performance are booming today, “have suffered for many years.”

The carrier board factory once went through a dark period. In the past, major processor manufacturers such as Intel, Broadcom, and Nvidia used packaging and testing factories to purchase from and carrier board factories, and the prices were cut fiercely.

Taking Xinxing as an example, the revenue in 2020 is 87.8 billion, and the net profit after tax is 6.05%. The third child, Jingshuo, is even more miserable. In 2019, he lost two years of profit in one year.

In such a low profit state, even if the carrier board factory knows that it is expected that the demand for the linked carrier board will increase due to the rise of AI and 5G, the willingness to actively expand the factory is not high when there is no profit for a long time.

Second, the technology becomes difficult and the yield rate is very low.

Whether it is an AI chip or the current popular small chipset chiplet, a carrier board is required. However, the larger the carrier area, the lower the yield. For example, for a general 6×6 cm carrier, the yield rate of the carrier factory is only about 30-50%, which is equivalent to a 20% discount on the production capacity.

A chip factory executive has calculated that similar to the carrier boards used by Intel, the precision is higher than that of ordinary PCBs, almost to the level of the first-level semiconductor process.

“For a carrier board factory that earns more than 4 billion yuan a year, if it wants to invest more than 20 billion yuan to build the factory, it will not be willing to build it,” the chip factory executive said frankly.

Therefore, it has appeared in the past few years that the 12-inch factory of the wafer foundry has not built the factory, but the carrier factory has almost no strange scene of the new factory.

It is understood that in the past, some manufacturers approached AMD to discuss investment and cooperation in carrier board factories. However, compared with Intel, which has a deep pocket, AMD, which only climbed out of the financial abyss in 2017, did not have much willingness.

AMD continues to follow the mode of purchasing carrier boards from packaging and testing factories, and purchases carrier boards through the closely-cooperating packaging and testing factory Nantong. Unexpectedly, the epidemic led to a surge in notebook-related products, and the large shortage of carrier boards was unexpected. Major processor manufacturers skip the packaging and testing factories and purchase directly from the carrier board factory to keep the production capacity they need.

“For the carrier board factory, there is a shortage of stock right now, and whoever bargains the most to kill the most vicious one will be in the back row,” an executive of a US-based packaging and testing factory pointed out.

TSMC jumped down to do it by itself, the next battlefield for semiconductors

Seeing that carrier boards become the next battleground. When the technical difficulty becomes high, the yield rate is low, and the demand is high, even TSMC is ready to jump down and make the carrier board by itself. It is understood that the first carrier line is in TSMC’s Zhunan plant, which is about to be completed.

A senior executive of the packaging and testing factory pointed out that the carrier board required by TSMC is larger in size, 10 × 10 cm. Generally, the carrier board has 18 layers, and this requires up to 26 layers. This can almost be said to upgrade the PCB process of the general carrier board to the level of the semiconductor process, which is extremely difficult.

The executive observed that TSMC will invest, and it has nothing to do with the recent shortage of carrier boards. The main reason is that it needs high-precision, large-area carrier boards. “The larger the area, the lower the yield rate. A year ago, the carrier board factory tested the yield rate and it was reported that it was ‘zero’. Now it may be better.”

He described that TSMC has done a good job in 3nm and advanced packaging. When the carrier board is finally loaded, the yield rate cannot keep up, which means that all previous efforts have been lost.

Obviously, even if the shortage of carrier boards will not expand in the future, this small piece of key parts has become the next battlefield in the semiconductor circle.

 

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