UMC and Intel "Alliance", Deepening Technical Cooperation for Mutual Benefit

Update Time: Feb 23, 2024    Readership: 66

UMC and Intel "Alliance", Deepening Technical Cooperation for Mutual Benefit

January 25, 2024, Intel Corporation based in Santa Clara, California, and United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC) located in Taipei, Taiwan, announced a collaboration to develop a 12-nanometer semiconductor process platform to meet the demands of high-growth markets such as mobile, communication infrastructure, and networking. This long-term agreement combines Intel's large-scale manufacturing capabilities in the United States with UMC's rich experience in mature node wafer fabrication, aiming to achieve an expanded process portfolio. It also provides more choices for global customers in procurement decisions and enables access to a geographically diverse and resilient supply chain.

Stuart Pann, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Intel Foundry Services (IFS), stated, "For decades, Taiwan has been an integral part of the Asian and global semiconductor and broader technology ecosystems. Intel is committed to collaborating with innovative Taiwanese companies like UMC to better serve global customers. The strategic collaboration between Intel and UMC further underscores our commitment to providing technological and manufacturing innovation in the global semiconductor supply chain and is a significant step towards our goal of becoming the world's second-largest wafer foundry by 2030."

Jason Wang, Co-President of UMC, expressed, "Our collaboration with Intel to develop 12-nanometer technology manufactured in the United States with FinFET functionality is a step forward in advancing our strategy for cost-effective capacity expansion and technological node progression to continue our commitment to customers. This work will enable our customers to smoothly transition to this critical new node and benefit from the increased footprint in the Western market. We are excited about the strategic cooperation with Intel, which will expand our potential market and significantly accelerate our development roadmap using the complementary strengths of both companies."

The 12-nanometer node will leverage Intel's bulk production capabilities and FinFET transistor design expertise in the United States, combined with UMC's decades-long leadership in process technology and history of providing process design kits (PDKs) and design assistance to customers, enabling strategic cooperation between the two parties to support the realization of the 12-nanometer process. Mass production of the 12-nanometer process is expected to commence in 2027.

As for the purpose of Intel and UMC's collaboration and the benefits it brings to both parties, it is aimed at gaining access to the 12-nanometer (1Xnm) market, which represents a potential shift in the wafer foundry landscape. UMC aims to secure the 1Xnm market, while Intel's ambitions extend beyond the 12-nanometer node to the battleground of advanced processes beyond 12nm. Following the announcement of the collaboration, UMC stated that it would assist Intel in negotiating wafer foundry business while providing technical cooperation in 12nm IP development. Intel, on the other hand, aims to provide existing fab facilities to expand its foundry market experience, enhance process flexibility and diversity, and concentrate resources on the development of more advanced processes such as 3nm and 2nm.

Industry insiders estimate that if the subsequent collaboration proceeds smoothly, Intel may consider jointly managing 1 to 2 1Xnm-level FinFET fab areas with UMC in the future, with Ireland Fab24 and Oregon D1B/D1C being potential candidate sites with similar processes. However, as the primary technical IP provider, UMC's 14nm has not yet been formally mass-produced since 2017, and the 12nm is still in the research and development stage, with mass production expected to begin in the second half of 2026. Therefore, the scheduled production timetable for the collaboration between the two parties is set for 2027, and the stability of FinFET architecture technology remains to be observed. Overall, with UMC's years of experience in mature processes and Intel's advanced technology, whether there will be deeper cooperation in their respective specialized fields beyond the 10nm process remains worth watching.