TAIPEI — United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC, �p�q), the second largest contract chip maker in Taiwan, is planning to launch trial production of chips made on the advanced 14 nanometer process, the company’s newly developed production technology, the Commercial Times reported Thursday.
The move to start the 14nm process trial production is aimed at taking on its rivals �X Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC, �x�n�q) and South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co. �X at a time when major chip suppliers around the world are gearing up to improve their technology processes in a bid to secure more orders from mobile device vendors, the report said.
The Commercial Times said that UMC has built a 14nm Fin Field Effect Transistor (FinFET) process production line with a monthly capacity of about 3,000 units in preparation for the trial production.
The FinFET is a 3D transistor structure that allows the chip to run faster than previous processes when using the same amount of power, or at the same speed on less power.
The report said that in the past, UMC developed advanced processes such as the 28nm process on its own, but these efforts were expensive. However, the chip maker has since changed course and has been working with IBM on the development of the more sophisticated 14nm FinFET process since 2012.
Unlike its rival TSMC, UMC has skipped the 20nm process to focus on the development of the 14nm FinFET process in a bid to close its technology gap with TSMC and Samsung, the report said.
The Commercial Times said that if the trial production of the 14nm process goes smoothly, UMC is expected to kick off mass production in 2016.
16nm Production Starting in 2016 After launching 20nm process production last year, TSMC is scheduled to launch mass production of chips made on the sophisticated 16nm process in mid-2015, and plans to begin trial production of chips on the 10nm process at the end of next year, with commercial production starting in 2016.
The Commercial Times said that UMC will continue its efforts to expand its 28nm process production capacity, with the expectation that the technology will account for more than 10 percent of UMC’s total sales in the second half of this year, up from about 5 percent recorded in the fourth quarter of last year.
According to the report, UMC has secured orders placed by several integrated circuit designers, such as U.S.-based Qualcomm Inc. and Taiwan’s MediaTek Inc. for chips made on the 28nm process.
NT$37.24 Bil. Consolidated Sales in Q4 Last week, UMC announced consolidated sales totaling NT$37.24 billion (US$1.17 billion) for the fourth quarter, up 5.74 percent from a quarter earlier.
Analysts said the growth reflected strong demand for chips made using UMC’s 28nm process and noted that the chip-maker’s 8-inch wafer plants were fully booked during the period.
For all of 2014, UMC posted NT$140.01 billion in consolidated sales, up 13.08 percent from a year earlier. UMC has scheduled an investor conference for Jan. 28 to detail its fourth-quarter results and give guidance for the first quarter.