United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC) is reportedly interested in joining the bulk technology alliance led by IBM in order to cut costs on development of new general purpose fabrication processes and also be able to address new clients thanks to unified process technologies.
UMC is currently a part of SEMATECH (SEmiconductor MAnufacturing TECHnology), a non-profit consortium that performs basic research in the field of semiconductor manufacturing and is also a part of SOI Industry Consortium. However, it does not develop its own process technologies in collaboration with other partners and has to find customers wishing to develop chips in accordance with its fabrication processes.
There are rumours, according to EETimes web-site, that UMC wants to join IBM’s bulk process alliance. If the rumours are correct, UMC will get advanced production technologies at lower cost and will be able to compete for manufacturing of produces developed using IBM’s process tech, but it will also have to compete for customers with other members of the tech alliance and offer its customers certain benefits.
IBM’s bulk process alliance consists of such companies as Chartered, IBM, Infineon, ST, Toshiba, NEC, Freescale, Sony as well as the Foundry Company, which is about to be spun off from Advanced Micro Devices.
By joining the alliance, UMC will retain ability to manufacture ATI Radeon graphics processing units (which at some point are expected to be designed in accordance with TFC’s process technologies), compete for orders with Chartered for similar orders and also receive orders from firms like Freescale or Toshiba.
UMC has demonstrated working SRAM prototypes made using 28nm process technology and does not require immediate backup in terms of fabrication process development.
UMC did not comment on the news-story.
It is interesting to note that back in November, 2008, Song-Hwee Chia, chief executive of Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing, reportedly planned to visit Taiwan next week in order to discuss merger possibilities with local contract semiconductor manufacturers – Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company and United Microelectronics Corp.
Back in early-2008 the ex-chairman of UMC said that contract makers of semiconductors would have to merge in order to stay competitive.