United Microelectronics Corp (UMC,
"We are expanding our production. The output at our 12A fab will rise to a maximum 40,000 wafers a month within six months to one year," UMC chairman and executive chief Jackson Hu (
The new center will make the southern city UMC's R&D headquarters, he said.
UMC currently churns out 35,000 12-inch (300mm) wafers from its 12A plant in Tainan.
Earlier this month, Hu told investors that demand for chips used in communications, such as handsets and consumer electronics, would pick up significantly next month as customers were digesting inventories to a healthy level.
UMC, based in Hsinchu, supplies chips to some of the world's leading chipmakers, including Texas Instruments Inc, the world's biggest supplier of chips for mobile phones, and Xilinx Inc, a San Jose-based producer of programmable semiconductors.
UMC operates two advanced 12-inch plants -- one in Tainan and another one in Singapore -- as well as seven other plants.
Also in Tainan, the chipmaker is building its third 12-inch factory at a cost of US$5 billion and expects to ramp up production in the first quarter of next year. The new plant will have a monthly capacity of 50,000 wafers.
Chips made on advanced technologies made up 37 percent of UMC's revenues last quarter, down from 41 percent in the final quarter of last year, the company said.
In addition to capacity buildup, UMC is planning a 28-percent increase in its research and development staff this year by hiring 200 engineers for the Tainan center. UMC currently has about 700 R&D engineers in total.
"The close proximity of the new R&D center to UMC's most advanced fabrication facilities enhances the company's ability to rapidly move newly developed technologies to mass production, resulting in increased competitiveness for UMC customers," Hu said.
The 10-story building features independent cleanroom R&D areas for the continued development of 45 nanometer and below advanced process technologies. When fully operational, the R&D center will be staffed with more than 1,000 employees.
UMC said it planned to launch more new products made on advanced 65nm process technology later this year in competition with bigger rival Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC,
TSMC made another progress in obtaining one more customer for its high-end products, saying it would supply graphics made on 65nm technology to Advanced Micro Devices Inc (AMD).
TSMC said last month that sales contribution from chips made on new 65nm process technology would account for 5 percent of its total revenues by the middle of this year.
UMC shares were unchanged yesterday at NT$19.3, while the stock price of TSMC dropped 1.16 percent to NT$68.4.