United Microelectronics Corp (UMC, 聯電), the nation’s second-largest contract chipmaker, yesterday said that it plans to launch production of chips on the advanced 14-nanometer process on a trial basis in the first half of next year.
Utilization of the 14-nanometer process trial production aims to narrow the gap between UMC and its larger rivals, chief financial officer Liu Chitung (劉啟東) said on the sidelines of the company’s annual general meeting.
However, a fixed timetable for mass production using the process has not been set, with Liu saying it would depend on the needs of customers.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電), the largest contract chipmaker in the world, launched commercial production of chips on the 20-nanometer process in January this year and is expected to start mass production of chips using the 16-nanometer process in January next year.
UMC’s most sophisticated technology at present is the 28 nanometer process, which started mass production in the fourth quarter of last year.
In the first quarter, the 28-nanometer technology accounted for less than 1 percent of UMC’s total sales, but Liu said the process is expected to make up about 1 percent of total revenue in the second quarter, and the percentage could rise to more than 5 percent in the fourth quarter.
Liu said UMC has received orders for its 28-nanometer process from more than 20 customers, 10 of which needed large chunks of chips to meet demand for devices, including smartphones.
Due to a rebound after inventory adjustments in the previous quarters, UMC’s production capacity utilization rate for the second quarter came close to 90 percent, up from 81 percent recorded in the first quarter, Liu said.
He said capacity of UMC’s eight-inch wafer plants has been fully utilized, while about 80 percent of the capacity at its 12-inch wafer plants has been used.
Liu added the utilization rate could move higher in the third quarter.
A proposal to make a private placement was also approved at the shareholders’ meeting.
The fund-raising project aims to issue up to 1.269 billion UMC shares in a bid to seek strategic alliances with foreign high-tech firms.