Semiconductor Manufacturing International (SMIC), China's largest chip maker and also one of the world's biggest contract chip makers, Saturday formally began commercial production at a 300-millimeter semiconductor fabrication plant (fab) in Beijing called Fab 4, the first such facility to open in China.
SMIC's announcement marks an important milestone for China's chip-making industry. Compared with the 200mm wafers used by the previous generation of chip-making equipment, 300mm wafers have a surface area that is 2.25 times bigger, allowing more chips to be produced with each wafer, and help reduce production costs.
Fabs that use 300mm wafers are among the most advanced chip plants in the world and generally use the most advanced chip-making processes and equipment. Two of SMIC's larger rivals, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC) and United Microelectronics, also have 300mm fabs in production.
Construction on Fab 4 began in Sept. 2002 and pilot production at the plant began during July of this year. The fab will initially produce DRAM (dynamic RAM) using 0.10-micron and 0.11-micron processes for two customers, Elpida Memory and Infineon Technologies.
Fab 4 will help boost SMIC's production capacity from the equivalent of 100,000 200mm wafers per month in September, to 125,000 wafers per month by the end of this year, said Reiko Chang, a spokeswoman for SMIC in Shanghai. By the end of this year, Fab 4 is expected to produce up to the equivalent of 10,000 200mm wafers per month, rising to 45,000 wafers per month by the end of 2005, she said.
In addition to Fab 4, SMIC has plans to open two more 300mm fabs in Beijing. Those plants are expected to begin production in 2005 and 2006, Chang said, noting that SMIC may change its plans to increase its production capacity based on market demand.