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In context: Hundreds of billions of dollars are being poured into chipmaking facilities across Asia, Europe, and North America. A significant chunk of these expansions will need a steady supply of silicon wafers, and this is where GlobalWafers comes in. Still, all of these developments hinge on the government subsidies, and, at least in the US, regulators have yet to come to an agreement on how to proceed.
The US Congress is taking its sweet time with the CHIPS Act, despite numerous calls from the Silicon Industry Association to unlock more funding for projects that bring semiconductor manufacturing back to the US. As a result, companies like Intel and TSMC are struggling to stay on schedule with their expansion plans.
Fortunately, more and more companies are exploring ways to bring additional manufacturing capacity to the US. The latest example is GlobalWafers, which just unveiled plans to build a $5 billion factory in Sherman, Texas. But just like Intel, TSMC, GlobalFoundries, and others, this effort will need significant government support if it has any chance to materialize in the coming years.
The new manufacturing facility will be making silicon wafers, a crucial ingredient in the chipmaking process that is also one of the bottlenecks in the global supply chain. In other words, the reason why so many industry insiders predict the chip shortage may last until 2024 is that major wafer suppliers have a similar timeline for opening new factories.
GlobalWafers first announced intentions to build a new factory back in February, after failing to take over German wafer supplier Siltronic. That will be a boon for the US semiconductor supply chain as GlobalWafers has big ambitions with the Texas factory.
Specifically, the company wants to make over 1.2 million wafers per month, and crucially these will be 300 mm wafers of the kind needed for advanced chip manufacturing on bleeding-edge process nodes. The Texas facility is expected to become operational in 2025, and once it achieves nominal output it should theoretically be able to cover all US demand for 300 mm wafers.
Image credit: Samuel Faber