‘What Type of Silicon Fab for Semiconductors should India Choose’ asks Suresh Sachdev 

  1. Semiconductor 

A critical decision for India as it tries to enter semiconductor manufacturing is to decide what type of silicon technology and Fab is the best for its semiconductor needs says Suresh Sachdev our technology consultant from the Silicon Valley Bay Area.  Currently the advanced logic technologies in manufacturing range from 7nm to 3nm with 2nm expected in 2025 at TSMC and Samsung. 

The Fab manufacturing plant cost for these silicon (logic or memory) technologies can range between $10B to $25B. Cost is dependent upon size of the plant. These technologies require advanced Fab infrastructure, clean room, process equipment, stable utilities, and a technically competent workforce. Global leaders in semiconductor manufacturing are TSMC of Taiwan, Samsung and Hynix of South Korea, ST Microelectronics of Europe, Intel, and Micron of USA.
Some of these manufacturing capabilities are being used by semiconductor companies like AMD, Nvidia, Qualcomm and MediaTek which design ICs to manufacture their products.
Mature and older logic silicon manufacturing technologies range from 180nm, 90nm, 65nm, 40nm, 28nm and 16/14 nm. Some of these are supported by Global Foundries of USA, TSMC, UMC of Taiwan and NXP, STMicroelectronics of Europe. Fab costs for manufacturing these technologies can run between $2B to $10 depending upon plant size. To operate profitably these Fabs must run near full capacity with a 24-hour operation.
India has planned a modest Integrated Circuit testing and packaging project worth $2.75Bn with Micron. As per Indian Express, Micron has begun the construction of India’s first chip IC assembly and test plant in September 2023 and brought in Tata as the Indian partner for this $2.75 Bn project located in Gujarat. 
According to a report by Counterpoint Research and the India Electronics & Semiconductor Association (IESA), the manufacturing of semiconductor chips in India will be driven by domestic and export markets with significant demand from the consumer electronics, telecom, IT hardware, and industrial sectors. They claim that India’s semiconductor market will touch $64 billion by 2026, almost three times its 2019 size of $22.7 billion.
A workable model for India is to start with a mature to near    advanced technology silicon Fab with 16/14nm to 7nm logic processes. This requires an Indian partner to work with a leading-edge semiconductor manufacturer of Fab technology like TSMC, Samsung or Intel. 

However, recently Government of India has indicated that it has received an application from electronics manufacturing giant Foxconn to start a semiconductor fabrication facility in India reports Business Today. This was months after it pulled out of its $20 Bn JV with Indian mining giant Vedanta in July 2023. The re-entry of Foxconn is a promising development. More details are awaited about the size and type of the proposed plant along with the Indian partner if any.

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