China’s biggest chip maker SMIC pushes ahead with construction of new Tianjin plant despite Covid-19 lockdowns
- The project, with a total investment of US$7.5 billion, began construction last Saturday, according to report
- The new plant will have a capacity of 100,000 12-inch wafers per month and cover mature semiconductor manufacturing process nodes
Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC), China’s largest chip maker, has started construction of its new 12-inch wafer fab in Tianjin, even as the northern city remains under a partial lockdown to battle the latest wave of Covid-19 infections.
The project, with a total investment of US$7.5 billion, began construction last Saturday, according to a report by Tianjin Daily, the city’s official newspaper. Tianjin has been under partial lockdown to combat Covid since late August.
SMIC said on August 27 it had entered into a cooperation framework agreement with two local government authorities in the Xiqing district to build the new fab.
The latest coronavirus outbreak is believed to have started at a football game in the city, where two thirds of participating players were infected, according to local authorities. Up to 252 cases of the Omicron variant of the virus have been traced to a shopping centre in the Xiqing district, marking the largest transmission chain during the latest wave.
On Tuesday, Tianjin reported 55 new cases, the highest daily number reported in the city in September, while the city’s health official described the latest wave of Covid-19 as “long-tailed”. Fourteen of sixteen districts in the city have reported positive cases to date.
Nevertheless, SMIC has been allowed by local authorities to begin construction of its new production line. In a meeting with the city’s leaders on Saturday, Zhao Haijun, co-chief executive officer at SMIC, promised to help consolidate Tianjin’s advantages in the field of integrated circuit manufacturing and drive synergies with the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei industrial supply chain, according to the Tianjin Daily report.
The new plant will have a capacity of 100,000 12-inch wafers per month and cover mature semiconductor manufacturing process nodes ranging from 28-nanometres to 0.18 micrometers, according to SMIC’s earlier statement. The chips cut from the 12-inch silicon chips will be used on products for telecommunications, automobiles, consumer electronics and other industrial applications.
Tianjin, a manufacturing hub close to Beijing, already houses an 8-inch fab that SMIC purchased from US electronics firm Motorola in 2004. Back in 2016, SMIC initiated a project to expand the plant’s monthly production capacity from 45,000 wafers to 150,000 wafers. It currently operates three 8-inch fabs and three 12-inch fabs in Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin and Shenzhen, according to its website.