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Taiwan's UMC Will Make 28nm Image Sensors For Samsung

Samsung GN1 50MP image sensor
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The ongoing global semiconductor chip shortage has rocked the tech industry. There aren’t many chip manufacturing companies out there and those few, like Samsung and TSMC, are struggling to supply to the current demand. Now, a new report coming from Korea suggests Samsung has signed a contract with Taiwan’s UMC (United Microelectronics Corporation) for manufacturing its image sensors and display drivers.

The South Korean behemoth will reportedly sell around 400 units of fabrication equipment to UMC. The Taiwanese company will use them in its P6 plant at Nanke in the Tainan City of Taiwan. It will manufacture 28-nanometer chips, such as image sensors, display driver ICs, and other smartphone components for Samsung.

UMC is aiming to manufacture 27,000 wafers per month at the said plant. The company will reportedly begin mass production in 2023 and will mostly produce chips for Samsung. It had previously laid out plans to invest around $1.5 billion this year to expand its manufacturing facilities. However, according to the report, the recent purchase of 400 units of fabrication equipment from Samsung doesn’t likely account for that planned investment amount.

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According to market research firm TrendForce, UMC was the fourth-largest chipmaker in the foundry sector in the first quarter of this year, accounting for 7.4 percent of the global market. Its compatriot TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) is still the undisputed leader in this industry. It captured a 54.1 percent market share in the first three months of 2021.

Samsung Foundry comes second with a 15.9 percent market share. California-based GlobalFoundries slightly edged UMC to the third spot with a 7.7 percent market share, while China’s SMIC (4.5 percent) completed the top five.

Samsung to use UMC for manufacturing image sensors amid a global chip shortage

Samsung is reportedly seeing high demand for its image sensors right now. Perhaps every chip manufacturer is seeing high demand for semiconductor chips because of a steep rise in demand for tech products during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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However, they are failing to supply to the demand. As such, Samsung has now signed a contract with UMC to manufacture image sensors and display drivers for the company. The Korean firm has been getting closer to Sony in the global smartphone camera sensor market lately. It would not want to throw away this opportunity.

Samsung is aiming to make a 600-megapixel camera that exceeds the capabilities of a human eye. Of course, that’s a long-term plan. However, it shouldn’t be surprising if the company launches a 200-megapixel image sensor in the near future. It now remains to be seen how the ongoing chip shortage affects these plans.