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Supply of large-sized panel DDI likely to remain tight, with shortage also expected for TCON due to limited backend packaging/testing capacities

The stay-at-home economy generated by the COVID-19 pandemic has galvanized a rising demand for IT products this year, with a corresponding increase in DDI demand as well, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. More specifically, large-sized DDI demand is expected to increase by as much as 7.4% YoY in 2021, although the availability of 8-inch foundry capacity in the upstream supply chain is expected to increase by a mere 2.5% YoY due to other chips with relatively higher margins occupying much of this capacity. Foundries such as NexChip and SMIC are still continuing to install production capacities this year, and the supply of large-sized DDI will undergo a slight increase as a result. However, these newly installed capacities will be unable to fully alleviate the scarcity of large-sized DDI, which may potentially persist until the end of 2021.

While the supply of TCON similarly faces the issue of shortage, high-end TCON models bear the brunt of the impact
In addition to the tight supply of large-sized DDI, the recent shortage of TCON (timing controllers) has also adversely affected the shipment volume of large-sized panels, especially for high-end TCON models. The shortage of TCON can primarily be attributed to the fact that high-end TCON is mainly manufactured in 12-inch fabs, where various chips compete over limited wafer capacities. In addition, backend logic IC packaging and testing capacities are similarly in short supply, thereby adding further risk to the supply of TCON. In particular, manufacturing high-end TCON requires longer wire bonding time compared with mainstream TCON, meaning the current shortage of wire bonding capacity will lead to a widening shortage of high-end TCON. While the expanding capacity of packaging and testing services for logic chips is yet to catch up to the surging demand for various end products, the shortage of high-end TCON will unlikely be alleviated in the short run.

Prices of large-sized DDI will undergo an increase once again in 3Q21 due to persistently tight supply
TrendForce’s investigations indicate that, as 8-inch foundry capacities fall short of market demand, production capacities allocated to large-sized DDI have accordingly been crowded out by other chips. Foundry quotes are also expected to undergo an increase once again in 3Q21. Hence, IC suppliers will accordingly raise their large-sized DDI quotes for clients in the panel manufacturing industry as well. It should be pointed out that the demand for IT products is expected to slow down in response to increased vaccinations in Europe and the US, where governments have been gradually easing lockdown measures and border restrictions. Therefore, demand for panels, which has remained in an upward trajectory since last year, will likely experience a gradual downward correction in 4Q21, thus narrowing the gap between supply and demand of large-sized DDI. However, IC suppliers will not be able to address the tight supply of backend packaging and testing capacity in the short run, so panel suppliers will still need to contend with a shortage of TCON going forward.

On the whole, IC suppliers are unlikely to obtain sufficient 8-inch foundry capacities for manufacturing large-sized DDI, since 8-inch fabs will continue to operate at maximum capacity utilization rates for the next year. IC suppliers must therefore flexibly adjust their large-sized DDI procurement in accordance with cyclical downturns of foundry demand. In other words, the supply and demand situation of large-sized DDI and TCON will remain key to the supply and demand of panels in 2022. TrendForce

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