Lee Jo-won said on Thursday that the government owned National Nanofab Center (NNFC) will devote 45 billion won ($38.7 million) in launching a test bed to aid in speeding up of the localization of semiconductor materials, parts, and equipment.
Construction of the test bed is in accordance with the government’s plan to halt its heavy reliance on the Japanese supply chain in the semiconductor industry. This is in light of Tokyo’s export restrictions since July on chip-related materials to Seoul.
Lee said during a media conference in Seoul, “Our goal is to play a bridging role, connecting small and medium-sized companies with large companies, helping the former go through test production so that they can supply fine products to the latter.” He recently became the sixth president of the NNFC in September.
According to Lee, that by 2022 the NNFC will utilize the national budget to construct a production line to manufacture chips on 12-inch wafers. This is the chip-making process that giants such as SK Hynix and Samsung Electronics are currently using to manufacture their semiconductor chips.
“The localization rate of semiconductor materials only stood at 50 percent and 20 percent for chip-making equipment so having a test production line of 12-inch wafers is essential to cultivate the local semiconductor industry,” he said.
The semiconductor manufacturing process uses a wafer as a substrate for chips. At present, Samsung and SK employ the 12-inch wafers for more productivity than using smaller 8-inch wafers.
The NNFC will build a manufacturing facility, dubbed the “clean room”, which is about 1,000 square meters in size, and will purchase chip-making equipment such as an ArF immersion scanner.
An NNFC official said that the newly-built test bed will assist in raising self-sufficiency in the nation’s semiconductor industry.
“The NNFC test bed will improve efficiency of research and development activities of domestic firms. To give an example, a mid-sized semiconductor company has to pay about 2 billion won a year to a Belgian firm to test its products. But they can save on cost and time for R&D with the NNFC test bed,” the official said.