SEMICONDUCTOR firm Systems on Silicon Manufacturing Company (SSMC) expanded its footprint in Singapore on Tuesday, with the opening of its S$300 million Annex 10 clean room.
Connected to SSMC's existing Pasir Ris factory via a link bridge, the new 4,400 sq m facility makes for a 34 per cent increase in space for automotive and specialty chip manufacturing.
Despite the current slowdown in the global semiconductor cycle, the industry remains an important one for Singapore, said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing, who was guest of honour at the opening.
"Our outlook for this sector is actually very bright, taking a long-term perspective," he told reporters at the event, and noted that chips manufactured by the industry are indispensable in today's digital era.
He acknowledged that cyclical factors exist, but added: "When you make a substantial investment like this, you are not looking at a one- to two-year horizon. In fact, you are looking at a five-, 10-year horizon.
"When you look at the plans that this particular company has made, I would say that they are making a long-term commitment as an expression of confidence of the sector, not just in Singapore, but also worldwide."
Annex 10 will enable SSMC to raise its production of automotive wafers from 26 per cent of the firm's capacity to 40 per cent; by 2023, it could be up to 60 per cent.
This supports SSMC's strategic direction of moving further into the automotive and high-performance mixed signal segments, producing chip sets for car infotainment, in-vehicle networks, vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications, secure car access, as well as authentication control and sensors.
In line with Singapore's push for smart manufacturing and the use of Industry 4.0 technologies, the Annex 10 facility features automated robots and materials-handling systems, as well as Internet of Things technology and big-data analytics for better monitoring and efficiency.
Mr Chan noted that the facility represents not just an expansion of capacity, but also new capabilities. He applauded SSMC's partnering with local small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as its training of workers to use robotics and advanced processes so they "can be more productive and earn a higher salary".
Some 70 per cent of SSMC's staff have gone for skills upgrading; 5 per cent will be trained in data analytics, said SSMC chief executive officer Jagadish CV.
Besides the automotive industry, SSMC's wafers have a wide range of applications elsewhere, from e-passports and e-payments to radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags in the transport and supply chain industry, as well as smartphones.
Since its establishment two decades ago as a joint venture by NXP Semiconductors and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, SSMC has recorded an accumulative capital expenditure of over S$3 billion.
Singapore Economic Development Board deputy director for semiconductors Ling Yuan Chun said: "SSMC has been an important player in Singapore's semiconductor ecosystem since its inception. This expansion reflects the company's long-term commitment to undertake high-value manufacturing for growth applications such as automotive and security in Singapore.
"As Singapore celebrates 50 years of its semiconductor industry, we look forward to SSMC and other semiconductor companies deepening their roots in Singapore, and contributing to the development of local talent and supplier base."