Semiconductor Equipment Companies Need To Boycott 450mm Development Says The Information Network
NEW TRIPOLI, PA, April 16, 2009 . . . The planned transition to 450mm diameter silicon wafers for semiconductor production will be disastrous for the equipment industry, according to the report 300mm/Copper/Low-K Convergence: Timing, Trends, Issues, Market Analysis, report recently published by The Information Network, a New Tripoli, PA-based market research company.
MEMC recently announced planned layoffs of 200 employees and a speeding up of 450mm diameter wafer R&D. MEMC joins a litany of wafer suppliers and semiconductor manufacturers pushing for the transition. The strategy would enable semiconductor manufacturers to reduce costs because 2.25 times more chips can be made on a 450mm wafer compared to a 300mm wafer.
That same argument was pushed forth by the semiconductor companies during discussions on the transition from 200mm wafers to 300mm wafers about 10 years ago. So, who were the winners and losers in the 200-to-300mm transition and why would the 300-to-450mm transition be any different?
In 2002, 38.2% of equipment purchased by the semiconductor manufacturers was for 300mm production, and 1.4% of silicon wafers processed were 300mm in diameter. In 2008, 92.1% of equipment purchased was for 300mm production and 37.4% of silicon wafers were 300mm. Within that time, semiconductor revenues increased from about $10 billion per month at the start of 2002 to $20+ billion in December 2008. In contrast, semiconductor equipment bookings started off 2002 at $645 million, reached a peak of $1.8 billion in June 2006, and ended 2008 at about $800 million.
“Quite a disconnect,” noted Dr. Robert N. Castellano, President of The Information network. “Semiconductor sales took off while equipment sales have remained essentially flat. No wonder semiconductor manufacturers and Sematech are pushing for 450mm wafers.” Both the semiconductor and equipment industries prior to 2001 worked in tandem in a cyclical fashion of peaks and valleys every 2 years or so as shown below. After 2001, the industry changed, and the semiconductor industry continued a relentless growth while the equipment industry has been relatively flat, save for the peaks and valleys reminiscent of the 90s.
What about the silicon wafer manufacturers? Revenues for wafer manufacturers tended to follow semiconductor sales more closely than equipment sales. The dramatic upturn in 2006 is largely a result of the high cost of polysilicon brought about by a shortage on the market. Part of it was also due to the increase in 300mm wafer production as stated above.“Clearly the semiconductor equipment manufacturers were the losers in the 200-to-300mm transition, and there is no rational explanation that I can think of that will change the picture in the 300-to-450mm transition, added Dr. Castellano. “Only the largest equipment companies with the deepest pockets, who can even afford 450mm tool development in the first place, will survive.”
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CONTACT: Dr. Robert N. Castellano, 610/737-7596