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90pc fab investments for 300mm capacity: SEMI

August 31, 2008 Comments off

Recently, SEMI (Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International) released its World Fab Forecast report. This report mentions that projected decline in world semiconductor fab equipment spending of 20 percent is likely for 2008. However, a rebound of over 20 percent in spending is expected in 2009, driven by over 70 fab projects.

The August 2008 edition of this report lists 53 fab equipping projects and up to 21 construction projects for fabs in 2009. It is sincerely hoped that at least one of the fabs likely from the Southeast Asian region is from India!

With the help of Scott Smith Senior Manager, Public Relations, SEMI, I was able to get in touch with Christian Gregor Dieseldorff, Senior Manager of Fab Information and Analysis at SEMI, in an attempt to find out more about the decline in global fab spends, these new fabs, and how these fabs can lead a turnaround in the global semiconductor industry. Thanks Scott!

So what are the chief reasons for the decline in fab spends during 2008? According to Dieseldorff, given the weaker economic conditions globally, coupled with higher energy and commodity prices and the financial crisis, the overall outlook for semiconductor growth in 2008 is for low-single digit growth in both revenues and units. As such, device makers have responded by cutting back their capital spending and pushing out fab projects or putting them on hold.

I was keen to find out the geographic breakup of these 70 new fabs that are likely yo come up in 2009.

Dieseldorff advised that these are not 70 new fabs coming up in 2009. Rather, the numbers reflect 300mm fabs only, and is a mix of on-going and new projects for fabs equipping and fab construction projects in 2009.

For equipping 300mm fabs, SEMI expects about: Americas 8, China 5, Europe and Mideast 4, Japan 7, South Korea 11, SE Asia 3 and Taiwan 15.

For 300mm fab construction projects, SEMI expects about: Americas 3, China 2, Europe and Mideast 1, Japan 2, South Korea 3, SE Asia 2 and Taiwan 8.

What are the salient features of some of these new fabs likely to come up next year (for instance, new tech nodes)? Dieseldorff highlighted that about 90 percent of the investments are for 300mm capacity, and the amount of spending for advanced nodes, such as 65nm, is increasing.

“Also, device makers are building larger fabs, which are termed “mega fabs,” so, to potentially realize a greater return based on scales of economy,” he added.

How will these new fabs contribute to a better performance from the global semicon industry? This will be quite interesting to witness.

Dieseldorff said that over the past several years, demand for semiconductor devices has been quite strong, and so, the industry has had to bring on capacity to support this need, both in terms of needed capacity and technology. Even with the slower market growth in 2008, recent industry data shows healthy levels of fab capacity utilization, especially for the advanced technology generations and for 300mm manufacturing.

He added: “The expectation is that demand for semiconductors will strengthen once global economic conditions improve. So, the capacity addition that is coming online this year and the fab projects that are equipping and beginning construction in 2009 are necessary to meet the future demand.”

So how will all of this affect the overall memory market (e.g., 42pc increase in share for memory)? Dieseldorff shared his thought, a fact, known well to those in the semiconductor industry, that the memory market has been battered by declining average selling prices and a condition termed by some as “profitless prosperity.”

“Looking at demand forecasts specific to memory, tremendous growth is anticipated,” he forecasted.

However, the manufacturers in this device segment are battling it out for market share, and the general expectation is that consolidation will continue.

Also, joint-ventures and partnerships are becoming increasingly critical in the memory sector as manufacturers seek to leverage their existing resources to meet future technology and capacity requirements.

It would be interesting to find out why Taiwan and Korea are forecasted as likely to exceed Japan in fab spend?

According to Dieseldorff, in Korea, Samsung has been and is the key spender, and as a company, it will continue to invest so to have a dominant share in the memory sector.

He said: “In 2009, our expectation is for the DRAM manufacturers in Taiwan to boost spending after cutting back this year. We expect seven new 300 mm fab lines in Taiwan to come into production over the next two years.”

However, spending in Japan has been more measured and is likely to remain so. Toshiba, and its joint-venture partner, Sandisk are the big spenders in Japan, when it comes to new fab capacity. Other Japanese semiconductor manufacturers are more cautious and are focused more on technology spending.

Top 10 global semiconductor trends for 2008

December 20, 2007 1 comment

It is really difficult to stick your neck out and predict. That’s what makes the analyst’s jobs so difficult. Things happen and pass you by so quickly. For instance, as an example, who would have thought that Samsung would face a substantial blackout that would halt six chip production lines in a complex operated by the world’s largest flash memory producer?

Plans for the fab in India are now well under way. There have been questions like, do we need fabs? The year 2008 is the year of presidential elections and the Summer Olympics. Will we really see a recession in 2008? Here are some of the trends that are visible for 2008. Would love to hear from you.

1. Semiconductor firms may have to face a recession year in an election year

Yes, strange as it may sound, this just might happen! Concerns about consumer spending, caused by higher oil prices, mortgage crisis in the US and fears of a possible recession have made analysts more cautious, albeit optimistic. Analysts are wary of an impending recession in semiconductors during 2008. That, it should fall in the year of the US presidential elections makes it all the more intriguing. The nervousness is already showing in the slowing down of some markets.

2. DRAM market looks weak in 2008

Will DRAM prices rebound? Remains to be seen, although DRAMeXchange says that Taiwanese suppliers are likely to have their output to trim by 10-25 percent during February (Chinese New Year) as they usually plan for an average of 3-7 days of annual facility maintenance during this period. DRAMeXchange regards this as a possible catalyst for a price rebound in near term. Analysts haven’t helped either, with some saying DRAM will be on the slow side or even negative in H1-08.

3. NAND market will remain hot

You can bet, it will! Analysts remain upbeat for a positive NAND market in 2008. The reason being – new applications such as wireless USB, increase in cell phones memory capacities, higher content in portable media players, etc. We hope it is not a flash in the pan. There are rumors of another iPhone along the way!

4. Power will remain major issue

This isn’t going to change anytime soon! Power awareness is crucial for portable applications. It determines battery lifetime, and there’s an increased amount of computation involved as well. Power awareness is extremely crucial for high-performance applications. It determines cooling and energy costs. Many chip designs today are power limited and still require maximum performance.

5. EDA has to catch up

And fast! Analysts at a recent webcast hosted by Semiconductor International elaborated how the EDA industry was in a position of lag in the market. The DFM issue is increasingly becoming more complex. There is said to be a move to restrict the design rules that is in place now for 45nm. We are likely to see major changes in 32nm. That will have an impact on the EDA tools.

6. Need to solve the embedded dilemma

It is said that in 2007, the cost of designing or developing the embedded software for an SoC actually passed the cost of designing the SoC itself! We seem to be in the middle of a software crisis that is going to hit the entire electronics industry in the next five to six years.

Analysts are wary of an impending recession in semiconductors during 2008

7. Consolidation in the fab space

Some of the other older IDMs and fabs are said to be actually shutting down and going over to the foundries and process wafers for less than what they can do on their own. In this respect, we are seeing a lot of consolidation within the fab space. The mid-level players are consolidating. The customer base is clearly narrowing. The field is narrowing in 65nm and 45nm, and as we get to below 45nm, the field is going to get much, much narrower.

8. Capital equipment guys will continue to move to other markets

The best example, you can think of, is Applied Materials, which is into innovative equipment, service and software products for fabrication of chips, flat panel displays, solar photovoltaic cells, flexible electronics and energy efficient glass. Even the smaller guys are moving into LEDs or MEMS markets. That tells us what these companies are thinking about the semiconductors market.

9. Spend on capital equipment to drop

Gartner is expecting the long overdue capital spending correction in DRAM market to push the capital equipment market into contraction. Another slow year from foundry, along with concerns of US economic recession, adding to the downside. However, NAND spend should ramp up.

10. Mini fabs in developing countries

India has announced fab plans. There have also been talks of mega fabs and mini fabs elsewhere. There are going to be different types of fabs! With globalization, lot of countries may decide they want to have a fab. The market’s going to change.

However, bear in mind that the outlook on new fab starts appears weaker, as many companies have cut back on spending to wait for the market to improve. After a forecasted 8 percent YoY increase in fab construction spending in 2007, levels are likely to be flat in 2008.

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