Following a host of forecasts for 2014, it is now the turn of Applied Materials with its forecast for the year. First, I asked Om Nalamasu, senior VP, CTO, Applied Materials regarding the outlook for the global semicon industry in 2014.
Semicon outlook 2014
He said that Gartner expects the semiconductor industry to grow in mid-single digits to over $330 billion in 2014.
“In our industry – the semiconductor wafer fab equipment sector – we are at the beginning of major technology transitions, driven by FinFET and 3D NAND, and based a wide range of analyst projections, wafer fab equipment investment is expected to be up 10-20 percent in 2014. We expect to see a year-over-year increase in foundry, NAND, and DRAM investment, with logic and other spending flat to down.”
Five trends for 2014
Next, what are the top five trends likely to rule the industry in 2014?
Nalamasu said that the key trends continuing to drive technology in 2014 and beyond include 3D transistors, 3D NAND, and 3D packaging. 3D remains a central theme. In logic, foundries will ramp to 20nm production and begin early transition stages to3D finFET transistors.
With respect to 3D NAND, some products will be commercially available, but most memory manufacturers plan to crossover from planar NAND to vertical NAND starting this year. In wafer level packaging, critical mechanical and electrical characterization work is bringing the manufacturability of 3D-integrated stacked chips closer to reality.
These device architecture inflections require significant advances in precision materials engineering. This spans such critical steps as precision film deposition, precision materials removal, materials modification and interface engineering. Smaller features and atomic-level thin films also make interface engineering and process integration more critical than ever.
Driving technology innovations are mobility applications which need high performance, low power semiconductors. Smartphones, smart watches, tablets and wearable gadgets continue to propel industry growth. Our customers are engaged in a fierce battle for mobility leadership as they race to be the first to market with new products that improve the performance, battery-life, form-factor and user experience of mobile devices.
How is the global semiconductor industry managing the move to the sub 20nm era?
He said that extensive R&D work is underway to move the industry into the sub-20nm realm. For the 1x nodes, more complex architectures and structures as well as new higher performance materials will be required.
Some specific areas where changes and technology innovations are needed include new hard mask and channel materials, selective material deposition and removal, patterning, inspection, and advanced interface engineering. For the memory space, different memory architectures like MRAM are being explored.
FinFETs in 20nm!
By the way, have FinFETs gone to 20nm? Are those looking for power reduction now benefiting?
FinFET transistors are in production in the most advanced 2x designs by a leading IDM, while the foundries are in limited R&D production. In addition to the disruptive 3D architecture, finFET transistors in corporate new materials such as high-k metal gate (HKMG) that help to drastically reduce power leakage.
Based on public statements, HKMG FinFET designs are expected to deliver more than a 20 percent improvement in speed and a 30 percent reduction in power consumption compared to28nm devices. These are significant advantages for mobile applications.
Status of 3D ICs
Finally, what’s the status with 3D ICs? How is Applied helping with true 3D stacking integration?
Nalamasu replied that vertically stacked 3D ICs are expected to enter into production first for niche applications. This is due primarily to the higher cost associated with building 3D wafer-level-packaged (WLP) devices. While such applications are limited today, Applied Materials expects greater utilization and demand to grow in the future.
Applied is an industry leader in WLP, having spear-headed the industry’s development of through silicon via (TSV) technology. Applied offers a suite of systems that enable customers to implement a variety of packaging techniques, from bumping to redistribution layer (RDL) to TSV. Because of work in this area, Applied is strongly positioned to support customers as they begin to adopt this technology.
To manufacture a robust integrated 3D stack, several fundamental innovations are needed. These include improving defect density and developing new materials such as low warpage laminates and less hygroscopic dielectrics.
Another essential requirement is supporting finer copper line/spacing. Important considerations here are maintaining good adhesion while watching out for corrosion. Finally, for creating the necessary smaller vias, the industry needs high quality laser etching to replace mechanical drilling techniques.
Just about 10 odd days ago, I had blogged about building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV)! I had also mentioned how solar/PV will be the next big story in India, with BIPV right up there at the very top!
Well, according to a published report on India Infoline, the Indian semiconductor and fab policy has attracted 12 major proposals, worth a whopping Rs. 93,000 crores!
A Press Information Bureau (PIB) release says that the Department of Information Technology (DIT), Government of India, has set up a panel of technical experts to evaluate the proposals.
The promoters will come up to the Appraisal Committee for sanction of subsidy under the scheme once they have reached the threshold limit of investment, as indicated in the guidelines of the Special Incentive Package Scheme.
A majority of these proposals — ten (10) — are for solar/PV. One proposal is for a semiconductor wafer — from Reliance Industries worth Rs. 18,521 crores, and another for TFT LCD flat panels — from Videocon Industries, worth Rs. 8,000 crores.
The 10 proposals for solar/PV are from: KSK Surya (Rs. 3,211 crores), Lanco Solar (Rs. 12,938 crores), PV Technologies India (Rs. 6,000 crores), Phoenix Solar India (Rs. 1,200 crores), Reliance Industries (Rs. 11,631 crores), Signet Solar Inc. (Rs. 9,672 crores), Solar Semiconductor (Rs. 11,821 crores), TF Solar Power (Rs. 2,348 crores), Tata BP Solar India (Rs. 1,692.80 crores), and Titan Energy System (Rs. 5,880.58 crores).
Does the Indian solar/PV story now start making some sense? It is very much in line to become the next big success story for India after the Indian telecom story!
Evidently, Reliance Industries is the major player in all of this, having proposed both a semicon wafer fab as well as a solar/PV fab. Lanco Solar, Solar Semiconductor, Signet Solar, Videocon, and PV Technologies are some of the other big players proposing to enter the Indian semiconductor/fab space.
Well, this is really great news for the Indian semiconductor industry! Further, it comes close on the heels of the announcement of the 3G spectrum policy and MNP policy by the government of India.
A few weeks ago, Dr. Madhusudan V. Atre, president, Applied Materials India, had mentioned that taking the solar/PV route was perhaps, a practical route for India to enter manufacturing. How true are those words!
Late June, I too had proposed, among others points, that Karnataka (and other Indian states) look at having some solar/PV fabs.
Dr. Pradip K. Dutta, Corporate Vice President & Managing Director, Synopsys (India) Pvt Ltd had also mentioned late June that it was too early to write off the Indian fab story. We now have the answer to that question of having fabs in India!
All of this should also excite those investors looking to enter India. The huge interest and subsequent proposals for solar/PV can also lead to India having some of its own solar farms as well!
The India Semiconductor Association should be congratulated for having made this happen. It is soon going to a year since the Indian government had announced the semiconductor policy. Now, with these mega proposals in place, maybe, we will see more investors in the Indian semicon and solar/PV fab spaces.
Top 10 Indian semicon companies review
Another interesting thought! Last year, around this time, I had prepared a list of the Top 10 Indian semiconductor companies. This particular blog has been among the most accessed.
Perhaps, a review is in order! Besides, several Indian players are beginning to make a mark, like Cosmic Circuits, SemIndia, etc. The list of August 2007 mostly had Indian design services companies. This feature of Indian design services companies dominating a top 10 list will probably continue for some more time, till all of these proposals bear fruit into concrete, productive fabs.
I am sure, with those mega investments coming into the Indian semicon wafer IC fab and solar/PV fabs, most of the companies would soon figure in any top 10 list!\
Surely, 2009 should be quite exciting as all of this means a very positive future and outlook for the Indian semiconductor industry.
Building integrated photovoltaics or BIPV! Hey folks, prepare yourself to hear more about this term and the technology for quite some time to come! Solar/PV will be the next big story in India, and BIPV should be right up there at the top!
While BIPV is not yet talked about a lot in India, though, it may surprise many that there has been a deployment in India, I am sure that BIPV will be doing the rounds very soon.
There’s another interesting angle to the BIPV, rather, solar story. Can EDA play a role here? I will examine this angle some time later.
First, what is BIPV? According to PV Resources, BIPV is merely photovoltaic systems integrated with an object’s building phase. They are built/constructed along with an object, or planned together with the object. Yet, they could be built later on.
The following BIPV systems are said to be recognized:
* Facade or roof systems added after the building was built.
* Facade integrated photovoltaic systems built along with an object.
* Roof-integrated photovoltaic systems built along with an object.
* “Shadow-Voltaic” – PV systems also used as shadowing systems, built along with an object or added later.
If there are more, kindly share the information with me!
Now, to India. Just recently, Dr. Madhu Atre, president, Applied Materials India, referred to the use of BIPV during a discussion. He said that for energy-efficient glass, you could save on AC costs, etc., by using building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV). I hope we take serious note of what Dr. Atre said!
Didn’t they say green IT was the most used and abused term? We really love talking so much about green IT. Well, here’s an outstanding example, and actually, an example very few have really bothered to look at, so far, at least.
Staying with India, very few know that SunTechnics India, a brand of Conergy Group, a leading supplier of solar system integration, completed the design and installation of India’s first green housing project facilitated with building-integrated solar power.
The 58 kilowatt project was developed in partnership with the West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Agency (WBREDA) as an initiative in solar architecture for the Rabi Rashmi Abasan eco-friendly housing complex at New Town Kolkata, of all places! Power will be fed into the public grid and facilitate electricity needs for 25 residential buildings and a community center.
If anyone has any doubts about the scope and power of solar or BIPV, take a look at Nanomarkets’ report, which predicts that the market for BIPV will reach over $4.0 billion in revenues by 2013 and surpass $8 billion in 2015.
Late last month, I had written about certain steps Karnataka and the other states could adopt as part of a semicon policy.
Do include BIPV in your plans!
Actually, BIPV is very much part of the Indian semicon policy as well. West Bengal is probably the first state to have successfully implemented BIPV in a project. Congratulations are due!
Solar/PV is perhaps, a practical route for India to enter manufacturing, contends Dr. Madhusudan V. Atre, president, Applied Materials India. Alternatively, another way to enter this field could be by having solar farms.
According to Dr. Atre, India has a strong potential for manufacturing. The Indian scenario has the talent pool and an emerging middle class, along with the presence of system design and chip design companies. Only a fab seems to be the missing piece from this ecosystem!
Benefits of a fab include: fuels economic productivity, contributes to GDP and adds to national growth, creates jobs, helps set up the other expertise necessary for an ecosystem, and closes the loop between market, design, manufacture, test, customer.
Indian fab scenario
Commenting on the Indian scenario, Dr. Atre, says: “For PV, about $200-500mn is needed for a fab. If we can enter into manufacturing via the solar/PV route, the scale of investment required would be much less [than the investment needed for a wafer IC fab]. This can be practical route to enter manufacturing in India, and less complexity is involved, as compared to an IC fab.” Another way of entering manufacturing is by having solar farms.
Applied’s external face in India involves: Take leadership role in industry bodies; work with the government on various semiconductor and manufacturing policies; look for potential investments in start-ups; work with the academia on collaborative research in nanomanufacturing; be sponsors in key conferences; drive corporate social responsibility programs; and help enable semiconductor and solar manufacturing in India.
Touching on some emerging areas of interest, Dr. Atre highlights that packaging is very important in semiconductors. “We may look at some company in packaging R&D. We have invested a bit in Tessolve,” he says. “We would also like to see the success of the nanotech lab in IIT-Mumbai, and see how it can help India.” On a global scale, he notes that Applied would be setting up two-three SunFab lines with Masdar in Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Applied Materials in India
Headquartered in Bangalore, Applied has been present in the country for over five years. It has approximately 1,500 employees and associates. A liaison office was originally set up in May 2002. Applied Materials India Pvt Ltd (AMIPL) was set up in July 2003, and operations started in November 2003 with cost + model. It consolidated all Applied operations in Bangalore into ITPL (~92,000sqft). It also merged Brooks Chennai (~100RFTs) into Applied India operations. Applied currently has R&D centers in Bangalore and Chennai.
Next, Applied established site operations in Delhi (~5000 sqft) to support Moser Baer. Its key partners are Satyam, Wipro and TCS, on various aspects of engineering and software services. In Delhi, Applied has 25-30 people to support Moser Baer, where it has the first SunFab line up and running.
In Mumbai, it has set up a nanomanufacturing lab with IIT-Mumbai. “We have put in equipment worth $7-8 million there, and do R&D projects,” adds Dr. Atre. The nano lab at IIT-Mumbai was inaugurated in November 2007 by Mike Splinter, president and CEO, Applied Materials.
Applied is also involved in the potential upgrade of SCL. “We are working with some other companies on how we can upgrade SCL. We are more at the backend to set up some capabilities,” he says.
Applied Ventures makes investment in emerging technologies and companies. It has funded a couple of companies in the semi start-up stage. Applied Ventures looks at global investments.
Moser Baer is Applied’s first customer in India. It has a 35-40MW assembly line. This is the first time that 5+m2 solar panels will be coming out. The panel will now have to be taken up to the production ramp. Dr. Atre adds that Europe was much advanced in solar/PV. Germany, especially, was far advanced in the implementation aspect, as well as Italy and Spain.
Nannomanufacturing, as per Wikipedia, is “the near-term industrial-scale manufacture of nanotechnology-based objects, with emphasis on low cost and reliability.” To manufacture at this level requires a lot of expertise, skills, etc., says Dr. Atre. Cost is definitely an important driver, and so is reliability, he adds. According to him, nanomanufacturing technology combines the two core strengths of Applied: nano + manufacturing.
Applied’s vision has been to apply nanomanufacturing technology to improve the way people live. Its mission: To lead the Nanomanufacturing technology revolution with innovations that transform markets, create opportunities, and offer a cleaner, brighter future to people around the world.
Applied Materials is a global leader in nanomanufacturing technology solutions with a broad portfolio of innovative equipment, service and software products for fabrication of: semiconductor chips, flat panel displays (using TFTs), solar photovoltaic cells and modules (in crystalline and thin film vectors), flexible electronics, and energy efficient glass (BIPV). The last three categories fall under EE or the Environment and Energy Division.
Dr. Atre says: “We have the SunFab line for solar/PV. In flexible electronics, as an example, you can have solar cells wrapped around an object.” As for energy-efficient glass, you can save on AC costs, etc., by using building integrated photovoltaics.
Applied’s core capabilities include: commercialize sophisticated systems and thin-film engineering, besides a global culture. “Our technological strengths include semiconductors, solar/PV cells and FPDs. We have nanomanufacturing technology as the common theme.” Touching on the loss per watt, he says it is currently around $14, which needs to come down to at least $2 or one-fourth.
Applied makes systems used to produce virtually every new microchip in the world, taking care of thermal, etching, inspection, PVD, CVD and CMP. For LCD flat panel display systems, Applied offers a variety of systems, such as PECVD systems, e-beam array testers, PVD systems and color filter sputtering systems.
The processing panels can be up to 2.2×2.5 meters. For solar manufacturing, Applied offers crystalline silicon, flexible PV and thin-film line, or the Applied SunFab lines. For architectural glass and flexible electronics, it offers both glass and Web coating systems.
“We have three key businesses, silicon systems, displays and energy and environmental solutions,” said Dr. Atre. These are supported by Applied Global Services.
Applied’s goals for 2010 include: Expanded revenue streams, to become a $13-15 billion company; increased operating efficiency, with margins >25 percent, and increased cash flow, about >20 percent of revenue.
Future Horizons recently released the May WSTS results on the global semiconductor industry, which indicate that the chip market is slowly starting to buzz again. With the ‘hum back among the chips’, it was important for me to quiz Malcolm Penn, chairman and CEO, Future Horizons, in the UK, to find out why this was happening!
Now then, why is the chip market exactly humming? What has actually happened? Well, nothing specific! It is merely an overall step-by-step general improvement in everything, helped along by the normal seasonal improvement in business in the second half of the year!
So many forecasters and firms have their own forecasts. What happens now if some of these forecasts are cut or revised? Will that affect the market overall market? The answer is simple — a forecast is simply just that — a forecast — not fact!
Penn says, “The market will judge whether the other forecasters’ analyses of the market were right, as it wll indeed judge whether we are right too!”
Earlier, I had written about Future Horizons forecasting 12 percent growth in 2008 for the global semiconductor industry. Keep an eye on that one!
Further, have the ASPs stabilized, as those are indeed a dodgy lot? Penn feels, “We believe yes, although, there will still be the normal month-on-month variations and wobbles.”
Now, where does all of this leave the DRAM and NAND markets? According to the forecast, prices have already stopped falling as fast as they were this time last year.
However, they do fall and will fall; this is what they do! The question is: by how much? In other words, is the current fall above or below the long-term trend line? This will be analyzed in the long run as well.
Finally, what’s happening with the semicon equipment capex? Again, it is continuing to fall! “Right now we are in the middle of an underinvestment period, which means a capacity shortfall in 12 month’s time,” notes Penn.
No ‘fab’ times for fab spends
Is the fab spend going to see any change then? Well, unfortunately, no luck there! At least, not yet. Penn adds that fab spend is lower than expected at the beginning of the year.
He says: “The call then was for a 10 percent reduction, and this is now getting to be closer to 20 percent. In fact, Mike Splinter of Applied Materials is quoted as saying that he thinks that fab spend will end up 30 percent down.”
It is good to see that the global semiconductor industry is starting to hum a little bit more than what it was doing last month. Sincerely hope that the rest of the year pans out well!
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.
“The Indian semiconductor policy is really ground breaking. Hopefully, it will build great business.” These comments from Michael R. Splinter, president and CEO, Applied Materials, were enough to indicate how much the Indian semiconductor policy, announced recently by the government of India, has caught the attention of global semicon majors.
Mike Splinter was delivering his lecture at the Thought Leader Series organized by the India Semiconductor Association (ISA), where he also highlighted the needs of sustainability and energy management from a global perspective.
According to him, some things never changed in the semiconductor industry, such as: technical innovation being the most viable lever for productivity, end of optical lithography being imminent, no imminent change in fab economics ($/die), growth in complexities of products and applications.
“Through all of these times, the Moore’s Law has persisted. The complexity of products have increased,” he added. Another thing that hadn’t changed was the growing need for sustainable practices.
Citing statistics, he said that the semiconductor industry was growing 5 percent this year, while the semiconductor equipment industry was growing at 3-5 percent during 2007. “Memory continues to grow very rapidly. NAND flash is a killer app,” Splinter noted.
India, according to him, has a major role to play in the semiconductor domain. India’s strengths lie in world class IC design and R&D capability, growing market for consumer electronics (CE), and an increasing need to address both global and industry challenges — in terms of sustainability and energy use.
Challenge of sustainability
Touching on the growing importance of sustainability, Splinter cited The Economist, which reported that $70bn had been spent globally in clean tech research and funding. Further, the IPCC reported that the evidence of human caused global warming was equivocal.
While economic growth was driving demand and the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries were accelerating it, there was also an increasing use of chips in consumer electronics products. This translated into an increasing use of energy. “All of these factors, together, make sustainability even more challenging,” added Splinter.
Splinter gave an example of LCD TVs, which are likely to grow 65 percent this year. Now, 90 percent of the power in LCD TVs goes into the backlight. If new technologies could be developed, those would certainly assist in saving more power. Another example was that of servers, laptops and TVs together accounting for 8 percent of global power consumption. That’s a lot of power, if the global power is estimated at 5TW or so. It needs to be reduced as well.
So what is the waste and energy impact of consumer electronics? For starters, there are increasing energy consumption and recycling challenges. Next, manufacturing requires a lot of water, energy and materials. Another impact is the waste management within the manufacturing value chain. Splinter said, “The environmental impact can be reduced by clean tech products and sustainable manufacturing.”
Need for energy efficient chips
Energy definitely needs to grow faster than the global economy. There is also a need to think about the environment and waste management. There is a need to increase the energy efficiency in chips, instead of solely focusing on performance.
Splinter said the time had come to take major steps, such as producing energy efficient chips. Applied Materials itself will be working on reducing the energy consumption in all of its practices. The semiconductor equipment maker will also be adopting clean energy in all of its facilities. The time has come for all to work together on energy use, Splinter added.
On solar, he noted that it had not yet managed to achieve scale. However, Germany had strongly pushed it, providing manufacturing incentives. “The scales are now starting to happen in Europe, especially, Germany,” he added. “There is pretty good motivation and incentive to deploy solar here, in India, as well.”