Analyst: “Volatile” fab automation sector to grow 50% by 2008

June 13, 2006 – The market for fab automation tools, characterized as “extremely volatile” and often trending opposite to the rest of the equipment industry, is poised for significant growth over the next two years thanks to the ongoing migration to using 300mm wafers in semiconductor manufacturing, according to one analyst.

Semiconductor fab automation tools revenues will grow 50% through 2008 — well above the generally forecasted industry growth in the low teens — to about $1 billion, thanks to more chipmakers converting operations to utilize 300mm wafers, stated Robert Castellano, president of The Information Network, New Tripoli, PA. He noted that this equipment segment, including automated material handling systems (AMHS), or interbay/intrabay equipment, “is extremely volatile.” While the entire semiconductor industry plummeted in 2001, for example, the AMHS sector only decreased by about 4%, while in 2004 the segment raced well ahead of the rest of the industry with 70% growth, and did so again in 2005 with about 25% growth.

The robotic sector also has displayed significant ups and downs in recent years, surging nearly 84% in 2004, but dropping 7.2% in 2005, to $619 million. Castellano predicts this segment will grow to $975 million by 2008, a 58% clip. The merchant robotics sector, meanwhile, dropped 11% in 2005 to $540 million.

Asyst Technologies was the top supplier in AMHS system sales in 2005 with a 43% share, followed by Daifuku with 32% share. Brooks Automation was tops in both atmospheric and vacuum robotics in 2005 with 49% share, followed by Asyst with 19%, according to the analyst firm.


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