Slowdown in 300mm output pushes chip utilization below 90%

November 28, 2006 – The latest data from Semiconductor International Capacity Statistics (SICAS) indicates 300mm capacity is still coming online strong, but a slowdown in actual wafer starts during 3Q06 pushed overall utilization rates below the 90% mark for the first time in more than a year.

Almost all of the total semiconductor capacity added during 3Q06 was for 300mm chipmaking operations, rising 17.8% Q-Q and 85.3% Y-Y to 480.6 million WSPW, and offsetting a slight increase in 200mm WSPW capacity and a decrease in <200mm WSPW. But the ramp of actual 300mm wafer starts slowed significantly, to 7% vs. 2Q06, following four quarters of 17%-19% Q-Q growth. As a result, 300mm utilization rates fell below 90% for the first time in almost two years (to 87.9%), down from a plateau of ~97% during the previous three quarters.

Total IC capacity in 3Q amounted to 1815.1 million wafer starts per week (WSPW, 200mm equivalent), about 15% higher than a year ago, and the fourth straight quarter of double-digit year-on-year growth. Actual wafer starts were up about 13% vs. 3Q05 to 1607.4 million WSPW, also four straight quarters of double-digit growth in the teens. IC capacity utilization fell to 88.6% from 91.2% in 2Q, the first time utilization has slipped below the 90% level since 2Q05. Global wafer capacity has risen sequentially for 11 straight quarters, and seven quarters for actual wafer starts.

Total semiconductors (including discretes) saw a 4.0% jump in capacity to 1951.2 million WSPW, and a 1.2% increase in actual starts, for overall utilization of 88.9%. Total MOS capacity rose 4.2% sequentially and 16.7% vs. a year ago to 1730.4 million WSPW, while MOS wafer starts were up just 1.1% Q-Q and 14.6% Y-Y to 1541.8 WSPW.

Utilization rates for leading-edge processes (MOS <0.12-micron) fell back to 94.3% from about 97% in 2Q, the lowest level in more than a year (SICAS started tracking <0.12-micron as a separate category in 1Q05). Utilization for processes >/= 0.12-micron to <0.16-micron slowed down significantly, to 90.6%, down from more than 97%, while processes >/= 0.16-micron to <0.20-micron also took a hit, down from 86.6% in 2Q to 81.0% in 3Q.

Even foundries took a small hit to utilization rates in 3Q, adding more capacity (3% Q-Q, ~13% Y-Y to 289.4 million WSPW) compared with actual output (0.2% Q-Q, 12.4% Y-Y, to 264.7 million WSPW), which moved 3Q utilization rates down to 91.5% from 94.2%.


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