SICAS: Capacity comes online in 1Q08, utilization flat

May 27, 2008 – Worldwide semiconductor utilization held steady at around 90% in 1Q08, though a closer look at the numbers shows a surge of leading-edge capacity coming online at the start of the year, according to the latest quarterly statistics from Semiconductor International Capacity Statistics (SICAS).

Total IC capacity growth was just a tad more than the prior quarter, rising 1.7% Q-Q and 15.1% Y-Y to 2153.8K wafer starts/week (WSPW). An increase in actual wafer starts was essentially the same pace as in 4Q07 (1.9% vs. 1.8%) to 1950.2K WSPW, though Y-Y increase was nearly 20%, the highest growth in several years. Utilization rates also stayed about flat, at 90.5% vs. 90.4% in 4Q07.

Growth was similar in total semiconductors, with capacity (2359.2K WSPW, 1.6% Q-Q) slightly outpacing wafer starts (2117.1K WSPW, 1.4% Q-Q) so that utilization fell a couple of points to 89.7%.

Figure 1: Total IC capacity, actual wafer starts, utilization. (Source: SICAS)

After slowing in 4Q07, leading-edge capacity (<0.12μm) picked back up again in 1Q08, particularly on the capacity side. Process technologies <0.12μm/≥80nm stayed flat at around 95% utilization, actually losing both capacity (385.8K WSPW, -4.5%) and wafer starts (366.4K WSPW, -4.4%). The real jump came at <80nm, where capacity surged 14.5% Q-Q to 725.5K WSPW, and starts rose 16.2% to 701.9K WSPW, raising the utilization to nearly 97%.

Figure 1: MOS capacity by dimensions. (Source: SICAS)

Looks like that surge didn’t come from foundries, though. Foundry capacity sunk 4.7% Q-Q to 297.8K WSPW, while output dipped -4.8% Q-Q to 278.9K WSPW — though that represents a 35.8% spike from a year ago, and the highest Y-Y growth in two years. Overall foundry utilization stayed relatively flat at just under 94%.

Figure 1: Foundry wafers in MOS total. (Source: SICAS)

And the shift to 300mm wafer manufacturing continues unabated, at least on the investment side. 300mm capacity (expressed in 200mm equivalent) rose to 848.9K WSPW, up 8.6% Q-Q and an eye-popping 57.2% Y-Y. Actual wafer starts were reigned in from the prior quarters — 6% Q-Q, vs. 10%-20% through most of 2007 — to 361.2K WSPW, but Y-Y 300mm wafer starts maintained a three-month streak above 66% Y-Y growth. Utilization sunk from 98% in 4Q07 to 95.7%. Utilization for 200mm operations rose to 82.7% from 76.5% in 4Q07, with output rising (3.3%) for the first time in three quarters, following significant cutbacks in both capacity (-10%) and output (-14.5%) in 4Q.

Figure 1: 300mm wafers in MOS total (200mm equivalent). (Source: SICAS)


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