SICAS: Utilization slips, but still high

November 30, 2010 – Semiconductor manufacturing seems to have slipped a bit in 3Q10, according to the latest data from SICAS, but utilization rates remain extremely high. And foundries continue to sizzle.

Inside the 3Q10 data update from the Semiconductor International Capacity Statistics (SICAS) group:

— Utilization rates slipped in 3Q10 for the first time in six quarters (back to 1Q09), as actual wafer starts inched up slightly less than capacity. But utilizations are still exceedingly high: roughly 95% for both ICs and total semiconductors (vs. ~96% in 2Q10 and ~87% a year ago.

— Total semiconductor manufacturing capacity was up 1% in 3Q10 to 2146.9K wafer starts per week (WSPW), about the same pace as in 2Q10, and two consecutive quarters of ~1% growth following five quarters of flat or negative growth (back to 4Q08). Actual wafer starts/week rose just 0.4% to 2039.3K WSPW, down from 3%-4% over the past several quarters. For ICs only, capacity rose 0.8% Q/Q to 1953.0K WSPW, while actual wafer starts crept up 0.3% to 1853K WSPW.

— Capacity is now back to 1Q09 levels for total semiconductors and total ICs, but those are still well below the previous capacity peaks from 3Q08: -11.5% for total semis and -12% for ICs, respectively.

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— Work at the leading edges continues to be tight, but also easing very slightly. Capacity utilization for MOS <0.06μm slipped to 97.2% vs. 98.9% in 2Q10, with a 10.6% increase in capacity to 875K WSPW offset by a 9% rise in actual starts to 850.0K WSPW. The next group of trailing-edge nodes (MOS <0.08μm to ≥0.06μm) saw their numbers decline quite a bit (-14% capacity to 231.6K WSPW and -15% actuals to 225.0K WSPW), but utilization is similarly high at 97.2%. The nodes for MOS <0.12μm to ≥0.08μm also are high at >94% utilization, though with declining capacity (-13% to 125.7 WSPW) and actual wafer starts (-14% to 118.4K WSPW). It seems the most leading-edge wafer starts (<0.06μm) are chewing into WSPW from the two previous node ranges.


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— Business at foundries, on the other hand, continues to ramp up and outpace past the overall semiconductor and IC sectors. Foundries added 4.4% capacity in 3Q10 (a fifth straight month of growth) to 424.9K WSPW, and increased wafer starts by 4.9% to 422.0K WSPW (six months of growth). That actually pushed foundries’ capacity utilization even higher, to 99.3% — up from 98.8% in 2Q and just 91.9% a year ago.

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— And not surprisingly, 300mm wafers are getting the lion’s share of work — 3.9% more capacity (1194.5K WSPW) vs. 2.7% more actuals (1161.7K WSPW), for a utilization of 97.2%; that’s down from >98% in the previous quarter but still above all other levels from the past three years.

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