As far as the outlook goes for 2014-2015, investments coming from the semiconductor and microelectronics industries are going to be pretty robust. However, it will likely remain a consolidated group effort, with a majority of the investments coming from the few major players in the industry. The latest semiconductor industry forecast suggests a 21% increase in semiconductor equipment sales in 2014 to almost $44 billion.
The key drivers are flash fab investments in China and Japan, as well as processor and foundry fab investments in Ireland and the U.S. Strong demand for smartphones and tablet devices and pent-up need for capacity will lead the industry to one of the highest levels ever for equipment investment. Although equipment spending will see strong growth, new fab investments are expected to drop in 2014, as fabs under construction in 2013 will be installing tools in 2014.
We continue to see a need for increased collaboration moving forward. Whether you are a believer in Moore’s Law or not, technology needs to continue to advance for the sake of cost and efficiency. However, this is not easily accomplished without some level of collaborative technology development. New efforts from the likes of the G450C and F450C should help drive the level of industry collaboration that will be necessary to advance technology in the years ahead.
The U.S. finds itself in a unique position; the market is still lingering with uncertainty as we deal with economic and political issues. However, US manufacturing costs are now on par with developing countries as land and labor continue to diminish as part of the overall capital and operating costs for a factory, so we should continue to see increased technology investments especially in the area of personal health and quality of life products.
In the coming years, we will need to find new ways to foster innovation. Gone are the days when start-ups were popping up left and right, but we need to continue to see this type of technological creativity and innovation to keep our industry alive. It’s our job now to help nurture a new generation of engineers that have that start-up mentality, so we can continue to grow this industry at the pace our consumers demand.