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IC Insights recently released its new Global Wafer Capacity 2019-2023 report that provides in-depth detail, analyses, and forecasts for IC industry capacity by wafer size, process geometry, region, and product type through 2023.  Figure 1 shows the world’s installed monthly wafer production capacity by geographic region (or country) as of December 2018.  Each number represents the total installed monthly capacity of fabs located in that region regardless of the headquarters location of the company that own the fab(s).  For example, the wafer capacity that South Korea-based Samsung has installed in the U.S. is counted in the North America capacity total, not in the South Korea capacity total.  The ROW “region” consists primarily of Singapore, Israel, and Malaysia, but also includes countries/regions such as Russia, Belarus, and Australia.

Figure 1

As shown, Taiwan led all regions/countries in wafer capacity with 21.8% share, a slight increase from 21.3% in 2017 (Taiwan first became the global wafer capacity leader in 2015.)  Taiwan’s capacity share was only slightly ahead of South Korea, which accounted for 21.3% of global wafer capacity in 2018, according to the Global Wafer Capacity 2019-2023 report.  TSMC in Taiwan and Samsung and SK Hynix in South Korea accounted for the vast share of wafer fab capacity in each country and were the top three capacity leaders worldwide. TSMC held 67% of Taiwan’s capacity while Samsung and SK Hynix represented 94% of the installed IC wafer capacity in South Korea at the end of 2018.

Japan remained firmly in third place with just over 16.8% of global wafer fab capacity.  Micron’s purchase of Elpida several years ago and other recent major changes in manufacturing strategies of companies in Japan, including Panasonic spinning off some of its fabs into separate companies, means that the top two companies (Toshiba Memory and Renesas) accounted for 62% of that country’s wafer fab capacity.

China showed the largest increase in global wafer capacity share in 2018, rising 1.7 percentage points from a 10.8% share in 2017 to a 12.5% share in 2018.  It nearly tied North America as the fourth-largest country/region with installed capacity.  A lot of buzz circulated about China-based startups and their new wafer fabs during 2018. Meanwhile, other global companies expanded their manufacturing presence in China last year so it would be expected that the country’s capacity share would show a significant increase.  China’s percentage gain came mostly at the expense of ROW and North America.  The share of capacity in the ROW region slipped 0.8 percentage points from 9.5% in 2017 to 8.7% in 2018. North America’s share of capacity declined 0.4 percentage points in 2018.

China has been the largest consuming country for ICs since 2005, but large increases in IC production within China have not immediately followed, according to data presented in the new 500-page 2019 edition of IC Insights’ McClean Report—A Complete Analysis and Forecast of the Integrated Circuit Industry (released in January 2019).  As shown in Figure 1, IC production in China represented 15.3% of its $155 billion IC market in 2018, up from 12.6% five years earlier in 2013.  Moreover, IC Insights forecasts that this share will increase by 5.2 percentage points from 2018 to 20.5% in 2023.

Figure 1

Currently, China-based IC production is forecast to exhibit a very strong 2018-2023 CAGR of 15%.  However, considering that China-based IC production was only $23.8 billion in 2018, this growth is starting from a relatively small base.  In 2018, SK Hynix, Samsung, Intel, and TSMC were the major foreign IC manufacturers that had significant IC production in China.  In fact, SK Hynix’s 300mm China fab had the most installed capacity of any of its fabs in 2018 at 200,000 wafers per month (full capacity).

Intel’s 300mm fab in Dalian, China (Fab 68 that started MCU production in late October 2010), was idled in 3Q15 as the company switched the fab to 3D NAND flash manufacturing.  This conversion was completed in late 2Q16.  Intel’s China fab had an installed capacity of 70,000 300mm wafers per month in December of 2018 (full capacity).

In early 2012, Samsung gained approval from the South Korean government to construct a 300mm IC fabrication facility to produce NAND flash memory in in Xian, China.  Samsung started construction of the fab in September of 2012 and production began in 2Q14.  The company invested $2.3 billion in the first phase of the fab with $7.0 billion budgeted in total.  This facility was the primary fab for 3D NAND production for Samsung in 2017 with an installed capacity of 100,000 wafers per month as of December 2018 (the company plans to expand this facility to 200,000 wafers per month).

Significant increases in IC sales over the next five years are also expected from existing indigenous Chinese companies including pure-play foundries SMIC and Huahong Group and memory startups YMTC and ChangXin Memory Technologies (CXMT, formerly Innotron). DRAM startup JHICC is currently on hold pending the sanctions imposed on the company by the U.S.  Moreover, there are likely to be new companies looking to establish IC production in China like Taiwan-based Foxconn, which announced in December of 2018 that it intended to build a $9.0 billion fab in China to offer foundry services as well as produce TV chipsets and image sensors.

If China-based IC production rises to $47.0 billion in 2023 as IC Insights forecasts, it would still represent only 8.2% of the total forecasted 2023 worldwide IC market of $571.4 billion.  Even after adding a significant “markup” to some of the Chinese producers’ IC sales figures (since many of the Chinese IC producers are foundries that sell their ICs to companies that re-sell these products to the electronic system producers), China-based IC production would still likely represent only about 10% of the global IC market in 2023.

Even with new IC production being established by China-based startups such as YMTC and CXMT, IC Insights believes that foreign companies will continue to be a large part of the IC production base in China.  As a result, IC Insights forecasts that at least 50% of IC production in China in 2023 will come from foreign companies with fabs in China such as SK Hynix, Samsung, Intel, TSMC, UMC, GlobalFoundries, and Foxconn.

Given the sheer size of China’s investment plans over the next five years, it is likely that China will achieve some level of success with their strategy to become less reliant on IC imports.  However, given increased government scrutiny of Chinese attempts at purchasing foreign technology companies and the legal challenges that the Chinese startups are likely to face in the future, IC Insights believes that China’s current strategy with regard to the IC industry will fall far short of the level of success that China’s government has targeted with its “Made in China 2025” plan (i.e., 40% self-sufficiency by 2020 and 70% by 2025).

The semiconductor business is defined by rapid technological changes and the need to maintain high levels of investment in research and development for new materials, innovative manufacturing processes for increasingly complex chip designs, and advanced IC packaging technologies.

However, since the 1980s, the long-term trend has been toward a slowdown in the annual growth rate of research and development expenditures according to data presented in the new, 2019 edition of IC Insights’ McClean Report—A Complete Analysis and Forecast of the Integrated Circuit Industry (released in January 2019). Consolidation in the semiconductor industry has been a big factor contributing to lower growth rates for R&D expenditures so far this decade. In the most recent five-year span from 2013-2018, semiconductor R&D spending grew by CAGR of 3.6% per year, essentially unchanged from the 3.3% experienced from 2008-2013 (Figure 1).

Figure 1

IC Insights expects new challenges such as three-dimensional (3D) die-stacking technologies, growing complexities in end-use applications, and other significant manufacturing barriers to raise semiconductor R&D spending to a slightly higher growth rate of 5.5% per year in the 2018-2023 forecast period.

R&D spending trends discussed here cover expenditures by integrated device manufacturers (IDMs), fabless chip suppliers, and pure-play wafer foundries and do not include other companies and organizations involved in semiconductor-related technologies, such as production equipment and materials suppliers, packaging and test service providers, universities, government-funded labs, and industry cooperatives, such as IMEC in Belgium, the CAE-Leti Institute in France, the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) in Taiwan, and the U.S.-based Sematech consortium, which was merged into the State University of New York (SUNY) Polytechnic Institute in 2015.

With the value of more than 90 merger and acquisition agreements topping $250 billion since 2015, tremendous consolidation has been underway among semiconductor suppliers—many of them major IC companies—which have been cutting costs by hundreds of millions of dollars and leveraging “synergies,” meaning the elimination of overlapping expenditures (e.g., jobs, facilities, and R&D activities) in an attempt to achieve higher levels of productivity and greater profits. After rising just 1% in 2015 and 2016, total semiconductor R&D spending grew 6% in 2017 and increased 7% in 2018 to reach a new record- high level of $64.6 billion.

During the last 40 years (1978-2018), R&D expenditures have increased at a compound annual growth rate of 14.5%, slightly higher than the total semiconductor revenue CAGR of 12.0%. Since the year 2000, semiconductor R&D spending as a percent of worldwide sales has exceeded the 40-year historical average of 14.5% in all but four years (2000, 2010, 2017, and 2018). In these four years, lower R&D-to-sales ratios had more to do with the strength of revenue growth than weakness in research and development spending.

Worldwide PC shipments totaled 68.6 million units in the fourth quarter of 2018, a 4.3 percent decline from the fourth quarter of 2017, according to preliminary results by Gartner, Inc. For the year, 2018 PC shipments surpassed 259.4 million units, a 1.3 percent decline from 2017. Gartner analysts said there were signs for optimism in 2018, but the industry was impacted by two key trends.

“Just when demand in the PC market started seeing positive results, a shortage of CPUs (central processing units) created supply chain issues. After two quarters of growth in 2Q18 and 3Q18, PC shipments declined in the fourth quarter,” said Mikako Kitagawa, senior principal analyst at Gartner. “The impact from the CPU shortage affected vendors’ ability to fulfill demand created by business PC upgrades. We expect this demand will be pushed forward into 2019 if CPU availability improves.”

“Political and economic uncertainties in some countries dampened PC demand,” Ms. Kitagawa said. “There was even uncertainty in the U.S. — where the overall economy has been strong — among vulnerable buyer groups, such as small and midsize businesses (SMBs). Consumer demand remained weak in the holiday season. Holiday sales are no longer a major factor driving consumer demand for PCs.”

The top 3 vendors boosted their share of the global PC market as Lenovo, HP Inc. and Dell accounted for 63 percent of PC shipments in the fourth quarter of 2018, up from 59 percent in the fourth quarter of 2017 (see Table 1).

Lenovo surpassed HP Inc. to move into the No. 1 position in the global PC market in the fourth quarter of 2018. A major factor for Lenovo’s share gain was credited to a joint venture with Fujitsu formed in May 2018. Lenovo also had a strong quarter in the U.S. The company has recorded three consecutive quarters of double-digit year-over-year shipment growth, despite the stagnant overall market.

Table 1. Preliminary Worldwide PC Vendor Unit Shipment Estimates for 4Q18 (Thousands of Units)

Company 4Q18 Shipments 4Q18 Market Share (%) 4Q17 Shipments 4Q17 Market Share (%) 4Q18-4Q17 Growth (%)
Lenovo 16,628 24.2 15,697 21.9 5.9
HP Inc. 15,380 22.4 16,092 22.4 -4.4
Dell 10,915 15.9 10,763 15.0 1.4
Apple 4,920 7.2 5,112 7.1 -3.8
ASUS 4,211 6.1 4,716 6.6 -10.7
Acer Group 3,861 5.6 4,726 6.6 -18.3
Others 12,710 18.5 14,590 20.3 -12.9
Total 68,626 100.0 71,696 100.0 -4.3

Notes: Data includes desk-based PCs, notebook PCs and ultramobile premiums (such as Microsoft Surface), but not Chromebooks or iPads (see “Market Definitions and Methodology: PCs, Ultramobiles and Mobile Phones”). All data is estimated based on a preliminary study. Final estimates will be subject to change. The statistics are based on shipments selling into channels.
Numbers may not add up to totals shown due to rounding.
*Lenovo’s results include Fujitsu units starting in 2Q18 to reflect the joint venture that closed in May 2018.

Source: Gartner (January 2019)

The fourth quarter of 2018 was a challenging one for HP Inc. The company experienced a shipment decline after four consecutive quarters of growth. HP Inc.’s shipments declined in most key regions, except Asia/Pacific and Japan. Dell registered positive growth as the company outperformed in EMEA and Japan, but it experienced a decline in Asia/Pacific and Latin America.

In the U.S., PC shipments totaled 14.2 million units in the fourth quarter of 2018, a 4.5 percent decline from the fourth quarter of 2017 (see Table 2). Four of the top six vendors experienced a decline in U.S. PC shipments in the fourth quarter of 2018. Lenovo’s growth was well above the U.S. average while Dell’s shipments increased slightly compared with a year ago. The overall decline in the U.S. was attributed to weak consumer demand despite holiday season sales as well as SMBs.

“The fourth quarter is typically a buying season for small office/home office (SOHO) and small business buyers in the U.S. as they want to use up the untouched budget before the tax year ends,” said Ms. Kitagawa. “Our early indicator showed that SOHO and small business buyers held off on some new PC purchases due to uncertainties around the political and economic conditions.”

Table 2. Preliminary U.S. PC Vendor Unit Shipment Estimates for 4Q18 (Thousands of Units)

Company 4Q18 Shipments 4Q18 Market Share (%) 4Q17 Shipments 4Q17 Market Share (%) 4Q18-4Q17 Growth (%)
HP Inc. 4,738 33.4 5,130 34.6 -7.6
Dell 3,645 25.7 3,613 24.3 0.9
Lenovo 2,150 15.2 1,743 11.7 23.4
Apple 1,762 12.4 1,800 12.1 -2.1
Microsoft 472 3.3 542 3.7 -12.9
Acer Group 458 3.2 587 4.0 -21.9
Others 953 6.7 1,430 9.6 -33.3
Total 14,178 100.0 14,843 100.0 -4.5

Notes: Data includes desk-based PCs, notebook PCs and ultramobile premiums (such as Microsoft Surface), but not Chromebooks or iPads. All data is estimated based on a preliminary study. Final estimates will be subject to change. The statistics are based on shipments selling into channels.

Source: Gartner (January 2019)

PC shipments in EMEA totaled 20.9 million units in the fourth quarter of 2018, a 3.8 percent decline year over year. There were some positive signs, such as in Western Europe’s demand for desktops and ultramobiles that fueled SMB shipments, while the government sector also benefited from further Windows 10 renewals. Demand in Russia continued to recover, and some parts of Eastern Europe, such as the Czech Republic and Hungary. However, demand was not strong enough to offset declining shipments to consumers.

The Asia/Pacific PC market totaled 24.2 million units in the fourth quarter of 2018, a 4.6 percent decline from the fourth quarter of 2017. Due to uncertainties of the U.S.-China trade relations, and the volatile equity market, there was cautionary demand, especially among consumers and the SMB segment. In the fourth quarter of 2018, PC shipments in China declined 2.5 percent year over year, but shipments grew 5.6 percent sequentially.

Seventh Consecutive Year of Worldwide PC Shipment Decline

For the year, worldwide PC shipments totaled 259.4 million units in 2018, a 1.3 percent decrease from 2017 (see Table 3). This was the seventh consecutive year of global PC shipment decline, but it was less steep compared with the past three years.

“The majority of the PC shipment decline in 2018 was due to weak consumer PC shipments. Consumer shipments accounted for approximately 40 percent of PC shipments in 2018 compared with representing 49 percent of shipments in 2014,” Kitagawa said. “The market stabilization in 2018 was attributed to consistent business PC growth, driven by Windows 10 upgrade.”

Table 3. Preliminary Worldwide PC Vendor Unit Shipment Estimates for 2018 (Thousands of Units)

Company 2018


2018 Market

Share (%)



2017 Market Share (%) 2018-2017 Growth (%)
Lenovo 58,467 22.5 54,669 20.8 6.9
HP Inc. 56,332 21.7 55,179 21.0 2.1
Dell 41,911 16.2 39,793 15.1 5.3
Apple 18,016 6.9 18,963 7.2 -5.0
Acer Group 15,729 6.1 17,087 6.5 -7.9
ASUS 15,537 6.0 17,952 6.8 -13.5
Others 53,393 20.6 59,034 22.5 -9.6
Total 259,385 100.0 262,676 100.0 -1.3

Notes: Data includes desk-based PCs, notebook PCs and ultramobile premiums (such as Microsoft Surface), but not Chromebooks or iPads. All data is estimated based on a preliminary study. Final estimates will be subject to change. The statistics are based on shipments selling into channels.

Source: Gartner (January 2019)

These results are preliminary. Final statistics will be available soon to clients of Gartner’s PC Quarterly Statistics Worldwide by Region program. This program offers a comprehensive and timely picture of the worldwide PC market, allowing product planning, distribution, marketing and sales organizations to keep abreast of key issues and their future implications around the globe.

By Christian G. Dieseldorff

This year, SEMI ISS covered it all – from a high-level semiconductor market and global geopolitical overview down to the neuro morphic and quantum level. Here are key takeaways from the Day 1 keynote and Economic Trends and Market Perspectives presentations.

In the opening keynote, Anne Kelleher from Intel pointed to the huge growth of data, with fabs collecting more than 5 billion sensor data points each day. The challenge, Kelleher noted, is to turn massive amounts of data into valuable information. Moore’s law is not dead. New models of computing benefit still from Moore’s law and advances in Si/CMOS technologies for conventional, deep learning, neuro morphic and quantum computing.

With customers expecting continual improvements in applications, the question is whether the chip industry is moving fast enough to meet these expectations, Kelleher said. A broad supply chain, equipment and materials innovations, and attracting the “best of the best” college graduates to fuel innovation is key, she said.

In the economic trends session, Nicholas Burns (ambassador ret.) from Harvard University pointed out that we will see a major shift in power. The U.S. will remain the major world power over the next 10 years, but we will see a major shift in power in the next coming decades as the gap with countries like China, Russia and India continues to narrow.

Duncan Meldrum from Hilltop Economics said that we are passing the peak growth of economic cycle. He warns that a more likely outlook is that a global growth recession is developing. Although semiconductor MSI growth will see a noticeable slowdown in 2019 and 2020, the semiconductor industry is still healthy over the longer term.

Bob Johnson from Gartner sees demand shifting from consumer to commercial applications with higher ROIs and budgets. AI, IoT and 5D are the major enablers. He sees structural changes in the semiconductor industry especially for memory but also for Moore’s law with increasing costs and fewer players.

The DRAM markets shows volatility and NAND market may be negative in 2019 but non-memory are expected to accelerate mainly because of increasing content and some price hikes.

Overall Gartner expects good long-term growth with a CAGR (2017 to 2022) of 5.1%, outpacing 2011 to 2016 CAGR of 2.6%. After a strong 2018 with 13.4% revenue, he forecasts a slower 2019 with 2.6% growth followed by a 8% growth in 2020 and negative growth rate in 2021.

Andrea Lati of VLSI went “Back to fundamentals” in his presentation about the industry. VLSI sees a downside bias due to slowing global economy, tariffs, and trade wars. Future drivers are data economy, cloud, AI and automotive.

As memory leads the 2019 slowdown, analog, power, logic and other sectors remain in positive territory. VLSI lowered its semiconductor equipment forecast for 2018 from 20% (Jan. 2018) to 14% (Dec. 2018) but increased its sales outlook from 8% to 15% in 2018. VLSI expects revenue to slow into the first half of 2019 but increase to over 4% in the second half of the year, resulting in total 2019 drop of 2.7%. Semiconductor equipment sales are expected to drop from 14% in 2018 to -10% in 2019.

Michael Corbett of Linz Consulting, covering wafer fab materials in the years of 3D scaling, sees these as good times for the industry. His outlook for wafer fab materials is bullish based on strong MSI and because wafer fab materials suppliers are getting bigger because of M&As.

In the Market Perspective session, Sujeet Chand of Rockwell Automation pointed out that as more and more data is generated, the problem is how to get value of all the data collected. There is a need to create the right architecture for machine learning and AI and big data is increasingly being replaced by contextual/structured data. He expects Industry 4.0 to drive foundries to become smaller, more flexible and more productive.

In the Technology and Manufacturing session, Aki Sekiguchi of TEL addressed process challenges in the age of co-optimization. The semiconductor industry continues to expand, driven by massive growth of interconnected devices, with heavy demand for processing power and storage. He expects an exponential increase of data from about 40ZB in 2018 to 50ZB in 2020 to 163 ZB in 2026.

Major technologies such as DRAM, 3D NAND and logic are dealing with scaling challenges. The density of DRAM (Mb/chip) is plateauing according to 2015 to 2020 trend data, with DRAM is in need of EUV. Memory capacity demand is leading to increasing layers and higher aspect ratios that is concern for 3D NAND and mainly for plasma etch. With Logic already implementing 3D structures, it appears to be in a solid position.

Buddy Nicoson of Micron talked about his 50 years in the industry and looked ahead to the next 50. The anchors – quality, cost, scale and speed – won’t change. It has been a great journey so far with unprecedented opportunities and challenges ahead of us. We are getting into a convergence (specialization, integration) and solution-based phase. We will see some inflection points in the coming years, with the best yet to come.

Christian G. Dieseldorff is senior principal analyst in the Industry Research and Analysis group at SEMI in California.

This story first appeared on the SEMI blog.

The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), representing U.S. leadership in semiconductor manufacturing, design, and research, today announced worldwide sales of semiconductors reached $41.4 billion for the month of November 2018, an increase of 9.8 percent from the November 2017 total of $37.7 billionand 1.1 percent less than the October 2018 total of $41.8 billion. Monthly sales are compiled by the World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS) organization and represent a three-month moving average.

“The global semiconductor industry continues to post solid year-to-year sales increases, and year-to-date revenue through November has surpassed annual sales from all of 2017, but growth has slowed somewhat in recent months,” said John Neuffer, SIA president and CEO. “Year-to-year sales increased in November across all major regional markets, with the China market standing out with growth of 17 percent. Double-digit annual growth is expected for 2018 once December’s sales are tallied, with more modest growth projected for 2019.”

Regionally, year-to-year sales increased in China (17.4 percent), the Americas (8.8 percent), Europe (5.8 percent), Japan(5.6 percent), and Asia Pacific/All Other (4.4 percent). Compared with last month, sales were up in Asia Pacific/All Other (1.1 percent), Europe (0.5 percent), and Japan (0.4 percent), but down slightly in the Americas (-2.2 percent) and China(-2.7 percent).

By Lynnette Reese, Editor-in-Chief, Embedded Intel® Solutions

According to SEMI (semi.org), the global semiconductor revenue forecast for the second half of 2018 was doubled from 7.5 to 15 percent, a substantial growth. The semiconductor industry has seen cycles of growth and stagnation before, as innovative new products peak and decline before new technologies come out to drive growth from another direction. The wide adoption of personal computers marked great growth in semiconductors; a market that has been dominated by Intel for decades. When the PC market began to mature, a period of stagnation was followed by the mobile computing era. Companies like Qualcomm and MediaTek emerged as key players in the mobile industry. However, both computer and mobile sectors are now sustainable, but not growing appreciably.

Figure 1: Entegris works with automakers and mainstream fabs to investigate reducing contaminants and particles that don’t affect yield yet cause critical problems in long-term reliability. (Image courtesy of Entegris, ©2018).

Recently, multiple growth engines have kicked in for semiconductors, driving a new era of growth. Growth drivers include data centers, a growing “economy of data,” artificial intelligence, virtual reality, autonomous vehicles, and increasing automation in industrial applications, particularly in the Internet of Things (IoT) and robotics. The concurrent emergence of several new markets and applications has prompted a high demand; from leading edge chips on down to some of the legacy nodes. In turn, growth in semiconductors is driving the need for materials and better technologies for Integrated Chips (ICs).

Companies feeding the boom with materials and chemicals for making ICs are seeing growth that shows no signs of abating. One materials company, Entegris (ENTG), has recently expanded its Kulim manufacturing capacity and capabilities, adding new tooling, molding machines, and numerous updates to the assembly area so that Entegris can meet the demand for wafer handling products. Entegris is a 52-year-old company that, for context, was founded two years before Intel Corporation. Entegris provides materials and material solutions to semiconductor companies (semis). Currently, the company has about 4,000 employees with sales revenue of approximately $1.5 billion. Entegris has been expanding rapidly in recent years, achieving growth by about two to three percent above the market. The company is now viewed by most investors as a growth company than as an industrial, “cyclical business” type of company. Entegris is assisting the semiconductor industry in two ways: by helping the semis realize more advanced technologies and by providing materials for making chips.

Figure 2: Robotic handling equipment in a clean room. (Image courtesy of Entegris, ©2018)

Entegris has three divisions that address three different elements of semiconductor manufacturing. The first division provides advanced materials such as specialty chemicals, specialty gas mixtures, cleaning chemicals, deposition chemicals, specialty coatings, graphite, silicon carbide (SiC), and many other materials that fabrication plants (fabs) use to make chips. The second group at Entegris is involved in benefiting materials handling with carriers for handling wafers and photomasks, wafer and reticle handling, fluid management, sensing, control, and supply and delivery of chemicals to fabs. It is chip growth that primarily drives the growth of all Entegris’ divisions, with some growth influenced by advances in technology. The third division focuses on microcontamination control and primarily handles leading edge filtration and purification (at levels measured in parts per trillion). Microcontamination control is presently the fastest growing division at Entegris. Anything that touches the semiconductor wafer must go through a filter and purifier, whether gas, liquid, photo-resist, slurries, or other chemicals.

Figure 3: Entegris provides solutions to eliminate some of the random inferences impacting reliability. (Image courtesy of Entegris, © 2018)

Why is microcontamination control important?

Technologies continue to improve such that the industry is now producing Systems-on-chip (SoCs) at the 7 nm node and is headed to 5 nm. At such a scale, any particle or contaminants can make a chip fail. Enterprises like Entegris’ microcontamination control group are the last line of defense against contaminants for all chipmakers. Entegris works with automakers and mainstream fabs to investigate reducing some of the contaminants and particles that are not affecting yield yet are causing critical problems in long-term chip reliability.

According to Wenge Yang, Vice President of Marketing Strategy at Entegris, “Many existing and mainstream fabs are yielding high 90 percent range. However, we recently found that particles that are small enough to not cause a reduction in chip yield – can still cause reliability issues down the road. This has triggered Entegris to become an industry advocate on a new effort to reduce contaminants even further than has been practiced up to now.”

A Hot Topic

Entegris spotted a trend emerging about a year or two ago as semis began rooting out causes affecting long-term chip reliability that included microcontamination that did not affect yield but could affect a chips’ long-term reliability. There’s no greater concern for reliability than in autonomous cars; it’s become a hot topic.

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International issued a standard (J3016) that defines six levels of automation for self-driving cars. Level zero has no automation whatsoever. Adaptive cruise control is a Level one feature. Level two specifies partial automation. Level three defines conditional automation, such as Tesla’s Autopilot. Level four demonstrates a high level of automation where the car can operate without human oversight under certain conditions. Level five is full automation with no human involvement.

“One of the most interesting things we have seen is that with the growth of some specific sectors, the design and manufacturing challenge is changing,” Wenge affirms. “One example is in the automotive industry. If an automobile used only two or 300 chips total, the failure rate is not causing that much of a headache as it does if you have 10,000 chips in one car.”

Level Five autonomous cars may have as many as 10 LiDAR systems around the car, gathering data and processing signals and images in real-time, with low latencies. A fully autonomous car might have 10,000 ICs with 50 percent of the cost of the car sunk into the electronics. With that many chips in one autonomous vehicle, automakers begin to parallel NASA-level care in design and manufacturing, but without the added safety of redundant systems due to cost and size constraints. Add to this pressurized scenario the harsh automotive environment with extreme temperatures and constant, heavy vibration.

Figure 4: Autonomous Waymo Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan undergoing testing in Los Altos, California, November 2017. Credit: Dllu, CC BY-SA 4.0.

“With these many chips in each car, if you have a failure rate of one chip out of one million, then several hundred cars might fail on the roads every single day,” states Wenge. The resulting repairs, medical bills, and lawsuits would be costlier than fixing the reliability issue at the outset. “For Entegris, the intrinsic need for increased reliability is an excellent opportunity.”

The military, aerospace, and avionics industries commonly employ redundant systems. However, the automotive industry cannot afford redundant systems, which means that we must improve the single systems’ reliability. The Level Five autonomous car sends processed data feeds into a central computer that decides whether the car should brake, slow down, accelerate, and so forth. If any component in any autonomous automotive systems fails, the car may not collect crucial data.  If the car has made a decision, it may be unable to execute on it. The possibility for failure is multiplied as automakers load thousands of ICs in a single car.

As Wenge points out, “Autonomous car makers start to realize, ‘If I put that many chips into the car, I run the risk of reliability everywhere.’ Of greater concern are chips that have passed on down the line as ‘good’ in a 100 percent yield batch…but can still fail in the field. This is how the topic of detailed reliability gets triggered.”  The design process for automotive applications must be accompanied by very high awareness of the reliability consequences. States Wenge, “Entegris is providing solutions to eliminate some of the random inferences impacting reliability.

Wenge Yang, Ph.D. Vice President, Market Strategy Dr. Yang joined Entegris in 2012 to serve as the Vice President of Market Strategy. In his role, he is responsible for Entegris product and market strategy, market research and market trend analysis, strategic marketing, and the company’s strategic technology roadmap. Before joining Entegris, Dr. Yang was an equity research analyst at Citigroup covering the semiconductor equipment and materials sector. He also served in various executive roles at Advanced Micro Devices, Tokyo Electron, and two start-up companies. Dr. Yang received a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering and an MBA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Master of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Materials Science and Engineering from Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

By Walt Custer

Global growth by electronic sector

Now that most companies in our sector analyses have reported their calendar third quarter 2018 financial results, we have final or 3Q’18/2Q’17 growth estimates for the world electronic supply chain (Chart 1). We estimate electronic equipment grew 6.7% on a U.S. dollar-denominated basis.

Source: Custer Consulting Group based on consolidated financial reports of public companies

Electronic equipment growth has peaked for this current business cycle (Chart 2), dropping from +11.1% in the second quarter to 6.7% in the third quarter. Most of the supply chain is responding to this slowing.

Semiconductors, SEMI equipment an Taiwan chip foundries

While the most recent growth rates in Charts 1 & 2 are for the third quarter, October and November growth is included in Chart 3.  Foundry growth was +4.6% in November, world semiconductor shipments eased to +12.7% in October and SEMI capital equipment slipped to +10% also in October. The days of the +30% growth rates are behind us for this current business cycle!

Sources: SIA; SEMI; financial reports of Taiwan listed foundry companies

Global semiconductor growth outlook for 2019

The World Semiconductor Trade Statistics Organization in conjunction with the SIA just updated the chip shipment forecasts for 2018 and 2019 (Chart 4). World semiconductor shipments were estimated to have climbed 15.9% (in U.S. dollars) in 2018 but are predicted to slow to a +2.6% rate in 2019.

Source: www.wsts.org, www.semiconductors.org

Looking forward

The Global Manufacturing PMI (Chart 5) leveled out in November but remained well below its December 2017 high.  This translates to a slower but still positive world expansion in the short term. By region (Chart 6), U.S. growth remains robust, Japan picked up, Europe continues to decelerate, China is near zero growth and Taiwan and South Korea are contracting.

Source: www.markiteconomics.com

ll eyes are on the global economy, Brexit, trade wars and bizarre political wrangling. 2019 could be a very volatile year!

Walt Custer of Custer Consulting Group is an analyst focused on the global electronics industry.

The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), representing U.S. leadership in semiconductor manufacturing, design, and research, today announced worldwide sales of semiconductors reached $41.8 billion for the month of October 2018, an increase of 12.7 percent from the October 2017 total of $37.1 billion and 1.0 percent more than last month’s total of $41.4 billion. Monthly sales numbers are compiled by the World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS) organization and represent a three-month moving average. Additionally, a newly released WSTS industry forecast was revised upward and now projects annual global market growth of 15.9 percent in 2018 and 2.6 percent in 2019.

“The global semiconductor industry posted solid year-to-year growth in October and is on pace for its highest-ever annual sales in 2018, but growth has moderated in recent months,” said John Neuffer, president and CEO, Semiconductor Industry Association. “Although strong sales of DRAM products continue to boost overall market growth, sales in all other major product categories also increased year-to-year in October, and all major regional markets posted year-to-year gains. Double-digit annual growth is expected in 2018, with more modest growth projected for 2019.”

Regionally, year-to-year sales increased in China (23.3 percent), the Americas (14.1 percent), Europe(7.0 percent), Japan (5.5 percent), and Asia Pacific/All Other (3.7 percent). Compared with last month, sales were up in the Americas (2.8 percent), Asia Pacific/All Other (1.8 percent), Japan (0.4 percent), and Europe (0.2 percent), but down slightly in China (-0.4 percent).

Additionally, SIA today endorsed the WSTS Autumn 2018 global semiconductor sales forecast, which projects the industry’s worldwide sales will be $477.9 billion in 2018. This would mark the industry’s highest-ever annual sales, a 15.9 percent increase from the 2017 sales total of $412.2 billion. WSTS projects year-to-year increases across all regional markets for 2018: the Americas (19.6 percent), Asia Pacific (16.0 percent), Europe (13.2 percent), and Japan (9.6 percent). In 2019, growth in the semiconductor market is expected to moderate, with annual sales projected to increase by 2.6 percent. WSTS tabulates its semi-annual industry forecast by convening an extensive group of global semiconductor companies that provide accurate and timely indicators of semiconductor trends.

IC Insights revised its outlook for total semiconductor industry capital spending and presented its forecast of semiconductor capex spending for individual companies in its November Update to The McClean Report 2018, which was released earlier this month.

Samsung is expected to have the largest capex budget of any IC supplier again in 2018.  After spending $24.2 billion for semiconductor capex in 2017, IC Insights forecasts that Samsung’s spending will edge slightly downward, but remain at a very strong level of $22.6 billion in 2018 (Figure 1).  If it comes in at this amount, Samsung’s two-year semiconductor capital spending will be an astounding $46.8 billion.

Figure 1

As seen in Figure 1, Samsung’s semiconductor capital outlays from 2010, the first year the company spent more than $10 billion in semiconductor capex, through 2016 averaged $12.0 billion per year. However, after spending $11.3 billion in 2016, the company more than doubled its 2017 capex budget. The fact that Samsung’s continued its strong capex spending in 2018 is just as impressive.

IC Insights believes that Samsung’s massive spending outlays in 2017 and 2018 will have repercussions far into the future.  One effect that has already begun is a period of overcapacity in the 3D NAND flash market.  This overcapacity situation is due not only to Samsung’s huge spending for 3D NAND flash, but also from spending by competitors (e.g., SK Hynix, Micron, Toshiba, Intel, etc.) that attempt to keep pace in this market segment.

With the DRAM and NAND flash memory markets showing strong growth through the first three quarters of 2018, SK Hynix ramped up its capital spending this year.  In 1Q18, SK Hynix said that it intended to increase its capex spending by “at least 30%” this year. In the November Update, IC Insights forecasts that SK Hynix will see a 58% surge in its semi capex spending.  The increased spending by SK Hynix this year is focused primarily on bringing new capacity online at two of its large memory fabs—M15, a 3D NAND flash fab in Cheongju, South Korea, and the expansion of its huge DRAM fab in Wuxi, China. The Cheongju fab is being pushed to open before the end of this year.  The Wuxi fab is also targeted to open by the end of this year, a few months earlier than its original start date of early 2019.

Overall, IC Insights’ now forecasts total semiconductor industry capital spending will climb 15% to $107.1 billion this year, the first time that annual industry capex is expected to top $100.0 billion. Following the industry-wide growth this year, semiconductor capex is expected to decline 12% in 2019 (Figure 2).

Figure 2

Given that the current softness in the memory market is expected to extend into at least the first half of next year, the combined capital spending by the three largest memory suppliers—Samsung, SK Hynix, and Micron—is forecast to drop from $45.4 billion in 2018 to $37.5 billion in 2019, a decline of 17%.

In total, the top five spenders, which are expected to represent 66% of total outlays this year, are forecast to cut their capital spending by 14% in 2019 with the remaining semiconductor industry companies registering a 7% decline.