2016 Semiconductor Equipment Outlook

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What crucial trends are driving the industry?

Many 150 and 200 mm wafer fabs are using equipment that is 20 years old, or more. Devices being manufactured on these tools were not even conceived when these process tools were developed, and it was always thought that the lifetime of the tools would be on the order of ten years.

While many factories have changed owners and many others have closed, the factories running these older toolsets tend to be at capacity. The equipment, while it may have been resold and often rebuilt in the process, is still being used to perform in many cases much more difficult tasks then when designed. But the use of fully depreciated equipment allows production at costs far below newer 300 mm factories, even if they are not capable of the smaller geometries that the 300 mm tools can run.

Both types of factories have their purposes. The large microprocessor and memory factories churn out high volumes of devices and continue to drive down the costs of state-of-the-art products through productivity enhancements and new designs that pack more functionality onto a given chip area. 200 mm tools can’t compete without the geometry capability and economy of scale that 300 mm tools bring to these markets. And these newest factories will remain at 300 mm for the foreseeable future; in essence, 450 mm may ‘never’ happen. However, while many continue to concentrate on the flagship micro and memory products with the smallest geometries, there are many more supporting devices surrounding these that are required to build most electronic products. And at the same time as 150 and 200 mm factories are running at capacity and looking to add incremental wafer starts though utilization improvements, many 300 mm factories are in cost-cutting mode and reducing output.

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