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Semico is a semiconductor marketing & consulting research company located in Phoenix, Arizona. We offer custom consulting, portfolio packages, individual market research studies and premier industry conferences.

Wafer Demand Growth Depends on Smartphones

As the rate of growth for smartphone sales slow, questions arise regarding the impact that slower growth will have throughout the semiconductor supply chain. Over the past decade, the 1 billion-plus smartphone market has driven the need for more advanced manufacturing process technologies, new input materials and the need for more fab capacity. It has even legitimized new players into the supply chain.

Does a slower growth rate mean a change is on the horizon? What portion of the growth is due to semiconductor content versus smartphone unit growth? Semico looked at the change in smartphone silicon content over the past 10 years and the impact on wafer demand.

Although there were smartphones well before the Apple iPhone, it was the iPhone, introduced in 2007, that set the smartphone on the path to the mass adoption that we see today. Between 2005 and 2010, smartphone sales grew at a compound annual growth rate of over 50%. In addition, over that time period, silicon content in a high-end phone doubled. The amount of silicon necessary to produce all the smartphones worldwide has grown from less than 1% of total wafers in 2005 up to over 18% of wafers this year.

2016 Semiconductor Sales to Go Negative

Semico's Inflection Point Indicator is a model we have developed which has a history of accurately predicting semiconductor revenue inflection points four quarters in advance.  After analyzing current trends, it seems the semiconductor industry is repeating the pattern from 2011-2012, albeit at a muted level.  Just in the past 4-5 years, the major end markets served by the semiconductor industry--tablets, notebooks, smartphones--have matured, causing growth rates to slow.

Memory Lane: Far from a Leisurely Stroll

The only semiconductor market segment that has not been taken over by the foundries and still remains dominated by IDMs is the memory sector. The memory market is the last bastion for true IDM manufacturers who must be savvy in the changing trends in end market applications, advanced technology development , and must still determine how much and when to invest in additional capacity.

With only four major players, the decision of when to add capacity should be more straightforward; instead, it’s just as challenging as ever. Large memory fabs are inherently more expensive and riskier than ever.

At their Winter Analyst Meeting on February 12th, Micron’s executives touched on a number of trends that memory manufacturers are addressing.

Used Equipment: 200mm Lives On

The semiconductor industry has always utilized manufacturing assets and technologies longer than originally projected.  Although the most advanced products continue to transition to new technology nodes every two to three years, manufacturing capacity—including the equipment and infrastructure—stays productive for decades.
More than just a means of producing cheap MEMS and sensors, used equipment has been the vehicle to deliver cost effective solutions to expand electronic applications, provide connectivity and enable the control and quantification of everything.  

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200mm Wafer Demand to Grow Over 5% in 2016

As we close the books on 2015 and look out to 2016, the scenario includes a weak semiconductor revenue growth rate, but continued increased unit shipments, which means continued growth in wafer demand.  However, the wafer demand growth includes some dynamic changes in the detailed breakout by technology and wafer size. 
 

CES Cars and Pets

As we enter into the new year of 2016 with the worldwide economic cloud of uncertainty hovering like an unregistered drone, particularly in China, CES was still setting records. Bustling with over 170,000 attendees and over 3600 companies displaying their new products, the event was as hectic as ever.
There was a big showing from all the major automotive manufacturers and suppliers. Companies were showing off their new electric vehicles and virtual reality displays of autonomous driving concepts.

Innovations that I found notable revolved around new dashboard layouts and instrumentation displays including avionic heads-up displays that provide the driver with navigational information, safety, speed and personal communication information. In addition, several companies are introducing night-assisted vision systems. The goal of these systems is to provide information and access to accessories without having the driver take their eyes off the road. As well as providing a safer driving experience, these systems reduce drivers’ stress and improve the driving quality and experience.

Even though Tesla has located its battery manufacturing plant in Nevada, and they just recently announced a new vehicle, they were conspicuously absent at CES. . While Tesla is leading the industry in the vehicle electrification race, many of the big players are directly targeting them.

CES 2016: A Lot Still Missing

CES is the event that usually gets me energized about the upcoming year; however, this year I almost didn’t attend because I didn’t think there was going to be anything new that would shake up the industry. At the last minute I decided to put on my best walking shoes and fight the crowds. Unfortunately, I think my initial gut feeling was correct.

Sure, there were a lot of people waiting in lines to sit in the new self-driving and electric vehicles or eager to put on the new VR headsets, but there were still several things missing. IoT and power for our mobile electronics need a revolutionary innovation to attain the next level of ubiquitous technology.

First of all, I was disappointed to see so many booths still touting wireless charging solutions aka Powermat. I still have too many charging cables and every month that my phone or Fitbit device ages, the life of the battery charge declines. There were a number of people walking around with a cute, bright green bag that was plugging its ‘Big power, small cells’ product. I wasn’t sure what their product was, but I was definitely curious and feverishly looked for their booth. I was hoping they’d have a product that provided a breakthrough in battery technology or possibly an energy harvesting option. Unfortunately when I got close to their booth, I was handed the cute bag which included a USB charger that was powered by two rechargeable AA batteries. Really?

Growing the Energy Harvesting Ecosystem

Whether it’s the Internet of Things, wearables, or industrial automation, many new devices and applications are portable and battery-operated. Wireless connectivity is required for connecting to the Internet. Today’s devices collect and transmit data from sensors, are always or almost always on and require power. The semiconductor industry has met the challenge to design devices for low power operation. Low-power microcontrollers and low-power RF are now available from many semiconductor vendors. But eventually batteries still run out of energy and have to be replaced or recharged.

The term energy harvesting, also known as power scavenging, is used to describe the creation of energy derived from a variety of external sources such as solar power, thermal energy, wind energy, kinetic energy or electromagnetic sources. Energy harvesters accumulate the wasted energy in a system, such as heat given off by motors or semiconductors, or the vibrations of motors or other moving objects. The basic technologies for generating energy are: mechanical vibration (kinetic energy), thermoelectric, solar (photovoltaic), and RF/Inductive.

Semico Fab Database and Update Summary Second Half 2015

Semico tracks over 900 semiconductor fabs in its Fab Database.  The database includes detailed information about the fabs, including the operating status of the fab, its location, process and products, wafer size and capacity, and more.  The other document included with the database is a Word file containing a summary of updates made to fabs by company type:  Memory, Foundries, and Other.  

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Semico Wafer Demand: Q4 2015 Highlights

The Wafer Demand Summary and Assumptions is a quarterly publication. It includes an excel spreadsheet with annual wafer demand by product by technology from 2010-2020. Product categories include DRAM, SRAM, NAND, NOR, Other Non-volatile, MPU, MCU, DSP, Computing Micro Logic, Communications, Other Micro Logic, Programmable Logic, Standard Cell, Gate Array, Analog, Discrete, Optoelectronics, Digital Bipolar. In addition, there is a summary write-up providing the major assumptions behind the forecast and changes from the previous quarter.

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