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Semicon West 2008

Several Semico analysts attended Semicon West this year.  Although the forecast for 2008 capital expenditures is for less spending, there was still a lot to get excited about at the show this year. 

We talked to a few companies with innovative improvements to image sensor technology.  Sarnoff has developed a back illumination technology that utilizes SOI wafers.  Tessera continues to find ways to improve optics with their wafer level camera technology that allows for high performance imaging combined with innovative packaging to produce an ultra thin camera module.  Digital camera technology will continue to grow in cell phone and standalone camera applications but it will also increase in numbers for industrial, automotive and medical applications as well.  These improvements from Sarnoff and Tessera will enhance and broaden image sensor applications.    

Novellus is expecting to win big as the memory manufacturers go into high production with their mega-fabs which can process 140,000 to 160,000 wafers per month compared to the 40,000 or 50,000 wafers per month that an average logic fab is capable of processing.  Even at 1 or 2 copper layers, that’s a lot of material and processing steps which translates into more equipment.  I have to keep reminding myself that these are also 300mm wafers!  If unit demand continues to grow at 10% CAGR, wafer demand could double!  Who says we don’t need 450mm wafers?

In addition, this year we seemed to have talked to more companies who are finding ways to improve defect detection and cleaning steps.  Qcept is a privately held company that was founded in 2002.  They have a product that can scan wafers and utilize software enhanced imaging to detect non-visual defects.  They already have seven tools installed.  Both Novellus and ATMI focused their presentations on their cleaning solutions. 

Of course, the solar displays were probably the most popular but one of the most unique and ground-breaking presentations we had was from a company call Quantum Sphere.   The company manufactures materials for electrode systems and can lower the cost and raise the performance of products such as batteries, fuel cells, and hydrogen generation.  A few of their biggest application breakthroughs are still proprietary but expect to hear some new announcements from this company in 2009.

All in all a very good SemicoWest show.¼br> ¼/p>

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