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IC biz slowdown drags fab tool market

Posted: 19 Jan 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:fab tool? IC slowdown? 2010 market outlook?

Fabless trend
Needless to say, fewer chipmakers can afford to build fabs. Today's 300mm fabs cost about $4 billion per facility, a pilot line runs $1-to-$2 billion, and R&D process costs run from $500 million to $1 billion, said Robert Bruck, VP of the manufacturing group and general manager of technology manufacturing engineering at Intel Corp.

Soaring costs, coupled by the recession, are "shaping the consolidation" in the IC industry, Bruck said.

Right now, the industry is fragmented into hundreds of semiconductor companies with devices at 130nm and below. "The migration to 32/28nm is driving consolidation. 22nm will drive further consolidation," said Jones of IBS. "Expect capex to increase in 2010, but with concentration within small number of companies."

"By 2014, 10 companies at most will be operating fabs at the leading edge," said Bob Johnson, an analyst at Gartner Inc. This includes one-two non-memory IDMs, four-to-five memory companies and three foundries, Johnson said during a presentation at ISS.

"By 2014, the ability of the industry to stay on the traditional Moore's Law rate of technology advancement will depend not upon the laws of physics but upon the laws of economics," he said.

At the 130nm node in 2001, there were 15 IDM logic chipmakers with fabs, according to IBS. At the 45nm node in 2007, there were nine IDM logic chipmakers with fabs: Intel, IBM, Toshiba, ST, AMD, TI, Fujitsu, Samsung and Panasonic, according to IBS.

At the start of the 32nm node in 2009, there were five IDM logic chipmakers with fabs: Intel, IBM, ST, Samsung and Panasonic, according to IBS. By the 22nm node in 2012, there will be only three: Intel, ST and Samsung, according to the firm. And ST is a big maybe, according to the firm.

On the foundry side, GlobalFoundries and TSMC will likely have fabs running devices at 22nm, but there is uncertainty about the other players, according to the firm. In memories, there are only a few companies that will likely have fabs running 2xnm devices: Samsung and Toshiba. Elpida, Hynix and Micron will need support, while the others remain unclear, according to IBS.

What does this mean? The signs are bad. "The equipment shipments for leading edge technology will be limited. If the number of advanced equipment to ship would decrease, R&D cost per equipment will increase, and reflected to price," warned TEL's Sato.

- Mark LaPedus
EE Times

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