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Applied Materials reclaims top spot in chip equipment market

Posted: 24 Apr 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:manufacturing? semiconductor equipment? lithography? wafer-level packaging?

As the global chip gear market dropped drastically due to the oversupply of the memory chip market, Applied Materials Inc. regained its lead among semiconductor equipment suppliers in 2012.

According to market research firm Gartner Inc. global semiconductor capital equipment spending totalled $37.8 billion in 2012, a decline of 16.1 compared to 2011.

Wafer-level manufacturing underperformed the market in 2012, pulled down by weakness in lithography and deposition, Gartner said. Among the major sectors, those more strongly driven by logic manufacturing, 28/20nm processing and yield ramps-ups did better, Gartner said.

"Continued oversupply in DRAM and the shift to NAND into oversupply led to a reduced need for capacity," said Klaus-Dieter Rinnen, managing vice president at Gartner, in a statement.

IC manufacturing vendors

Top 10 worldwide semiconductor manufacturing equipment vendors by revenue estimates (millions of U.S. Dollars)
Source: Gartner, April 2012

Rinnen said memory manufacturing-related purchases declined significantly in 2012. A slight increase in logic-related spending provided some counterbalance, Rinnen said, but was slowed in the second half by bulging inventories. "Consequently, manufacturing equipment sales realised a declining quarterly pattern, starting in the second quarter through the end of the year," noted Rinnen.

In 2011, Applied Materials was pushed to the No. 2 spot in chip equipment sales after 19 consecutive years at the top of the heap. Dutch lithography vendor ASML assumed the No. 1 spot that year on strong sales of lithography equipment.

Back-end, process control segments outperformed
In 2012, Applied Materials reclaimed the No. 1 spot based on its relative strength in deposition and process control, Gartner said. Weakness in lithography and limited sales in extreme ultraviolet caused ASML's decline, Gartner said. Japan's Tokyo Electron Ltd. benefited from its relative strength in the non-lithography sectors it serves, while Lam Research moved into the No. 4 position with its merger with Novellus Systems, Gartner said.

"Notable is the further rise of the sales share of the top 10 vendors, now approaching 70 per cent, compared with 61 per cent in 2008," Rinnen commented. "The advance of these large players symbolizes losses of smaller players in the competitive race and an increasing market dependence on a few vendors in the equipment market."

The back-end segmentespecially the wafer-level packaging (WLP)-related segmentsoutperformed the market in 2012, the market research firm said. These segments were either tied to the relative strength of logic investments, such as advanced RF or system-on-chip (SoC) test equipment, or to the increasing popularity of bump, flip-chip and other WLP processes, such as stud bump bonding and wafer bonders for through-silicon vias (TSVs), the firm said.

The process control segments outperformed the total wafer fab equipment market as companies ramped up production at the 32/28nm node and needed increased inspection and defect review tools to monitor increasingly complex processes, Gartner said. Within the process control segments, e-beam patterned wafer inspection saw the best performance, up 36 per cent in 2012, according to Gartner.

- Dylan McGrath
??EE Times

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