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Capacity for 300mm wafers to grow 70% by 2017

Posted: 04 Jul 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:DRAM? foundries? wafer capacity?

According to the latest report from IC Insights, the majority of integrated circuit production has taken place on 300mm wafers since 2008. In terms of surface area shipped (i.e., on a normalized 200mm-equivalent wafer basis), 300mm wafers represented 56 per cent of worldwide installed capacity in December 2012. The market analytics firm predicted that production using 300mm wafers will steadily increase and reach 70.4 per cent in 2017.

For the most part, 300mm fabs are, and will continue to be, limited to production of high-volume, commodity-type devices such as DRAMs and flash memories, and very recently image sensors and power management devices; complex logic and microcomponent ICs with large die sizes; and products manufactured by foundries, which can fill a 300mm fab by combining wafer orders from many sources.

The list of companies with the most 300mm wafer capacity includes DRAM and flash memory suppliers such as Samsung, SK Hynix, Toshiba, Micron, Elpida and Nanya; the industry's biggest IC manufacturer and dominant MPU supplier Intel; and two of the world's largest pure-play foundries TSMC and Globalfoundries, detailed IC Insights. These companies offer the types of ICs that benefit most from using the largest wafer size available to best amortise the manufacturing cost per die.

It is interesting to point out that when (or if) the pending acquisition of Elpida by Micron goes through as expected, the merged company will have the industry's second-largest share of 300mm wafer fabrication capacity, trailing only fellow memory chip manufacturer Samsung.

Meanwhile, the share of the industry's monthly wafer capacity represented by 200mm wafers is expected to drop from 32 per cent in December 2012 to 21 per cent in December 2017. Fabs running 200mm wafers will continue to be profitable for many more years and be used to fabricate numerous types of ICs such as speciality memories, image sensors, display drivers, microcontrollers, analogue products and MEMS-based devices. Such devices are certainly practical in fully depreciated 200mm fabs that were formerly used in making devices now produced on 300mm wafers.

A significant trend with regard to the industry's IC manufacturing base, and a perhaps worrisome one from the perspective of companies that supply equipment and materials to chip makers, is that as the industry moves IC fabrication onto larger wafers in bigger fabs, the group of IC manufacturers continues to shrink in number. There are about 61 per cent fewer companies that own and operate 300mm wafer fabs than 200mm fabs. The distribution of worldwide 300mm wafer capacity among those manufacturers is very top-heavy. When 450mm wafer fabrication technology comes into existence, this manufacturer group is predicted to shrink even further to a maximum of just 10 companies, and a few of those are questionable. Despite growing momentum, IC Insights expects that 450mm wafer capacity will account for only one-tenth of a per cent of global IC capacity in December 2017.

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