ISS draws to a close with innovation on the mind

January 18, 2012 — The evening SEMI’s International Semiconductor Strategy Day 2 ended with a banquet celebrating the 35th anniversary of this ISS meeting and honoring Stan Meyers, who retired in November after 15 years as SEMI President and 24 years as a SEMI Board member. Jim Morgan of Applied Materials, Ken Levy of KLA-Tencor and Stan’s successor Denny McGuirk paid tribute to Stan’s contributions and character over the years. Denny also presented the 2011 SEMI Award for North America to QD Vision of Lexington, MA for commercialization of quantum dot technology used in lighting and displays. The award was accepted by CTO and Founder Seth Coe-Sullivan.

Day 3 of ISS 2012 began under brisk clear skies, but with an ominous storm front clearly defined and moving toward land. Soon…

Luc Van Den Hove, CEO of IMEC, opened this final day with his view of innovation in semiconductors and the wide-ranging implications for the ways they will impact our lives even more. Medical care is a hugely impactful area, including the migration from reactive treatment of symptoms to proactive detection of predictive biomarkers. By 2030, the global population over age 65 will exceed 1 billion. Luc recapped the enabling materials innovation that took us from 90nm to 14nm, then ventured to super mobility channels and tunnel FETs that will be components of the road to 7nm. The top 8 fabs representing 76% of 300mm capacity are working with IMEC.

Figure 1. Tunnel FET.

Marianne Wu, Partner at Mohr Davidow, brought in the current VC view of clean tech and how it relates to our industry. The global population is becoming wealthier and living longer, driving energy demand aggressively and making clean tech the 3rd largest VC investment sector today. The cost of PV modules has fallen to the point where the solar power market is sustainable without government subsidies. The semiconductor opportunities are grouped in power electronics and distributed power management; LED lighting; and sensors — the internet of things. Quantum dot enhancement will improve color management in LED lighting, but thermal management remains a gating factor.

Figure 2. Fundamental drivers remain strong.
Figure 3. Global demand growth continues.

Waguih Ishak, Division VP at Corning, talked about the role of glass in enabling the technology advances covered in this meeting. Their invention of low loss optical fiber in 1972 arguably created the internet. Very tough Gorilla Glass is ubiquitous in smart phones and iPads where handling can be rough. Corning’s video on YouTube, “A Day Made of Glass” has over 17M hits and prompted calls for orders of displays shown in the video. These were visionary mockups, not available products, but these calls prompted a product development workshop at Stanford last October.

Figure 3. Surface strength of thin semiconductor-quality wafer glass: Amazingly strong.

Matthew Taylor, CEO of Edwards, espoused the product solutions resulting from vacuum science. While maintaining a semiconductor-centric focus, there is a strong emphasis on diversification to tangentially-related emerging technologies, new general vacuum applications, and environmental abatement. For all of the fuss made over high technology sectors, note that the application shown at the upper right in the figure, representing greatest vacuum intensity, is steel degassing.

Figure 4. Vacuum and abatement applications are proliferating. 

Michael Wright, President of Applied Global Strategies, moderated the Streetviews Panel; panelists included Edwin Mok of Needham, Avinash Kant of DA Davidson and Krish Sankar of Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Nuns in drag did not participate in this year’s discussion. Edwin: capital intensity is declining, but is likely to stabilize as was the case for the HDD industry. Expect a flat line in 2012 and modest growth in 2013. Avinash: he’s expanded his coverage to include advanced materials (ATMI, CCMP, ENTG) and clean tech. The 10 year segment CAGR of 9% is significantly lower than the previous 8 year CAGR of 27%, possibly responsible for the lower multiples these companies are enjoying. Krish: forecasting 2012 cap-ex to be down 15% Y/Y, with capacity expansion returning late in the year. A NAND rebound is anticipated 2H12; DRAM bit growth will come from shrinks, not capacity addition. Michael: we haven’t had a semiconductor equipment IPO in 6 years. Samsung announced a $13.2B cap-ex plan this morning. Q&A: There was no prescient insight provided regarding what analysts look for in evaluating companies in our industry; do everything well. There are a handful of candidate small equipment suppliers on the table for consolidation or aggregation into the larger players.

Read Fury’s reports from ISS:

ISS kicks off with IC industry reality talks

ISS day 2: Cloud computing to drive 450mm, closer collaboration

And chief editor Pete Singer’s report:

ISS: Top Ten Economic Trends in 2012

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