It is a fact that semiconductor industry capital spending is becoming more concentrated with a greater percentage of spending coming from a shrinking number of companies. As a result, IC industry capacity is also becoming more concentrated and this trend is especially prevalent in 300mm wafer technology. The figure below lists the 300mm installed capacity leaders for 2012 and IC Insights’ forecast for 2013. The list was compiled and included in IC Insights’ updated report titled, Global Wafer Capacity 2013—Detailed Analysis and Forecast of the IC Industry’s Wafer Fab Capacity. As shown, Samsung was by far the leader in 2012 having about 61% more 300mm capacity than second-place SK Hynix. Intel was the only other company that held a double-digit share of 300mm capacity at the end of 2012. Assuming Micron is successful in acquiring Elpida in 1H13, the combined 300mm wafer capacity of the two companies will make the merged company the second-largest holder of 300mm capacity in the world behind Samsung.
Of the top 10 companies on the list, half are primarily memory suppliers, two are pure-play foundries, and one company, Intel, is focused on MPUs. Samsung is expected to maintain its lead in installed capacity through 2017, with aggressive capital spending plans seen over the past few years continuing over the next five years. However, in terms of growth rate, IC Insights expects the largest increase in 300mm capacity to come from the pure-play foundries—TSMC, GlobalFoundries, UMC, and SMIC. In total, IC Insights expects these four companies to more than double their collective 300mm wafer starts per month by 2017.
IC Insights believes that the companies listed will represent essentially all the advanced 300mm IC production and capacity in the future. IC Insights believes that the top seven or eight companies—Samsung, “Micron-Elpida,” TSMC, SK Hynix, Intel, Toshiba/SanDisk, and GlobalFoundries—can be considered an “elite” group that is just about guaranteed to be a driving force in 300mm capacity additions. The remaining companies are likely to participate in future 300mm capacity expansion, but all have varying degrees of risk associated with fully realizing their long-term 300mm IC production capacity goals.
Meanwhile, there is still much uncertainty as to when the industry will make the next wafer-size transition—from 300mm to 450mm—and how much it will cost to do so, but momentum continues to build and the transition can now be considered certain to happen. IC manufacturers have yet to fully optimize the high-volume manufacturing cost structure for the 300mm wafer size. However, the potential per-die cost savings that the larger wafer can provide is enough of a motivating factor to make the transition happen.