Photoresists are primarily used in the electronics industry and in high demand from the semiconductor and liquid crystal display (LCD) sectors where photolithography is a main manufacturing process. Photolithography is a very important process during chip fabrication and makes up a large portion of production costs. Although it varies depending on semiconductor types, the photolithography process generally accounts for 30 percent of memory chip manufacturing costs and 60 percent of total production time.
Reflecting the trend toward microfabrication in the semiconductor industry, photoresists have emerged as core materials. Organic photosensitive material producers, which have been participating in the industry from the beginning, are leading the development of photoresists. Those companies include JSR Corp., Tokyo Ohka Kogyo Co. Ltd. (TOK), Dow Chemical Co. (formerly Rohm and Haas Co.), Shin-Etsu Chemical Co. Ltd., Sumitomo Chemical, and AZ Electronic Materials (AZEM). All major photoresist suppliers run their businesses in South Korea where the world’s top LCD and semiconductor manufacturers are based. In particular, most of major photoresist companies make every effort to supply their products to Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., as it could serve as a guarantee of product quality. Samsung has the most advanced semiconductor fabrication processes in the sector.
The consumption of photoresists by the South Korean semiconductor industry was estimated at $240 million in 2012, down from 2011 in value due to a drop in shipment volume, and it will decline further to $220 million in 2013. With the prospective adoption of high-end extreme ultraviolet (EUV) photoresist in 2014, the photoresist market is expected to post an annual growth of more than five percent in value going forward, despite a minimal volume growth.
The number of wafer inputs into semiconductor fab lines has barely changed since the industry is increasingly adopting microfabrication process. Despite anemic growth in photoresist demand compared with the chip output increase, the rising portion of high-end ArF resists will push the photoresist market higher in terms of value.