By Lara Chamness, senior market analyst manager, SEMI Industry Research and Statistics
The worldwide reclaim wafer market is estimated at $460 million in 2013 and is forecasted to reach $493 million by 2015, according to SEMI. Both revenues and number of wafers reclaimed grew 14 percent in 2013, with 300mm wafers accounting for 72 percent of the market by revenue and representing 48 percent of actual wafers reclaimed in 2013.
In spite of the strong unit growth last year, reclaim suppliers face a number of issues including: maintaining the current balance between supply and demand, availability of prime test wafers, and funding advanced reclamation capacity, including 450mm capability in the face of a depressed pricing environment.
Looking specifically at volume growth, for the past six years, wafer volumes in terms of Million Square Inches (MSI) shipped trended in a similar manner to semiconductor unit shipments, with reclaim wafer volumes mirroring both. However, 2013 represented a divergence; semiconductor shipments increased 5 percent and virgin silicon shipments increased less than one percent, while reclaim volume shipments increased 20 percent.
Device shrinks and tighter inventory control partially explain the divergence but several reclaim suppliers noted that many of their customers found ways to reduce the number of virgin test wafers, either by increasing the amount of test wafers they reclaimed and/or starting fewer lines. Growth of reclaimed wafers in 2013 is considered an anomaly; annual growth rates for reclaim wafer volumes are expected to return to growth levels comparable with virgin silicon.
According to SEMI (www.semi.org), Japan remains the largest reclaim market in terms of numbers of wafers because of the installed fab base and prominent position of reclaim companies there. However, Taiwan, driven by its foundries and dominance in 300mm processing, surpassed Japan in terms of revenue in 2013.
Japan-based suppliers continue to dominate the market accounting for over 50 percent of the market’s revenues. Globally, 62 percent of the worldwide market is served by domestic suppliers. This is a decrease from 2012, where almost 70 percent of the market was serviced by domestic suppliers; Japan-based suppliers, benefiting from a weaker Yen in 2013, expanded their international sales. With regard to capacity, Japan suppliers account for 43 percent of large diameter (200mm and 300mm) capacity in 2013, while companies in Asia Pacific represent 26 percent. The remainder of large diameter capacity is provided by companies based in Europe and North America. Year-over-year 200mm capacity increased 17 percent relative to 2012, while 300mm capacity increased 22 percent during the same period.
Growth of the silicon reclaim wafer market is closely tied to wafer starts and foundry utilization. Given positive growth expectations for this year and the next for semiconductors, it is expected that the silicon reclaim market will enjoy similar growth as well, especially if reclaim supply remains in balance with demand.
A recently published SEMI report, Silicon Reclaim Wafer Characterization Summary, provides details on the 2013 silicon wafer reclaim for the semiconductor market and provides a forecast to 2015. Seven regions of the world are covered in this report including North America, Japan, Europe, Korea, Taiwan, China, and Rest of World (ROW). Market estimates for reclaim wafers include semiconductor applications including equipment and IC manufacturing markets. Regional reclaim pricing and capacity are also discussed.