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Broad-based demand underpins brighter chip forecasts

Analysts speaking at a June breakfast seminar near Boston agree that current chip sales estimates are "conservative"—even after new optimistic forecasts—and strong demand is pulling the industry back into seasonal trends and more reliable growth patterns.

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Gartner's newest forecast pegs 27.1% growth in chip sales in 2010 to $290B, vs. ~20% growth to $276B it forecast back in February. Bob Johnson, VP of research at Gartner, cited a list of factors underpinning the brighter outlook: better PC unit growth (22% vs. 20% in the previous forecast), MPU revenues (14.7% vs. 11%), DRAM revenue (78% vs. 55%), and cell phone units (14% vs. 12%). He noted that an upswing in memory is due to better pricing, not bit demand. Growth across several applications reveals "a more broad-based demand picture," he said.

Looking further out, better 2010 growth comes at the expense of 2011 and 2012, which Gartner now sees as slightly softer. Semiconductor growth is now clearly outpacing not only seasonal norms, but also the broader electronics systems market in general in terms of both inventories and pricing, he noted. This needs to get back in synch—supply shortages from memory to analog to foundries have boosted ASPs and inventories, so look for these to balance again in 2011, he said, and chip sales will realign to a long-term ~5%/year growth trend.

That high-20s growth for 2010 might not be enough, according to other analysts also speaking at the event. IC Insights' Bill McClean said his current outlook of 28% chip sales growth is "conservative," and "can easily go over 30%." The key is underlying strength of demand, namely PC units (particularly corporate purchasing). He also pointed to a return to trending for IC unit shipments at around 9%; some inventory buildup (e.g. in analog and special logic) "won't be a problem if we stay on a seasonal trend."

Semico analyst Jim Feldhan likewise characterized as conservative his 27% growth number for 2010, seeing possibly "a little above 30% if memory pricing holds," followed by a mild slowdown in 2012 and moderate single-digit growth in 2013-2014. Communications infrastructure will be a driving force in the next several years, as will an upgrade cycle for PCs and phones and in more robust varieties. Semiconductor content in end-markets continues to get richer, and a younger generation of users sees beefier devices with better technology as a necessity—not a luxury, he said.



Globalfoundries says it will invest another $3B in new capacity expansions: a new wafer facility in Dresden, and expanding its upstate NY fab to 60,000 wafers/month.

ARM, Freescale, IBM, Samsung, ST-Ericsson, and TI have formed a new group dubbed "Linaro" to develop software for SoCs on Linux-based systems.

Tokyo Electron and Unidym are jointly developing large-scale equipment for printable carbon nanotube-based displays and solar cells.


AZ Electronic Materials has joined SEMATECH's Resist Materials and Development Center in NY, to demo EUV materials and resists.

ON Semi plans to spend $11M to expand its Fab 10 200mm ASIC site in Pocatello, ID.

MEMC has snapped up private CA-based solar wafer firm Solaicx for $66M.

Cadence and IBM will develop 32nm SOI IP.

SMSC has qualified Kilopass' nonvolatile memory for auto ICs.

Nanoslivers of glass actually conduct electricity, a finding that could aid development of MEMS and lab-on-a-chip devices, say U. of Michigan researchers.

EDA firm Docea has obtained $1.5M in VC funding. And broadband fabless startup Icera has landed $45M equity funding.

FormFactor CEO Mario Ruscev has resigned, along with the company's CFO; former Intel MPU exec Everett takes over as the new CEO.


Samsung Electronics has pledged to spend 26 trillion won (US ~$22.5B) on several of its businesses—including 9T won (~$7.8B) for memory for a new Line 16 and increased capacity at Line 15, and 2T won (~$1.8B) for system LSI and foundry operations.

Hynix plans to hike its 2010 spending by roughly a third to 3.05 trillion won (US $2.56B). It also is buying out Numonyx's 21% stake in their Chinese JV for about $438M.

A group of 30 Japanese companies is developing small-scale production for ASSPs, that would cost ~¥500M (US $5.5M), a fraction of conventional production lines; trial production is slated to start in 2013.

IMEC has formed a Chinese division in Shanghai's Zhangjiang High-tech Park. Its first project: fine-tune its 65nm base process for government-backed chip firm Huali.

TSMC is offering three new design enablement initiatives to speed system-to-IC design cycles. The foundry also has released a 0.18µm automotive-grade embedded flash IP, and invested $5M in Chinese VC player Shanghai Walden, which has a specialty focus on IC design houses.

A media report, citing an unnamed equipment supplier source, says SMIC will double its 300mm capacity in Beijing, possibly with a new $4B-$5B fab.

Linde LienHwa has established an ultrahigh-purity ammonia plant in China's Fujian Province to better serve customers in TFT-LCD and LED manufacturing.

Fujitsu says it has developed a GaN HEMT amplifier with more than twice the C-Ku band output (12.9W) of previous amplifiers.

Dow Electronic Materials has added a new R&D center in Korea (near Hwaseong).

Nova Measuring Instruments says a "leading foundry" has ordered multiple metrology systems for ≤22nm work.

Aixtron has several new deposition tool orders from a trio of Chinese HB-LED firms.

Japanese plasma etch firm FOI has filed for bankruptcy after being raided by securities authorities, and confirming allegations of inflating sales data ahead of its November 2009 IPO.

Epistar has qualified a Veeco TurboDisc K465i GaN MOCVD system as part of a 2010 capacity ramp of high-volume LED production.

SMIC and Virage Logic have expanded their partnership to include Virage's IP on SMIC's 65nm low-leakage process technology.


ATREG is advising the sale of Qimonda's 300mm DRAM fab in Dresden, what was the world's first 300mm production facility when built in 2001.

ASML says four immersion litho tools have processed >1M wafers in a 12-month period, for a pair of Korean chipmakers.

Fraunhover IZM is busy bolstering its 3D IC operations, ordering 300mm etch systems from SPP Process Technology Systems, and bonding/debonding equipment from EV Group.

Contamination control equipment supplier SDI has moved its European operation to new larger premises in Breda, Netherlands.

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