SEMICON West Still Hits the High Notes


There’s always a sense of anticipation when planning for SEMICON West. San Francisco’s weather can be unusually cool, and the industry fluctuates unpredictably as well. But this year the weather was warm and inviting, and the industry is experiencing double-digit growth despite intellectual property and research and development funding concerns.

Signs of health were in the air. SEMI had just posted a book-to-bill ratio of 1.12 for May, a steady climb since December (0.93). In June this continued upward to 1.14. Everyone expressed an opinion on how we got where we are. Microsoft’s new Vista operating system and increased cell phone functionality were some of the key drivers according to FormFactor’s president Joseph Bronson. Consumers create 53% of semiconductor growth today, added George Scalise, president of the SIA. MEMS applications have taken hold, noted Jean-Christophe Eloy, general manager of Yole Développement. Stan Myers, president and CEO of SEMI, said that in six years, the industry has almost recovered to peak revenues recorded in 2000. He continued by predicting that combined equipment and materials revenues this year would reach $73 billion. SEMI’s Mid-year Consensus Forecast survey results follow these patterns: 18% growth in the equipment market, to $38.8 billion; flat in 2007, and double digit growth in 2008.

Although market growth continues, the U.S. portion of global leading-edge IC capacity has declined from 35 to 15%, according to Scalise. Scott Kulicke, CEO, Kulicke and Soffa, said that the most difficult job is dealing with the Asianization of his firm’s wirebond business. Fewer than 10% of his employees work in the U.S. Many firms talked about the state of the industry within the U.S. and the problems involved with loss of jobs and competitiveness.

And name changes occurred everywhere. From Agilent, the new Santa Clara-based company Verigy spun off. Verigy’s V93000 and V5000 scalable architecture series provides advanced test solutions for SoC, SiP and memory devices. They see this as a high-growth area. Just after SEMICON, Universal Instruments announced a break away from the Dover group and a focus on packaging in forming their new company, Unovis.

Products were introduced, such as UK-based Lloyd Doyle’s IBIS for measuring and characterizing solder bumps and chip carriers using interoferometric bump inspection. NanoDynamics, besides providing specialty engineering materials and materials processing in a nano format, also showcased a fuel cell that they had developed. BTU International not only covers furnaces for wafer and die-level packaging, but also is involved in solar and fuel cell and nuclear fuel industries.

Admittedly, there are few chip makers buying equipment at SEMICON. Regardless, SEMICON West hits the high notes as a place to gather and celebrate new products, and a time to introduce changes and learn about future technology. Those who attended took about a week to recover from the event, and that’s a pretty good measure of how important it is to the industry.

Click here to enlarge image

Gail Flower