LONDON Chip manufacturing capacity is falling and as demand is increasing the chip industry is becoming close to being sold-out. Manufacturing capacity utilization has climbed above 90 percent in several leading-edge sectors, according to the Semiconductor International Capacity Statistics (SICAS) organization.
Worldwide fab-capacity utilization hit 86.5 percent in the third quarter of 2009, up from 77.0 percent in the second quarter and foundry utilization climbed to 91.5 percent utilization in 3Q09, up from 83.1 percent in 2Q09. Manufacturing on 300-mm wafers reached 96.1 percent capacity utilization, up from 91.9 percent in the second quarter, despite a marked increase in production capacity.
Between 80-nm and 60-nm utilisation was 95.7 percent of capacity and below 60-nm capacity was at 93.5 percent of capacity in Q309.
Older MOS processes in the range 0.25-micron to 130-nm were in the mid 80 percent utilization while yet older MOS processes above 0.35-micron were at around 70 percent capacity utilization, according to SICAS.
This disparity between leading-edge capacity utilization, explains some changes in manufacturing capacity. Both IC and discrete semiconductor manufacturing capacity fell between the second and third quarters. Therefore so too did overall semiconductor manufacturing capacity, down 1.1 percent on the previous quarter and down 13.2 percent on the same quarter a year before.
However 300-mm manufacturing capacity, which typically carries the leading-edge processes, was up 6.7 percent on the previous quarter. Foundry capacity was up 9.3 percent on the previous quarter and 8.9 percent on the installed capacity it had in the third quarter of 2008, the statistics show.
Usually the movement of the manufacturing capacity utilization figure above 90 percent is taken as a prompt for chip companies to invest in manufacturing capacity. However, it takes 9 months to a year to bring such capacity on board.
Related links and articles:
July chip figures: what the analysts are saying, part 2
Semiconductor industry utilization declined in Q3 2008