SAN DIEGO -- The silicon wafer market could enter into a state of chaos next year, as analysts project a shortage of 200-mm products and expensive price tags for 300-mm diameter substrates.
Already in tight supply at the present time, 200-mm silicon wafers could move into allocation in 2001, due in part to huge demand and the lack of new capacity to make starting substrates for chip fabs, warned Klaus-Dieter Rinnen, director of semiconductor manufacturing analysis at Dataquest.
"Supply of 200-mm wafers has been tight since late last year," said Rinnen after his presentation at the "Dataquest Semiconductors 2000" conference here on Monday. "We are looking at shortages of products in 2001," added the San Jose-based analysts.
One of the main reasons for a possible shortfall in 200-mm blank wafers is that several silicon substrate suppliers have failed to put new capacity in place to meet anticipated demand in 2001, Rinnen said. Wafer material suppliers have struggled in the late 1990s with huge losses due to an oversupply of starting substrates and slower than expected industry growth. As a result, wafer merchants were greatly weakened by the last downturn (see story).
But now wafer demand is up as new fabs begin to ramp capacity. Currently, there were some 24 new fab projects on the drawing board in 2000, but that number is expected to increase to 30 plants in 2001 and 14 in 2002, according to Dataquest. These projects include both 200- and 300-mm plants.
By 2001, an expected eight-to-ten 300-mm lines will be in place, based on the current outlook from Dataquest. By 2003, there will be 20-to-25 twelve-inch (300-mm) fabs worldwide, predicted the San Jose research firm. And, Rinnen warned that "300-mm wafers are going to be expensive."