SANTA CLARA, Calif. – 2009 was a lousy year for memories.
2010 has been a boom year. In fact, there are supply constraints, extended lead times and firm product prices in this memory cycle. So who’s to blame for the problem?
At the Memcon conference here on Wednesday, one analyst blamed the problem on the memory makers themselves and unlikely culprit: ASML Holding NV.
During the event, analysts also agreed the boom cycle in memories will end one day. Jim Handy, an analyst with Objective Analysis, sees the dreaded oversupply situation in the memory market ''in mid-2011 or 2012’’ timeframe.
Expect a memory ''crash two or three years’’ from now, said Jim Cantore, principal for JLC Associates.
For DRAMs, there appears to be strong demand at least until mid-2011, said Lane Mason, memory market analyst at Denali, which was recently acquired by Cadence Design Systems Inc.
At that point, the market could see a slowdown or downturn, he said. Right now, capacity is tight, as fab utilization is generally running at 95 percent, he said.
There are three basic reasons for the current strain on the memory supply chain right now. First, there is unexpected demand in the marketplace. Second, vendors could ship more products, but most under-invested in terms of fab capacity during the downturn, Mason said.
Finally, the other problem is that there is still a shortage of 193-nm immersion lithography scanners from ASML, Mason said. Memory makers require these scanners to pattern parts at 50-nm and below.
ASML has taken the lead in 193-nm immersion, while rivals Canon Inc. and Nikon Corp. ''are far back’’ in the arena, he said. The issue is that ''ASML is shipping half as many (193-nm immersion tools) as they should,’’ he said at the Memcon conference today.
Lithography equipment maker ASML Holding recently reported a strong set of second quarter financial results with revenues and forward bookings ahead of analysts' expectations. Sales revenue was nearly four times the size of sale in the same quarter a year before.
Nikon has shipped 193-nm immersion tool, mainly to its main customer--Intel Corp. Canon is out of the game in the leading-edge lithography race.