SAN FRANCISCO—Market research firm Gartner Inc. Wednesday (Dec. 14) forecast that global semiconductor capital spending would decline by 19.5 percent from this year's projected total, largely due to the slowing macroeconomic environment.
Gartner (Stamford, Conn.) projects that capex will fall to $51.7 billion in 2012 from a projected $64.2 billion this year. The capex for 2011 represents 13.7 percent growth over 2010, Gartner said.
"Natural disasters and the economy have certainly impacted the semiconductor capital equipment market in 2011, but we expect equipment spending to increase 13.7 percent in 2011," said Klaus Rinnen, managing vice president at Gartner, in a statement. "However, equipment providers will not be as lucky in 2012. The impact of the slowing macro economy, high inventories and a sluggish PC industry — due to both weak demand and the flooding in Thailand — will temper the outlook for 2012."
Gartner said it expects spending on capital equipment—including wafer fab equipment (WFE), packaging/assembly equipment and automated test equipment (ATE)—to fall to $34 billion in 2012, down 21.3 percent from a projected $43.2 billion in 2011.
Gartner said it expects the current semiconductor industry slowdown to last through the second quarter of 2012. By that time, the supply and demand should be in balance with the semiconductor side possibly even beginning to see some undersupply, Gartner said.
Once the supply is balanced, DRAM and foundry will need to begin to increase spending to meet an increase in demand as consumers resume spending and the PC market rebounds, According to Gartner. The firm projects total semiconductor capex to increase 19.2 percent in 2013, reaching $64.6 billion. Spending on capital equipment is projected to increase 25 percent in 2013, reaching $42.5 billion, according to the forecast.
Gartner's forecast projects that WFE will grow 9.8 percent in 2011, reaching $34.7 billion. The firm forecasts that WFE spending will then decline 22.9 percent to $26.7 billion in 2012.
In 2011, continued demand for leading-edge WFE technologies is again benefiting the high-priced 193-nm immersion lithography segment and associated equipment in the lithography cell, Gartner said. WFE spending in 2012 will be primarily on leading-edge technology as the 20-nm and 28/32-nm ramp-ups continue, according to Gartner.
Gartner said orders for packaging and assembly equipment have softened more aggressively than previously expected as supply comes in line with expectations. For back-end process providers' capex, 3-D packaging and copper wire bonding for lower-cost solutions will still be the focus, but at a reduced pace, Gartner said.
Gartner expects most major packaging and assembly tool segments will see slightly negative sales in 2011, but advanced tooling will again be stronger than the general market this year. For 2012, traditional tooling segments will see substantial declines in sales, while advanced packaging segments are expected to fall less than is traditional when compared with 2011, Gartner said. The pause in copper bonding solutions is expected to continue through next year, before an aggressive ramp-up in 2013, Gartner said.
The ATE market is expected decline modestly in 2011 compared to 2010, driven by the moderated demand of system-on-chip and the advanced radio frequency segments of the market, Gartner said. Memory ATE will likely pull back in 2011 as DRAM capex has continued to soften, Gartner said.
But Garter expects NAND testing platforms to be stronger than the general memory test market this year. For 2012, analysts expect a significant decline in tester sales, though memory systems should hold up reasonably well compared with most cycles as DRAM capex returns, Gartner said. Beyond 2012, Gartner predicts solid growth in 2013, the firm said.