SAN FRANCISCO—Global spending on semiconductor wafer fab equipment is set to fall to $31.4 billion in 2012, down 13 percent from 2011, according to market research firm Gartner Inc.
"The outlook for semiconductor equipment markets has deteriorated as the macro economy has weakened," said Bob Johnson, research vice president at Gartner, in a statement.
Johnson said wafer fab equipment started the year off strong as foundries and other logic manufacturers ramped up sub-30-nm production. But demand for new equipment will soften as yields improve, leading to declining shipment volumes for the rest of the year, Johnson said.
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Gartner (Stamford, Conn.) projects that wafer fab equipment spending will further decline about 1 percent in 2013, falling to $31.2 billion. The firm projects that semiconductor equipment spending will return to growth in 2014, when it is projected to grow 15 percent.
Gartner projects that wafer fab manufacturing capacity utilization rate will decline into the low 80 percent range by the end of 2012, before slowly increasing to about 87 percent by the end of 2013. Leading-edge utilization will return to the high 80 percent range by the second half of 2012, and move into the low 90 percent range through 2013, according to Gartner's forecast.
I think there is another factor at play too. Equipment spending is heavily influenced by migration to newer technology nodes. Since fewer and fewer fabs are migrating to the more advanced nodes, due to complexity and cost, there are fewer technology migrations to drive equipment spending. Even if you argue that the fewer fabs will need to buy more equipment to cover the demand, it will at least induce more fluctuation in the spending as the process migration will be more sporatic with fewer players to even out the averages.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.