LONDON The sapphire substrate market for electronic applications reached 4.61 million wafers (2 inch equivalent) for LEDs last year, as well as tens of thousands of 6 inch wafers for SoS RF applications in 2007, according to report from Yole Development (Lyon, France).
Yole estimates the total sapphire material market will grow at an annual rate of 21 percent to be worth $402 million by 2012.
To date, Gallium Nitride LED has been the main driver for the sapphire business, and this should continue at a CAGR of 15 percent through 2012, representing sales north of $100 million.
The researchers note Silicon-on-Sapphire (SoS) applications have ramped-up tre-mendously sine 2006, notably with the success of parts from Peregrine Semiconductor. 2007 revenues at the substrate level were in the sub-$35 million range but this is anticipated to cross the $100 million mark in 2011.
The traditional sapphire business for the LED market is suffering from the huge pressures on prices in the main Asian regions. With an LED die-on-wafer now selling typically at between 2 and 3 cents, producers are requesting sapphire substrates down to $17 for a 2 inch wafer. This, Yole says, has forced some sapphire producers to focus instead on western countries where market prices are more attractive.
Demand for 4 inch wafers is currently booming, partly due to some major suppliers such as Osram and Showa Denko migrating some of their production to the larger diameter substrates. Samsung recently outlined plans for 6 inch nitride LED production, and 8 inch c-plan sapphire has been demonstrated by Monocrystal.
The researchers say SoS Ultra-CMOS technology is gaining momentum in the cell-phone business, trying to shift market share away for parts such as PiN diodes and GaAs pHEMT switches.
Asian players are responsible for nearly two thirds of the revenues. Russian group Monocrystal (now also owning Atlas) and Saint-Gobain are positioning Europe with 20 percent of the total revenues. The North American sapphire business is mainly driven by Rubicon.
Sapphire for SoS-based devices was originally located in Australia, but is now moving to Asia as Peregrine is becoming fabless and has inked several agreements with Korean semiconductor fabs to outsource the production.
Kyocera is still the leading vendor on a world basis with estimated sales in 2007 of $100 million for both electronics and optical materials. Namiki and Rubicon are challenging Kyocera in the top three.