Fab shortage looms

Frightened executives in command of commissioning semiconductor fabrication plants have reacted to the economic meltdown with so much caution that there’s a real possibility that demand will exceed supply in 2010.

That’s according to market research company Future Horizons, which warns that there will not be enough 2010 capacity in place to meet demand.

Said CEO Malcolm Penn, in his latest report on the semiconductor market: “Looking ahead to 2010, demand should start to accelerate in line with the anticipated global economic recovery, tightening the capacity screw still further. And with 2010’s capacity fixed by 2009’s spend, at a currently estimated $20 billion, this spend represents barely one third its 2000 $60 billion peak. That means, in round number numbers, 2010’s new capacity will be only 40K 200mm wafer stars/week, minus any capacity closures.”

He continued: “We have said it before and we will say it again. There will not be enough 2010 capacity in place to meet demand. This is a fab shortage waiting to happen.”

The Global Semiconductor Monthly Report estimates that 300mm (12-inch) wafers account for 50.1 percent of the total MOS capacity, with 200mm (8-inch) in second place at 37.7 percent.

Advanced capacity fell because of the problems the DRAM companies are facing. The figures Future Horizons provide in its report are clear enough – there was a big decline in wafer starts comparing calendar quarter one 2009 compared to calnder quarter four 2008, according to this table, courtesy of Future Horizons.

Wafer technology WSW (k) Q1vQ4
Total MOS -165.3 -7.8%
200mm wafers in MOS total -92.5 -11.2%
300mm wafers in MOS total -42.5 -4.2%
150mm and below wafers in MOS total -30.3 -11.3%
BIPOLAR (five inch equivalents) -62.6 -31.9%
Total ICs (eight inch equivalents) -189.8 -8.7%