Spending in Semiconductor Equipment Market Accelerates: Gartner

For the entire year, spending in the semiconductor equipment space will decline more than 42 percent. However, that masks the accelerated growth the market has seen in spending in the second half of the year, which research firm Gartner says will continue into 2010, when spending is expected to jump 45.3 percent.

The worldwide semiconductor equipment market will see a 42.6 percent decline in spending this year, compared with 2008, according to research firm Gartner.

However, the upside is that the market is finding itself in the middle of a significant growth spurt, and projections for 2010 are for a jump in spending of 45.3 percent, according to the Gartner report released Dec. 11.

"Foundry spending and select spending by a few memory companies drove the growth in the semiconductor equipment segment in the second half of 2009," Gartner analyst Dean Freeman said in a statement. Growth in 2010 "will be driven by technology upgrades for the first half of the year."

There may be a lull in spending in the third quarter of 2010, Freeman said, but with added capacity at the facilities starting in late 2010, the growth should continue into 2011, he said.

Worldwide wafer fab equipment will see a boost in spending this year of 48.1 percent, with that growing 56.6 percent next year, Gartner said.

However, the analyst firm said a key question will be the availability of 193 immersion steppers, which Gartner said are important for technology upgrades. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing is expected to install its first immersion stepper, Gartner said.

In the memory space, DRAM will move into the 4xnm range, which also will mean a need for immersion. The Gartner analysts said that currently they don't expect a shortage of immersion tools to arise, but cautioned that any shortage could hinder wafer fab equipment growth in 2010.

Worldwide packaging and assembly equipment spending will follow the overmarket trend, declining 40.5 percent this year and jumping 52.8 percent next year. In particular, certain equipment segments will see even more growth. Those segments include equipment for advanced processes, such as wafer-level packaging, 3D processes and through-silicon vias manufacturing.

Consolidation in the semiconductor market will continue to play a role in the equipment provider space, according to Gartner analyst Bob Johnson. A major deal occurred in September, when Globalfoundries, created when Advanced Micro Devices spun off its manufacturing business, bought Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing for $1.8 billion.

However, fewer customers may not be a bad thing for the space, he said.

"Further consolidation is to be expected, with mergers and acquisitions, as well as companies closing down that can no longer afford to run a business in the semiconductor industry," Johnson said in a statement. "While initially this may seem to be a dark time for the equipment segment, as the industry consolidates a much stronger equipment sector will emerge to carry on in the future."