Semiconductor Manufacturing Equipment Spending Falls in 2012: Gartner

Among the major sectors, those more strongly driven by logic manufacturing, 28/20-nanometer (nm) processing and yield ramps-ups did better.

Worldwide semiconductor capital equipment spending totaled $37.8 billion in 2012, a 16.1 percent decline from 2011, as wafer-level manufacturing underperformed the market in 2012, pulled down by weakness in lithography and deposition, according to a report from IT research firm Gartner.

Applied Materials reclaimed the top spot in the market based on its relative strength in deposition and process control, capturing 14.4 percent of the market, though growth was down by 6.2 percent. Last year’s top performer, ASML, was pulled down to second place due to weakness in lithography and limited sales in extreme ultraviolet (EUV) market. The company currently holds 12.8 percent market share and growth declined an alarming 28 percent.

Similar to Applied, Tokyo Electron (TEL) benefited from its relative strength in the nonlithography sectors it serves, placing third with 11.1 percent market share, though growth also fell. Lam Research moved into the fourth position, up one spot from last year, thanks to its merger with Novellus Systems, and claimed 7.4 percent market share.

"Continued oversupply in dynamic random access memory (DRAM) and the shift to NAND into oversupply led to a reduced need for capacity," Klaus-Dieter Rinnen, managing vice president at Gartner, said in a statement. "Memory manufacturing-related purchases declined significantly. Logic-related spending provided only a weak counterforce, impacted by slowing overall semiconductor device demand in the second half of 2012 and bulging inventories. Consequently, manufacturing equipment sales realized a declining quarterly pattern, starting in the second quarter through the end of the year."

Among the major sectors, those more strongly driven by logic manufacturing, 28/20-nanometer (nm) processing and yield ramps-ups did better, the report noted. The back-end segment, and especially the wafer-level packaging (WLP)-related segments, outperformed the market. Within the process control segments, e-beam patterned wafer inspection saw the best performance, up 36 percent in 2012.

These segments were either tied to the relative strength of logic investments, such as advanced RF or system-on-chip (SoC) test equipment, or to the increasing popularity of bump, flip-chip and other WLP processes, such as stud bump bonding and wafer bonders for through-silicon vias (TSVs).

"Notable is the further rise of the sales share of the top 10 vendors, now approaching 70 percent, compared with 61 percent in 2008," Rinnen said. "The advance of these large players symbolizes losses of smaller players in the competitive race and an increasing market dependence on a few vendors in the equipment market."

According to the results of the study, the process control segments outperformed the total wafer fab equipment market as companies ramped up production at the 32/28 nm node and needed increased inspection and defect review tools to monitor increasingly complex processes.