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Utilizations Hit Record Levels but Shortages Persist: It's all in the architecture


Fab utilization levels have hit record highs (since 2004) coming in at 95.6% for "worldwide wafer fab capacity utilization […] in the second quarter of 2010, up from 93.5 percent in the first quarter," according to the Semiconductor International Capacity Statistics (SICAS) as reported here by EETimes.

Of significant importance are the wafer sizes and architecture levels that we're talking about, obviously, because such generalized numbers really do become somewhat meaningless for actual costs and supply-demand forecasting, albeit providing a nice macro-level picture of the semiconductor industry's current momentum.  The following excerpt from the EETimes article provides just these data to hone in on size and supply year-over-year (YoY) for the second quarter (2Q):

"Production of older process technologies above 100-nm and production on 200-mm wafers had risen to close to 90 percent and leading-edge CMOS production below 100-nm and production on 300-mm diameter wafers is at 95 to 98 percent. At the 90-, 65- and sub-60-nm nodes it was 94.6, 98.8 and 98.6 percent respectively. This is despite a remarkable increase in manufacturing capacity at foundries."

These numbers are not forecasted to abate anytime during 2010, and with the pressure of shortages we felt during the first half of 2010 (1H10), as we move into the high demand quarter and still do not see much resolution to these shortages, the debates rage on.  Still on the industry blogs and newsletters is the forever question: 'How long will semi steam ahead while macro-economic indicators are mixed?'  Certainly this conundrum has us all interested and the ability of semi to rebound so solidly has many of us pouring over our numbers.  But, as we've shown, the numbers are real and the demand has been there.  So looking into 2H10: given the focus of increased capacity and the (not now) timing of these increases, supply looks to be more of the same in 3Q10 as we've seen, and likely also into 4Q10 - unless something rather dramatic happens in the global macro-economic forum.

The challenge will come as we prepare to read the tea leaves for 2011 – although with the new CAPEX spends pushing ahead to new architectures and wafers, the semi industry has played some very smart cards that should buffer our position regardless of the macro-economic bumps we continue to experience on the global rebound path.

Lisa Ann Cairns, Ph.D.
Written on Thursday, 19 August 2010 14:44 by Lisa Ann Cairns, Ph.D.

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