Research included in the April Update to the 2018 edition of IC Insights’ McClean Report shows that the world’s leading semiconductor suppliers significantly increased their marketshare over the past decade. The top-5 semiconductor suppliers accounted for 43% of the world’s semiconductor sales in 2017, an increase of 10 percentage points from 10 years earlier (Figure 1). In total, the 2017 top-50 suppliers represented 88% of the total $444.7 billion worldwide semiconductor market last year, up 12 percentage points from the 76% share the top 50 companies held in 2007.
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Since the global economic recession of 2008-2009, the IC industry has been on a mission to pare down older capacity (i.e., ≤200mm wafers) in order to produce devices more cost-effectively on larger wafers. The spree of merger and acquisition activity and the migration to producing IC devices using sub-20nm process technology has also led suppliers to eliminate inefficient wafer fabs. From 2009-2017, semiconductor manufacturers around the world have closed or repurposed 92 wafer fabs, according to data compiled, updated, and now available in IC Insights’ Global Wafer Capacity 2018-2022 report.
Figure 1 shows that since 2009, 41% of fab closures have been 150mm fabs and 26% have been 200mm wafer fabs. 300mm wafer fabs have accounted for only 10% of total fab closures since 2009. Qimonda was the first company to close a 300mm wafer fab after it went out of business in early 2009.
Despite increasing costs of development, IC manufacturers are still making great strides.
The success and proliferation of integrated circuits has largely hinged on the ability of IC manufacturers to continue offering more performance and functionality for the money. Driving down the cost of ICs (on a per-function or per-performance basis) is inescapably tied to a growing arsenal of technologies and wafer-fab manufacturing disciplines as mainstream CMOS processes reach their theoretical, practical, and economic limits. Among the many levers being pulled by IC designers and manufacturers are: feature-size reductions, introduction of new materials and transistor structures, migration to larger-diameter silicon wafers, higher throughput in fab equipment, increased factory automation, three-dimensional integration of circuitry and chips, and advanced IC packaging and holistic system-driven design approaches.
For logic-oriented processes, companies are fabricating leading-edge devices such as high-performance microprocessors, low-power application processors, and other advanced logic devices using the 14nm and 10nm generations (Figure 1). There is more variety than ever among the processes companies offer, making it challenging to compare them in a fair and useful way. Moreover, “plus” or derivative versions of each process generation and half steps between major nodes have become regular occurrences.
Intel far surpasses others with R&D spending of $13.1 billion in 2017 and accounts for 36% of expenditures among Top R&D spenders.
The ten largest semiconductor R&D spenders increased their collective expenditures to $35.9 billion in 2017, an increase of 6% compared to $34.0 billion in 2016. Intel continued to far exceed all other semiconductor companies with R&D spending that reached $13.1 billion. In addition to representing 21.2% of its semiconductor sales last year, Intel’s R&D spending accounted for 36% of the top 10 R&D spending and about 22% of total worldwide semiconductor R&D expenditures of $58.9 billion in 2017, according to the 2018 edition of The McClean Report that was released in January 2018. Figure 1 shows IC Insights’ ranking of the top semiconductor R&D spenders, including both semiconductor manufacturers and fabless suppliers.
Intel’s R&D expenditures increased just 3% in 2017, below its 8% average annual growth rate since 2001, according to the new report. Still, Intel’s R&D spending exceeded the combined R&D spending of the next four companies—Qualcomm, Broadcom, Samsung, and Toshiba—listed in the ranking.
Wafer capacity growth of 8% forecast for 2018 and 2019 versus 4.8% average yearly growth from 2012-2017.
IC industry wafer capacity, specifically in the memory segment, was inadequate to meet demand throughout 2017. However, with Samsung, SK Hynix, Micron, Intel, Toshiba/WD, and XMC/Yangtze River Storage Technology planning to significantly ramp up 3D NAND flash capacity over the next few years, and Samsung and SK Hynix boosting DRAM capacity this year and next, what does this mean for total industry capacity growth? In its 2018-2022 Global Wafer Capacity report, IC Insights shows that new manufacturing lines are expected to boost industry capacity 8% in both 2018 and 2019 (Figure 1). From 2017-2022, annual growth in IC industry capacity is forecast to average 6.0% compared to 4.8% average growth from 2012-2017.
Large swings in the addition or contraction of wafer capacity by the industry, as a whole, appear to be moderating. Since 2010, annual changes in wafer capacity volume have been in the relatively narrow range of 2-8%, with the largest year-to-year difference being just three percentage points. This suggests that IC manufacturers are better today than in years past about trying to match supply with demand. It’s still an incredibly difficult task for companies to gauge how much capacity will be needed to meet demand from customers, especially given the time it takes a company to move from the decision to build a new fab to that fab being ready for mass production.
Microprocessors, which first appeared in the early 1970s as 4-bit computing devices for calculators, are among the most complex integrated circuits on the market today. During the past four decades, powerful microprocessors have evolved into highly parallel multi-core 64-bit designs that contain all the functions of a computer’s central processing unit (CPU) as well as a growing number of system-level functions and accelerator blocks for graphics, video, and emerging artificial intelligence (AI) applications. MPUs are the “brains” of personal computers, servers, and large mainframes, but they can also be used for embedded processing in a wide range of systems, such as networking gear, computer peripherals, medical and industrial equipment, cars, televisions, set-top boxes, video-game consoles, wearable products and Internet of Things applications. The recently released 2018 edition of IC Insights’ McClean Report shows that the fastest growing types of microprocessors in the last five years have been mobile system-on-chip (SoC) designs for tablets and data-handling cellphones and MPUs used in embedded-processing applications (Figure 1).