Accelerating Next Generation Semiconductor Manufacturing Technologies

Accelerating Next Generation Semiconductor Manufacturing Technologies — Benefits for the European Semiconductor Equipment and Material Industry

By Heinz Kundert, president, SEMI Europe

 While there is currently a new round of uncertainty in the market and the near-term industry outlook is less than clear, semiconductor manufacturers are investing in advanced process technologies for both wafer fabrication and device packaging. Several market leaders in both the front- and backend of the industry are spending at record levels. While overall equipment spending is expected to decline in 2012, growth is forecasted for 2013 with fab equipment spending expected to reach a record high — if macroeconomic factors do not intervene.  In 2013, equipment sales should increase and approach US$3.3 billion in Europe.

Disruptive technologies lead to new financial models and consolidation

While consolidation in the industry is not new, the way that businesses now co-exist is quite different. Look no further than the new “multi-party development program” at ASML which involves equity investments by Intel and TSMC. It is still not clear what that means for the entire semiconductor manufacturing landscape; however, it will have an impact to competitiveness in one or the other way for all.

Consequences for the European semiconductor food chain

The European equipment industry has raised its world-wide share from 18% (1998) to 24% (2011). Although much is contributed by ASML, Europe has a diversified industry with leading positions in many different areas. For example, more than 40 European equipment and material suppliers have joined forces and formed the EEMI 450 initiative to meet the future requirements of the European equipment and material suppliers community.   

The undisputed goal is to keep Europe's semiconductor industry competitive. The EU has indicated its willingness to support this but needs industry input and guidance as it needs to deal with complexities of 450mm, EUV and 3D-IC. The proposed Horizon 2020 — the EU Framework Program for Research and Innovation 2014-2020 — proposes a multi-billion support for research and innovation, and for the first time the program will include co-financing pilot-lines to make sure there is a timely transition from R&D to mass manufacturing in Europe.

“More Moore” and “More than Moore”

How much “More Moore” is needed to make sure that “More than Moore” will continue to generate sustainable growth in Europe?  In fact, implementation of “More than Moore” across many sectors of the industry is robust, and in particular European semiconductor device makers have shown solid business results in this area.  However, 450mm protagonists say that new device architecture will be developed on 450mm formats and consequently “More than Moore” device designs could profit from their achievements. The same is said with regard to factory automation, efficiency and yield improvements. In anticipating further consolidation, there will be a handful of mainstream companies left who are big enough to push scaling while “More than Moore” will continue in a more diverse structure.  

The European semiconductor industry is like a triathlon. The equipment and material industry badly needs to belong to the early adopters of 450mm, EUV and 3D-IC to remain globally competitive and to keep or expand the world-wide market share. Device makers — offering products in “More than Moore” — will keep growing and will benefit from the proliferation of Micro-Devices in both consumer products and industrial applications. And, the question remains to what extent a 450mm fab in Europe is feasible. Although both Intel in Ireland and GLOBALFOUNDRY in Dresden have indicated interest, no concrete plans have been announced yet. It seems that the EU needs to support all three areas, namely equipment and material suppliers “More than Moore” and “More Moore” device makers to make sure that the European semiconductor industry remains valuable within an extremely competitive environment.   

To achieve high value goals, we need a closer collaboration among all stakeholders and new business/financial models and alliances will continue to deliver breaking news. With significant changes ahead, the European semiconductor industry definitely needs to work together.

SEMICON Europa will bring together the most knowledgeable voices in the industry to discuss these complex issues. I hope that you join in the discussion. I sincerely hope I’ll see you at the European Executive Summit, in other programs, and on the show floor during SEMICON Europa 2012, held October 9-11 in Dresden, Germany.

August 13, 2012