By Lara Chamness, senior market analyst manager, Industry Research and Statistics, SEMI
Due to the high cost of prime silicon wafers, semiconductor manufacturers run more affordable test and/or “dummy” wafers through their fab lines to optimize and monitor their manufacturing processes. Generally, these wafers are a combination of virgin test wafers and test wafers that have been “reclaimed” by extensive cleaning and polishing. Much like the rest of the industry, silicon wafer suppliers have undergone extensive consolidation in the past ten years; 20 silicon wafer reclaim suppliers exist in the market today compared to 29 in 2008. Also much like the rest of the industry, the reclaim silicon market experiences growth during upturns and contracts during downturns.
However in 2013, reclaim volumes experienced 18 percent growth while bulk silicon shipments were essentially flat. Device shrinks and tighter inventory control partially explain the divergence but several reclaim suppliers noted that many of their customers found ways to reduce the number of virgin test wafers, either by increasing the amount of test wafers reclaimed and/or starting fewer lines.
Annual volume growth rates for reclaim wafer volumes did return to growth levels comparable with virgin silicon in 2014 but growth rates diverged again in 2015 as the result of TSMC opting to take a significant portion of their wafer reclaim operations in-house. Bulk silicon shipment growth rates and reclaim silicon shipments converged once again last year as bulk silicon shipments increased 3 percent, while reclaim shipment volumes increased 2 percent. It is currently expected that TSMC will not further expand its captive reclaim capability over 2015 levels.
Growth of the silicon reclaim wafer market is closely tied to wafer starts and foundry utilization. Given positive growth expectations for this year and the next for semiconductors, it is expected that the silicon reclaim market will enjoy similar growth as well, especially if reclaim supply remains in balance with demand. The worldwide silicon reclaim wafer market is estimated at $431 million in 2016 and is forecasted to reach $454 million by 2018, according to SEMI.
A recently published SEMI report, Silicon Reclaim Wafer Characterization Summary, provides details on the 2016 silicon wafer reclaim for the semiconductor market, including capacity, and pricing trends. The report also provides a forecast to 2018. Seven regions of the world are covered in this report including North America, Japan, Europe, Korea, Taiwan, China, and Rest of World (ROW). Market estimates for reclaim wafers include semiconductor applications including equipment and IC manufacturing markets. Regional reclaim pricing and capacity are also discussed.
May 16, 2017