13 Apr 2022
SEMI industry group reports 44% surge as demand for equipment reaches all-time high.
Global sales of semiconductor manufacturing equipment - a huge market for lasers and optical components - rose to an all-time high last year.
According to the latest figures from the Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI) trade group, the total of just under $103 billion represented a 44 per cent jump on the pandemic-disrupted figure for 2020.
That charge was led by China, where sales expanded 58 per cent, reaching $29.6 billion and marking a fourth consecutive year of growth.
In Korea, sales rose 55 per cent, to $25 billion, while Taiwan logged 45 per cent growth and also saw sales of $25 billion.
Elsewhere, spending in North America rose 17 per cent, to $7.6 billion, and by 23 per cent in Europe, to $3.25 billion.
Only in Japan was growth relatively modest, rising by only 3 per cent, to $7.8 billion.
SEMI’s CEO Ajit Manocha commented: “The 44 per cent increase in manufacturing equipment spending in 2021 highlights the global semiconductor industry’s aggressive push to add capacity.
“This drive to expand production capabilities extends beyond the current supply imbalance, as the industry continues to ramp up to address a wide range of emerging high-tech applications that will enable a smarter digital world with countless social benefits.”
Regarding the different types of equipment, sales of wafer processing tools rose 44 per cent in 2021, while other front-end segment sales grew 22 per cent.
High-power lasers and high-specification optics are used extensively in cutting-edge lithography tools used to pattern wafers with integrated circuits, and which represent a major chunk of the front-end equipment sales total.
Sales of assembly and packaging tools boasted exceptional growth across all regions, rising by 87 per cent over the 2020 total, while sales of test equipment sales jumped by 30 per cent.
And with chip manufacturers still struggling to meet the levels of customer demand that have led to supply constraints impacting several key markets, the surge appears set to continue.
Front-end capacity boost
Last month SEMI predicted that the global market for front-end processing equipment alone - a different measure to the total equipment market - would rise well beyond $100 billion this year.
Manocha’s market forecasters are expecting sales of front-end equipment to rise another 18 per cent in 2022, reaching $107 billion - before a slight contraction anticipated in 2023.
Taiwan is at the forefront of that charge, where an expected $35 billion will be invested this year. But spending in China will drop 30 per cent, to $17.5 billion.
Taiwan's TSMC, the world's largest chip foundry and responsible for much of the investment there, has just reported a 36 per cent year-on-year rise in sales for the opening quarter of 2022 - indicating the current level of demand.
Overall, SEMI reckons that the unprecedented level of investment will enable the chip industry to raise manufacturing capacity by another 8 per cent this year, following a 7 per cent increase in 2021.
Next year is expected to result in a 6 per cent capacity increase - meaning that by the end of 2023, global capacity will be 22 per cent higher than in 2020.
“This significant achievement is a tribute to the relentless drive to add and upgrade capacity to address a diverse range of markets and emerging applications, solidifying expectations for long-term industry growth to enable electronics for the digital world,” said Manocha of the effort.