Global wafer fab equipment spend to return to growth

Spending on wafer fab manufacturing expected to drop 8.9 percent in 2012 to US$33 billion, but market will return to growth in 2013, says Gartner.

Global spending to acquire equiment for wafer fab manufacturing is expected to drop 8.9 percent in 2012 to US$33 billion, from US$36.2 billion last year, but the market is expected to return to growth in 2013, says Gartner.

In a report Monday, the research firm said wafer fab capacity utilization would to drop to the mid-80 percent range in mid-2012 and slowly increase to around 87 percent by the end of the year. It added leading-edge utilization would return to the high-80 percent range by the second half of 2012 and move into the low-90-percent range through 2013, which will encourage a a positive capital investment environment.

Bob Johnson, research vice president at Gartner, said in the report: "In 2012, wafer fab equipment started off the year strong, as foundries and other logic manufacturers ramped up sub-30-nm production.

"The need for new equipment was stronger than originally anticipated, because strengthening demand for leading-edge devices required higher production volumes as yields had yet to reach mature levels."

However, Johnson noted demand for new logic production equipment would soften as yield improved and this would lead to declined shipment volume for the rest of the year.

In early-June, semiconductor research firm SEMI reported different findings. It expected global fab equipment spending to grow 2 percent year-on-year to reach US$39.5 billion. South Korea, Taiwan and the United States this year were expected to spend the most on fab equipment, it added.