150mm and 200mm fabs out of fashion, financial crisis effects on manufacturing
SAN FRANCISCO — The semiconductor industry is down about 60 wafer fabs since 2007, mostly due to the closing of older 150mm and 200mm facilities, according to market watchers.
According to Christian Dieseldorff, director of industry research and statistics at the SEMI trade group, the number of worldwide IC fabs — not including R&D fabs, pilot fabs, discrete or LED/optoelectronics fabs — totaled 475 at the end of last year. That's down from 536 in 2007.
Since 2009, 104 fabs have been closed or repurposed, while 43 new facilities have come online, Dieseldorff said in an email exchange with EE Times.
Earlier this month, market research firm IC Insights reported that chip makers worldwide have closed or repurposed 92 wafer fabs, 90 percent of which utilized 200mm or smaller wafers. Of the 92 fabs closed, 41 percent were 150mm fabs and 26 percent were 200mm fabs, according to the firm's Global Wafer Capacity report.
Only 10 percent of the fabs that have closed since 2009 were 300mm fabs — one by Qimonda, two by ProMOS and one each by Sony and Samsung that were repurposed for the manufacture of image sensors — according to IC Insights.
Not surprisingly, the bulk of fab closures in the years since 2007 happened in the aftermath of the most recent global economic recession — 25 in 2009 and 22 in 2010 — according to IC Insights. Only three fabs closed last year, and the firm has identified another three fabs that are likely to cease operations this year or next year.
IC Insights predicts that fab closures will increase in the coming years, due to several factors: the recent flurry or mergers and acquisitions in the industry, the skyrocketing cost of new fabs and equipment and the industry-wide transition to fabless and fab-lite manufacturing models.
— Dylan McGrath is the editor-in-chief of EE Times.