COVID-19 pandemic sparks surge in semiconductor fab spending

05 November 2020
There are some 38 new fabs projected to be built that will expand the market for 300mm wafers worldwide. Source: SEMI

Investments in 300 mm fab is forecast to grow by 13% this year, eclipsing a record set in 2018, according to a new report from trade organization SEMI.

SEMI said the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked a surge in fab spending in 2020 by accelerating digital transformations worldwide. This spending is expected to increase to 2021.

The increase in fab spending is due to rising demand for cloud services, servers, laptops, gaming and healthcare technology as well as fast-evolving technologies like 5G, internet of things (IoT), automotive, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.

According to SEMI’s report, the chip industry is adding at least 38 new 300 mm fabs from 2020 to 2024, while during the same period monthly fab capacity will grow by about 1.8 million wafers to reach more than 7 million. Of these new fabs, 11 volume fabs are expected in Taiwan and eight will be in China. TSMC is also building a new 300 mm fab in Arizona, the first 300 mm fab from the semiconductor foundry giant in the country. By the end of 2024, there will be 161 300 mm volume fabs.

"The COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating a digital transformation sweeping across nearly every industry imaginable to reshape the way we work and live," said Ajit Manocha, SEMI president and CEO. "The projected record spending and 38 new fabs reinforce the role of semiconductors as the bedrock of leading-edge technologies that are driving this transformation and promise to help solve some of the world's greatest challenges."

While there is tremendous growth taking place this year, SEMI expects fab investments to continue to grow in 2021 but at a slower rate of 4% year-over-year. However, beginning in 2022 a mild slowdown is expected, followed by a slight downturn in 2024 following a $70 billion record high in 2023.

China capacity increases

During the forecast period, China is expected to increase its global share of 300 mm capacity from 8% in 2015 to 20% in 2024, reaching 1.5 million 300 mm wafers per month. Non-Chinese companies will account for most of this growth with Chinese-owned organizations accelerating capacity investments. These Chinese companies are expected to rise in market share of China’s fab capacity, growing from 43% in 2020 to 50% and then 60% in 2022 and 2024, respectively.

The situation is the opposite in Japan where 300 mm installed capacity continues to trend down with 12% expected to be in place by 2024 down from 19% in 2015. The Americas are also ticking lower, projected to be 10% by 2024, down from 13% in 2015.

Not surprisingly, the biggest spenders on fabs will be Korea, with between $15 billion and $19 billion, followed by Taiwan, with between $14 billion and $17 billion on 300 mm fabs, and then China, with between $11 billion and $13 billion in investments.

SEMI said that memory will account for the bulk of the increase in 300 mm fab spending. DRAM and 3D NAND contributions to 300 mm fab spending will be uneven from 2020 to 2024, while investments for logic and microprocessors will have steady improvements from 2021 to 2023. Power devices will see significant growth in 2021 rising 200% and with double-digit increases in 2022 and 2023.

The full research can be found in SEMI’s 300 mm Fab Outlook to 2024 report.

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