DRAM capacity will fall in 2015, but increase 3 percent in 2016 and end a six-year decline in DRAM wafer production capacity, according to trade association SEMI.
DRAM capacity has been declining steadily since 2010 when DRAM wafer production installed capacity totaled about 1.4 million 300mm wafers per month, the association said. In 2014, DRAM capacity was between 1 million and 1.1 million wafers per month and capacity will further drop to just over 1 million wafers per month in 2015, according to SEMI.
While capacity will begin to increase in 2016, it’s unlikely that DRAM capacity will reach 2010 levels anytime soon because there are fewer DRAM suppliers and fabs. In 2007, there were 11 major companies producing DRAMs in approximately 40 facilities globally and installed capacity increased 40-50 percent each year from 2003 to 2007, the association said. In 2015, there are only six companies and 20 facilities producing significant capacities of DRAM.
The industry has consolidated with several front-end fabs converted from DRAM to logic, flash memory or chip production.
In addition, capacity also falls when there is transition to the next leading-edge technology, according to SEMI. Increased complexity and more process steps results in fabs producing 10-20 percent fewer wafers per square foot of clean room. The trend affects virtually all industry segments at the 30/28nm node and below.
From 2014 to 2016, DRAM fabs are expected to lose about 25,000 wafers per month when transitioning to next leading-edge technology node, the association said. To compensate and to meet expected bit demand, memory chipmakers are adding new capacity with new fabs and lines. By 2015, three or four new fabs or lines will be in operation. However, because fabs take time to ramp up, capacity will not show an increase until 2016 when about 3 percent growth is forecast.