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Semiconductor fab spending to roar back in 2021

SEMI organization predicts 24% upswing to new record level following Covid-delayed recovery.

optics.org, Jun. 10, 2020 – 

Spending on equipment need to make semiconductor devices - a key market for optics and photonics companies - is expected to surge to record levels in 2021.

According to the latest "world fab forecast" from the Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI) industry group, the Covid-19 pandemic has pushed out the anticipated low point of spending by around one calendar quarter this year.

The result is that fab equipment spending is now expected to fall by around 4 per cent this year, on the back of an 8 per cent decline measured in 2019.

And while threats from the current pandemic remain, SEMI's forecasters are predicting a 24 per cent upswing in 2021, as the market swells to a record-breaking $67.7 billion. That figure is around $2 billion higher than SEMI had predicted earlier this year.

Spending on fabs for manufacturing image sensors is expected to be one of the major growth areas, with a 60 per cent surge this year followed by a further 36 per cent increase in 2021.

Safety stocks

Commenting on the trends observed since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, SEMI stated: "In March, some companies appeared to build up safety stock as a countermeasure to the spreading virus as shelter-in-place orders emptied offices, malls, and schools worldwide.

"As the contagion grew, demand for IT and electronic products such as notebooks, game consoles, and healthcare applications surged. Some stockpiling is expected to stretch into the second quarter, fueled by fear of restrictions - scheduled to take effect in late June - on semiconductor equipment sold to China."

The 2021 surge will be fueled largely by renewed investment in production of 3D NAND memory chips, following the steep decline in that market over the past couple of years.

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