About eight months after the Covid-19 virus pandemic accelerated around the world—causing lockdowns in many countries and driving the global economy into a deep recession—sales of optoelectronics, sensors and actuators, and discrete semiconductors have stabilized, and in some cases, revenues have begun showing signs of a slight recovery in the second half of 2020, which is remarkable considering how bad it looked at the start of 2Q20. A new update of IC Insights’ forecast for optoelectronics, sensors/actuators, and discretes (O-S-D) shows combined sales in these three semiconductor market segments falling 4.4% in 2020 to $82.3 billion versus the projection of a 6.1% drop in the 2020 edition of the O-S-D Report, which was released in April).
The updated forecast also shows a modest 7.7% rebound in 2021, which will lift total O-S-D sales in the three markets to a new record high of $88.6 billion (Figure 1). The last time O-S-D sales fell was in 2009, when revenues dropped 10.0% during a semiconductor downturn that occurred in the last major global economic recession, caused by the 2008 financial crisis.
IC Insights expects the strength of the 2021 O-S-D rebound will be held in check by ongoing concerns about health threats from the Covid-19 coronavirus until new vaccines are developed, fully tested, and available worldwide—probably beginning in the second half of next year. In October 2020, new waves of Covid-19 infections were hitting Europe, the U.S., and other regions, causing governments to begin reinstituting measures to slow the spread of the virus. The return of lockdowns—even at reduced levels compared to the widespread businesses closures in 2Q20—could slow the momentum of the tenuous market recovery that began in the summer of 2020. Many countries are bracing for higher cases of the Covid-19 virus between 4Q20 and 2Q21.
The updated O-S-D forecast shows only three of the 20 main product categories in optoelectronics, sensors/actuators, and discretes achieving sales growth in 2020 (+6.0% for laser transmitters, +0.5% for total image sensors—which will be driven by +0.9% in CMOS image sensors—and +1.4% for actuators). No discretes product categories are expected to register sales increases in 2020. Growth in laser transmitters, total image sensors (and CMOS designs), and actuators is expected to lift these product categories to new record-high sales in 2020. In 2021, a sales rebound is forecast to occur in all 20 main O-S-D product categories, with seven of them reaching record-high revenues next year (Figure 2).