TECHCET—the electronic materials advisory firm providing market updates and analysis on the semiconductor materials supply chain — has announced that the Silicon Wafer market is forecasted to hit a downturn that will result in a decline of at most -2% in 2023. This market decline comes after Silicon Wafer shipments reached an all-time high of 7.8M WSPM in 2022. With this expected decline, the prior strain of tight wafer supply will be temporarily alleviated in 2023. The industry has already begun to slow in recent months, driving improved availability as seen by the wafer spot market in the 3Q quarter of last year.
“As limited 300mm brownfield manufacturing capacity expansion existed in 2022 for the top Silicon Wafer suppliers, the total availability capacity was essentially capped at about 7.8 million 300mm wafers per month (wpm),” states Dan Tracy, Sr. Director at TECHCET. The result was an “aggregate” capacity utilization topping 99% for the wafer industry. For 2023, ongoing yield improvements and process optimization, coupled with emerging greenfield expansion, will boost available 300mm capacity to around 8 million wpm. With a forecasted decline of at most -1% in 300mm shipments for 2023; this will result in an “aggregate” 300mm manufacturing capacity utilization in the range of 95% to 96%.
Additional greenfield capacity will come online in 2024. However, the forecasted 6% growth in 300 mm shipments will return “aggregate” 300 capacity utilization to the upper 90% range. Of course, actual capacity utilization is a function of wafer product type, doping levels, epitaxial layer requirements, and other customer specifications.
As mentioned in TECHCET’s Critical Materials Market Analysis Report on Silicon Wafers, all the top five wafer suppliers have announced new wafering manufacturing capacity, and the full impact of this capacity expansion would impact supply mainly in 2024 and 2025. Since the release of the report, GlobalWafers has announced more details about its 3.2 million-square-foot silicon wafer plant in Sherman, Texas. The facility could eventually produce 1.2 million wafers per month after multiple stages of equipment installation.
SK Siltron announced total investments of 2.3 trillion won ($1.65 billion) in its silicon wafer business over the next five years, which could come online in three phases. Additionally, Wafer Works Corp, announced a NT$15 billion (US$470.7 million) 300mm wafer plant investment at the Central Taiwan Science Park. This plant will have an installed capacity of 200,000 wpm.