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I have been at SEMICON West recently. Just a little introduction in case you don't know much about it. SEMICON is one of several conferences run by SEMI around the world. SEMI is the semiconductor equipment manufacturers association. SEMICON West is held in San Francisco every July. Ever since I've attended it, it has taken place in Moscone North and South along with a co-located show for solar equipment in Moscone West. Well, Moscone South is a dramatically large hole in the ground right now, so it is in just Moscone North and West, along with YBCA for a presentation stage, and the solar guys got kicked upstairs in Moscone West. If you attend DAC, you will be able to experience this yourself next year since DAC will be on two floors of Moscone West.
SEMI is headquartered in the US. In fact they just moved to Milpitas from the old building just a block from Cadence. But they are a global organization. Semiconductor manufacture is a truly international business with supply chains stretched all around the world for the equipment and the supplies, with big names like ASML (Netherlands), Applied Materials (Silicon Valley), and TEL (Tokyo), down to a person I happened to chat to in a random coffee line conversation, whose company specializes in high-precision pipe welding during fab construction (also microbreweries use the same technology, it seems).
SEMICON West seems like a big show. I believe attendance is expected to be up from last year's 26,000 attendees. But, in keeping with my title, it is dwarfed by SEMICON China which has 70,000 attendees. That is approaching the size of behemoth shows like CES, which is amazing when you think what a specialized industry semiconductor equipment is.
On the first day of the show, SEMI puts out their mid-year forecast for the equipment market. One surprise was that the biggest market was not Taiwan, which it normally is, but it was pushed down by Korea taking the #1 spot for the first time. Growth in Korea was 69%, and another surprise was that the second fastest growing region, although much smaller overall, was Europe at 58%.
Ajit Manoja is the newish CEO of SEMI, having been in the job for about 100 days. As he pointed out in the press conference, he has managed to take over as CEO when the equipment market is showing its strongest growth ever, forecast to be a record $50B this year, which exceeds the previous market high set all the way back in 2000.
The reason SEMI is interesting to attend is that semiconductor equipment is a leading indicator of future growth in the semiconductor market itself, and thus eventually the parts of the ecosystem where Cadence operates. Since electronics basically means semiconductors, it is also a leading indicator of pretty much everything. In fact, one challenge for semiconductor overall is that it grows due to two things:
The triangle above shows how almost $1.5T in electronics is built on nearly $400B of semiconductor manufacturing, and down at the bottom is the $50B equipment market and $9B for EDA, IP, and design services. Cadence would be a little red point at the very bottom of the arrow.
If you read my post from DAC, China's IC Industry: Today and Tomorrow, then you already know two surprising statistics about semiconductor in China. First, that semiconductors are the #1 import into China, bigger even than oil. Second, there are 24 fabs under construction in China right now. The second fact is part of a response to the first. China strategically wants to increase the amount of manufacture that is done domestically. In fact, they have goals for different parts of the ecosystem, not just manufacture itself.
From the SEMI fab database, the major Chinese fabs under construction are:
The result of all this is the "up and to the right" chart above. The increasingly big blue bars at the top are memory fabs, and the grey is foundry.
The whole of the first afternoon of SEMICON West was the Chinese Innovation and Investment Forum, titled The Rise of the China IC Industry. I will cover what was said there in a separate post. But one interesting chart is above, which shows various segments of the industry. The further to the right the circles are, the bigger the advantage of being close to the end customer. The higher up the chart, the more difficult the technology is to master. This size of the circle is the size of that segment.
The two big circles to the right show the opportunity and the challenge. There is a lot of opportunity for fabless semiconductor companies (and design services), with big advantages in being close to the customer. China has trained a lot of IC designers over the last years and so there is now an increasingly large cohort of designers with training, and even designers with ten years experience to manage programs.
But to the top right is the big challenge. There are advantages in being close to the customer for many aspects of supplying memory, but it is hard technology to master. There are a lot of memory projects going on, and each is on a big scale (there is no such thing as an economically viable small memory fab). The biggest is project I wrote about in Memory in China: XMC, which is vertical NAND flash. But memory technology is hard and fiercely competitive, so there is no guarantee everything will succeed.