Mixed Outlook For Silicon Wafers

SEMI analyst sees slower growth in 2022.


Silicon wafers are a fundamental part of the semiconductor business.

Every chipmaker needs to buy them in one size or another, such as 200mm, 300mm and others. Silicon wafer vendors produce and sell bare or raw silicon wafers to chipmakers, who in turn process them into chips.

So what’s in store for the silicon wafer market? Sungho Yoon, senior research manager at SEMI, sat down with Semiconductor Engineering to discuss the market.

SE: What happened in 2021? I assume the silicon wafer market grew in 2021, right?

Yoon: Worldwide silicon wafer area shipments in 2021 is assumed to total 14,070 million square inches (MSI), up 14.5% from 2020. The final count of shipments has not been finalized yet.

SE: How would you characterize the silicon wafer market in 2021?

Yoon: In 2021, the quarterly wafer shipments exceeded the shipments in the third quarter of 2018, the previous record high. Silicon ASPs (average selling prices) have risen through 2021 after bottoming out in the first quarter of 2021. The quarter-over-quarter growth rates of ASPs have further increased in the second half of 2021, as 300mm and 200mm wafer supply were getting tighter due to growing demand for foundries and memory chips and an additional wafer inventory build-up demand, which also has positively affected 2022 price negotiations.

SE: What’s the overall outlook for the silicon wafer market in 2022?

Yoon: The growth rate of silicon wafer shipments is expected to be tempered in 2022 in line with slow growth momentum in semiconductor sales and equipment spending. Silicon wafer shipments are predicted to show growth by 8.3% year-over-year in 2022 after 14.5% year-over-year in 2021, which will lead silicon ASPs to be on an upward trend through 2022 even though the year-over-year growth rates of ASPs is expected to peak out in the second half of 2022. 300mm and 200mm epitaxial wafers are forecasted to show better performance on quarter-over-quarter shipments growth.

SE: What’s the status with 200mm wafers in 2022?

Yoon: Supply chain issues and resultant demand for mature chips such as RF, MCUs and power semiconductors that are produced in 200mm fabs are still ongoing, which is expected to keep the demand for 200mm wafers high. However, the top five wafer suppliers are not pursuing 200mm capacity expansion, so 200mm wafer supply is expected to remain tight in 2022.

SE: Are there any companies building new greenfield plants or expanding their existing facilities?

Yoon: Some of the top wafer suppliers are expected to start mass production in 300mm greenfield fabs between 2022 and 2024. On top of this, some of them are expected to keep expanding 300mm epitaxial wafer capacity as part of some brownfield investments.

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