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Taking the silicon shipment area numbers, semiconductor sales figures to the woodshed

15 August 2008 | By Tom Cheyney | Chip Shots

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The latest numbers from the SIA and SEMI's silicon manufacturers group (SMG) have come out in the past two weeks, so it's time for Chip Shots' quarterly metrification-and-comparison woodshed exercise.

The SMG continues to put out its regular accounting of the amount of silicon area shipped in the semiconductor space in square inches, although wafer sizes are usually referred to in metric terms, e.g., 300 mm. One of the few places where distances or areas are measured in both the English and metric systems appears to be on the fences of the Olympic baseball and softball parks, so I guess the silicon specialists can look at that example and rationalize the special dispensation they've been giving themselves for years. Keep in mind though that both baseball and softball will not be part of the next summer games in London in 2012, so maybe SMG can go totally metric before then.

The second quarter's silicon shipments headed back in a positive direction after a minor downtick last quarter, going up about 5% from 2,163 million square inches (1,395,481 square meters) to 2,303 million square inches (1,485,803 square meters)  in 2Q08. Taken as a half-year, those totals are 4,446 million square inches (2,881,885 square meters), which represents about a 1.8% increase from 1H07's 4,386 million square inches (2,829,672 square meters).

A 200-mm wafer equals 48.69 square inches, while its larger 300-mm substrate eats up 109.55 square inches. (Just going back and forth between millimeters and inches is giving me a case of statistical vertigo.) So, if you run the total 1H08 silicon shipments number against the 200, er 8-inch, figure, that's the equivalent of 91,723,146 of the medium-sized platters.

But as the wafer-heads at SMG have been noting for quarters, the percentage of silicon shipping in the 300-mm form factor is increasing, steadily closing in on parity and majority marks. My sources tell me that about 42% of those square inches/meters going to the fabs so far this year have been of the 300-mm variety, which equals about 1,778,400,000 square inches (1,152,514 square meters) of the total. Dividing the per-wafer area into that total area, an estimated 16,233,683 300-mm (12-inch) wafers winged their way to various big-platter chipmakers.

What about the chip sales versus silicon dollar/area comparisons? SIA recently said that total semi revenues for the first half of 2008 were $127.5 billion, a 5.4% pop from 1H07's $121 billion. The 2Q08 figure--$64.7 billion--represents a 3% improvement over 1Q08's $62.8 billion.

Dividing the chip sales amounts by the silicon shipment digits, each square inch of the sandy stuff generated $28.55 in revenues in 1H08, compared to $27.59 for the same period in 2007. On a metric basis, the first half of this year comes in with $44,251 of sales for every square meter of silicon, compared to $42,761 in 1H07. Seems the value of silicon in the semi space has gone up a bit of late, but the numbers are still several bucks below the $30-$35 per square inch seen in the first half of the decade.

Breaking the total silicon shipment numbers down as 200-mm equivalents (again, 91,723,146 wafers) and dividing that into SIA's 1H08 sales figures, the Chip Shots raw average selling price per slice comes to $1390 per wafer. But of course, with everything from 300- to 125-mm wafers in the mix, that's a pretty rough estimate, in inches or meters, dollars or Euro.

One final calculation, just for fun. Exxon Mobil has racked up $254.93 billion in revenues in 1H08, accumulating in six months a figure roughly equivalent to what the entire semiconductor industry is likely to amass in 2008 sales. Put another way, the oil industry megacorp has brought in just over $57 for every square inch of silicon shipped so far this year.

But who's counting

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Reader comments

Sounds like the numbers are definitely increasing!
By Rob on 02 October 2008

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