Although the debate continues over whether the semiconductor industry is entering a new phase of mid-term growth and not a reaction to the inventory burn now almost completed, the major foundries would seem to be the first to increase fab utilization rates based on improving data from a select number of equipment and materials suppliers.
Major laser light source supplier, Cymer’s Chairman, and CEO, Robert Akins said in the company’s Q2 quarterly conference call that laser pulse utilization was increasing, especially in the foundry sector.
“In the second quarter of 2009 we were encouraged again that gross pulse utilization increased from the previous quarter level,” noted Akins. “The month-over-month increase in April was 14%, May 8%, and June 3%. By the end of Q2 gross pulse utilization had increased approximately 37% over the Q1 level, reflecting positive gains in all three sectors, lead by the foundry sector, followed by logic, and then memory.”
CMP slurry and pad supplier, Cabot Microelectronics also noted in their fiscal third quarter financial statement that revenue had increased by over 90% from the prior quarter, driven by strong demand from the foundries.
‘Despite the continued economic downturn, the company experienced a significant sequential increase in demand across all business areas and geographies, led by sales to foundry customers.’
In contrast, the memory manufacturers continue to operate in cash preservation mode as, despite Samsung announcing an increase in capital spending in the second-half of the year, suppliers such as Micron have trimmed budgets several times already this year.
However, Cymer noted that they were starting to see a pick-up in activity from the memory sector and were waiting for the “sleeping giant of memory [Samsung] in general to awaken and place, very substantial orders,” according to Atkins.