Sales of abatement systems for semiconductor applications grew 15.6% in 2019, significantly outperforming other critical subsystems segments in a year where total critical subsystems revenues declined by 10.6%.
The market for abatement systems in semiconductor applications reached a record $592 million in 2019. Abatement is required to treat toxic waste products generated during semiconductor manufacturing, particularly from deposition and etching processes. However, in recent years, EUV has also emerged as a strong driver of abatement systems sales.
The success and commercial viability of EUV in high-volume manufacturing is highly dependent on maximising tool availability to increase wafer throughput. The challenge for abatement system suppliers has been to develop products that ensure 100% uptime by continually treating effluent from EUV tools that support sub-fab equipment. This is a new requirement as the traditional applications for abatement, deposition and etch have regular scheduled downtime and maintenance due to the harshness of their processes. While the number of EUV tools being shipped each year is relatively low, the numbers are growing and the high cost of abatement subsystems for this application makes it an attractive market.
Critical subsystems segment growth in 2019. Each datapoint represents the growth of an individual critical subsystems segment. Source: VLSI Research Critical Subsystems Database v20.05
Abatement suppliers also benefited in 2019 from continuing investment in 7nm manufacturing facilities and technologies. The memory-driven downturn caused overall capital expenditure by device manufacturers in 2019 to decrease. However, capital expenditure for advanced logic still increased by a staggering 24.6%*. The 7nm manufacturing process requires not only EUV technology but also more deposition and etching steps to engineer the increasingly complex chip architecture – all of which require abatement solutions. Additionally, when device makers build out their 7nm manufacturing facilities, equipment and subsystems in the sub fab, such as abatement systems, are typically the first equipment purchases. This buying behaviour has helped abatement system suppliers maintain sales through a downturn year as device makers needed to prepare their 7nm processes.
Continued investment in 7nm technology helped abatement sales reach record highs in 2019. The increasing importance of the sub-fab is set to continue with the rising adoption of EUV technology and increased number of deposition and etch processing steps required for manufacturing cutting edge nodes and chip architectures. These trends will remain powerful drivers for abatement solutions even through the uncertainty of 2020.
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*Source: VLSI Research Semiconductor Chip Market Research Services – Semiconductor Capex Report
Julian West is a technical and marketing analyst at VLSI Research Europe.