I have been going to the SEMICON West conference for many years now, and it is one that really changes with the market conditions. When the global semiconductor business is good, it tends to be really good, and when it is bad, it tends to be really bad. Well, I can report that the semiconductor industry business is not only good, it is fantastic. Worldwide sales of new semiconductor manufacturing equipment are expected to increase almost 20% in 2017, which equates to a $49.4 billion market. To put things in perspective, this is the first time since the year 2000—17 years—that the market has exceeded the top number set then ($47.7 billion). Forecasts for 2018 are 7.7% growth, which will result in another record-breaking year at $53.2 billion for the worldwide semiconductor equipment market.
Where is this growth taking place? The answer is that this year, South Korea will become the top semiconductor market, displacing Taiwan, which will be number two—with China at third. South Korea alone is looking at almost 69% growth, while Europe is predicted to grow almost 59% and the US only about 16%. This is not bad, but not on pace with South Korea and Europe. China is looking at moderate growth in 2017, but is predicted to be at over 60% growth in 2018, which will put it in the number-two position behind South Korea.
As with last year, there are not many laser companies exhibiting at the show, but it is clear that lasers are used in a large number of applications at the show. As the market grows and new applications are developed, lasers will continue to play a large role in the growth of this market.
OK, I started this blog by saying that when things are good, they are good and when they are bad, they are bad. So, what could possibly go wrong? For one thing, there is a player in the region that is not concerned with semiconductor market growth, but has the ability to affect all of the top three markets, especially South Korea. I am not sure what contingency plans are in place in case of a conflict (one would think there should be some, but…), but any flare-up in the region could severely affect this volatile market. This, of course, is all politics. From a technology viewpoint, with the explosive growth potential in this market, it seems to me that if the politicians don't screw things up, there could be years of upward growth.
Now, a bit about logistics. I had arranged to meet several customers at various times in the South Hall lobby area at the top of the escalators. This is usually much quieter than in the North Hall entrance, where it tends to get very busy. Well, imagine my surprise to arrive and find there was NO South Hall. It was there in January for SPIE Photonics West, but it is not there now. Gone—just a big hole in the ground. Wow. That was fast. I knew they were doing renovations, but I did not realize this meant the whole building would be vaporized. I don't know for sure, but I would assume this will affect things for Photonics West, so stay tuned!
I wish everyone a great summer, and I hope to see many of you during upcoming fall conferences.
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