Report: Worldwide silicon wafer shipments up in 2020, will hit new high in 2022

Glowing silicon could usher in the future of computing.
Image: Cody DeBos / The Burn-In

SEMI predicts global silicon wafer shipments will rise by 2.4 percent year-over-year in 2020. The organization states coronavirus pandemic related digitalization provoked increase usage of semiconductors, which are largely made with silicon as a substrate.

The industry association further estimates electronic components demand will push worldwide wafer shipments to a new high in 2022.

COVID-19’s Impact on the Global Semiconductor Industry

With offices in the United States, China, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, and Europe, SEMI has a comprehensive understanding of the post-pandemic worldwide marketplace. Having examined its data, the group determined the viral outbreak is a growth driver for the global semiconductor industry.

Because of ongoing concerns about spreading the respiratory illness, many large employers have transitioned their workforces to operating remotely. That change sparked a spike in personal computer purchases and internet usage. Electronics manufacturers and cloud service providers greatly increased their semiconductor purchases to compensate for those rapid shifts.

Accordingly, chipmakers have ordered large quantities of raw materials to manufacture new processors, graphics cards, and memory modules.

SEMI anticipates material suppliers will ship out 11,957 million square inches (MSI) of silicon wafers as a result. That indicates the coronavirus digitalization trend is pushing the semiconductor market into a recovery phase. In 2019, silicon wafer shipments fell by 6.9 percent amind a global chip industry downturn.

A Continued Growth Forecast

SEMI also believes that the post-pandemic demand for electronic components will continue well past 2020.

The organization posits total worldwide silicon wafer shipments will reach 12,554 MSI next year, an annual improvement of 5 percent. In 2022, the group forecasts substrate material deliveries of 13,200 MSI, a year-over-year increase of 5.3 percent.

It would also be a new record high for yearly global silicon wafer shipments.

The following year, SEMI expects the market expansion to continue, but its annual growth will fall to 4.1 percent. As it happens, gallium nitride (GaN) wafers will likely become more commonly used around that time.

Bloomberg recently reported the Chinese government is planning to devote significant resources to cultivating its semiconductor independence. Beijing wants local fabricators to develop “third-generation” components using that substrate material as part of that effort.

The Asian superpower set that goal because radiofrequency (RF) chips made with GaN offer greater efficiency and higher power than their silicon-based counterparts. Accordingly, GaN semiconductors are ideal for use in 5G-related applications like self-driving cars and autonomous factories.

On a related note, NXP Semiconductors just launched a new $100 million fab extension in Arizona to make RF products with GaN substrates.

With nations and large corporations pouring money into GaN wafer development, it might be the semiconductor substrate of the future. But SEMI’s data indicates silicon components will reign supreme for at least the next few years.


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