Wafer fab shutdowns on the rise

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Semiconductor manufacturers closed 72 wafer fabs between 2009 and 2013, with a further nine fabs slated to close in 2014.

Since mid-2007, the IC industry has been paring down older capacity (i.e. <200mm wafers) in order to produce devices more cost effectively on larger wafers. Around 40% of fab closures since 2009 were 150mm fabs. Qimonda was the first company to close a 300mm wafer fab after it went out of business in early 2009. ProMOS and Powerchip also closed their respective 300mm wafer fabs in 2013. Regionally, semiconductor suppliers in Japan have closed 28 wafer fabs since 2009, more than any other country/region over the past five years. North America came in second with 23, followed by Europe which closed 15. Fabs slated for closure in 2014 include Intel's Fab 17 (200mm) in Massachusetts; International Rectifier's 150mm Fab 10 in Newport, South Wales; three fabs (two 150mm, one 125mm) at Renesas Electronics; two outdated NXP fabs (one 100mm, one 150mm) in the Netherlands; and a 75mm wafer GaAs fab used by Panasonic Semiconductor to produce optoelectronic devices.

The closing of the two NXP fabs was announced a few years ago and was expected to be finalised in 2011, but was delayed due to strong demand for analogue and logic ICs and some discrete components that are manufactured at these facilities. As the cost of new wafer fabs and manufacturing equipment skyrockets, IC Insights expects several more companies to shut older fabs and transition to a fab-lite or fabless business model in the coming years – news that makes foundry suppliers smile, and equipment and material suppliers a little bit nervous.