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Electronics Production | June 23, 2008

MEMS Business is boosting thick-SOI demand

The term thick-SOI refers to a semiconductor substrate with an active, single-crystal silicon layer and its thickness exceeds 1µm. It lies on a buried oxide which is set on top of a silicon Wafer carrier. This structure is widely used in MEMS and in Power Device electronics, reports electronics.ca publication in their latest report.
In 2007, thick-SOI substrates accounted for a $72M market, representing approximately 380,000 6"(equiv.) wafer units. MEMS currently accounts for 38% of this market, and is expected to exceed 45% by 2012. The other outlet for these products is the power semiconductor industry.

MEMS business is boosting thick-SOI demand, thanks to the market dynamism of products such as accelerometers and gyroscopes, which are now widely used in numerous consumer products such as cell-phones, game-pads, and cameras. MEMS-related activities, and are expected to drive more than 300,000 6" thick-SOI substrates in 2012.

Power electronics was the first sector with a need for thick-SOI. This technology was developed to design and manufacture some of the Plasma TV (PDP) drivers ICs. As a result, the very high market penetration of plasma technology in large flat panel displays led to very rapid ramp-up in this segment. In 2006, about 200,000 6" thick SOI wafers were processed.

That being said, competition from LCD technology is currently reversing this trend: whereas the CAGR of thick-SOI PDP-related business was routinely above 25% in the past years, annual growth is forecasted to be only 6% after 2008.

The leading company in the thick-SOI wafer business is still SEH, followed by SUMCO. Asia supplies about 75% of all thick-SOI wafers, while consuming in between 40% and 50% of the worldwide wafer volume in MEMS and Power Electronics. Due to its involvement in both sectors, namely MEMS and Power electronics, DENSO still leads the pack of the TOP 25 thick-SOI users, with STM, NEC and Fuji following fairly closely behind. The largest pure-MEMS player is Silex Microsystems, the Swedish company. In 2011, the $100M mark will be reached for substrates, and 10% CAGR is forecasted until 2012.

This report provides a unique description on the thick-SOI material business in a single package. It highlights the main metrics and the key market trends that will help material and equipment vendors to position their R&D efforts and anticipate the changes and forecasted evolution of their business.

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