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Jun 19th, 2012
Diversified European micro manufacturing sector looks to MEMS and power devices
By Jérôme Mouly, Yole Développement
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Europe and the Middle East remain a diversified micro manufacturing center, distinguished particularly by its concentration of leading R&D centers, its diverse range of small and medium enterprises in almost every locality, and its focus on emerging growth markets.  The region has 316 fab sites spread across 32 countries from Morocco to Estonia, with the largest concentration in power electronics and in MEMS, according to Yole Développement’s recent survey of the manufacturing infrastructure in its European and Middle East Microelectronics Database 2011 report.

Though much of the volume of European production is of course in mainstream CMOS and analog ICs, with more than 50 fabs, a major part of the business in the region focuses on specialty growth markets like power semiconductors and MEMS, and on R&D and pilot production for next generation technologies.

A center of power electronics and MEMS production

The European region is particularly strong in production of power semiconductors, which account for 75 fabs, or almost 25% of the regional total. This sector—which includes diodes, thyristors, MOSFETs, IGBTs, power ICs and power modules-- has grown up to support the large European transportation market. But current demand for reducing power consumption is creating opportunities and healthy growth for innovative solutions for more efficient power management in everything from smart phones and televisions to solar inverters and hybrid electric vehicles.

The region is also a center of MEMS expertise, with 56 MEMS fabs—MEMS sites in Europe in fact outnumber the integrated circuit semiconductor front end fabs, though the IC volumes are larger.  And that’s also a market with good prospects going forward.  Sales of MEMS devices hit roughly $10 billion in 2011, and is poised to see ~15% average compound annual growth to approach $20 billion by 2016, according to Yole estimates, as systems makers of all kinds find more applications for the sensors, now that the maturing technology is becoming easier to use, in everything from location-aware search to energy efficiency to pathogen identification.  The database includes biomedical mems products made on silicon and glass, but not microfluidics on polymer.

Europe is also a driver of emerging printed electronics technology, with 24 sites currently at some stage of pre-production. These are not yet, strictly speaking, production sites, but they are a selection of the companies that are likely to be the producers of these technologies in the future.

Europe’s high volume IC makers include numerous companies at advanced nodes of course, including 10 with 12-inch wafer lines, and 6 producing at 45nm. The region also continues to drive innovation with its micro manufacturing research efforts, with 36 major R&D centers across greater Europe and the Middle East, working both on next generation IC technology and on other silicon and compound semiconductor technologies.  A number of these research centers have pilot lines for emerging technologies, and are starting to offer foundry services for small and medium volume production for niche emerging markets to better utilize their facilities and keep improving manufacturing expertise.

But with the large number of power electronics and MEMS makers, the majority of the fabs in the region use 6-inch or smaller wafers.  The majority are also small and medium sized businesses, with 80%-85% of the fab sites employing less than 500 workers.

Despite the proliferation of small fabs all across the region, the big economies of Western Europe naturally still dominate the business. Germany, France and the United Kingdom account for roughly 50% of total wafer lines in the region.  Ranked by total clean room area, however, Italy replaces the UK in the top three.

Yole’s study of the region’s fab infrastructure was done with the cooperation of SEMI and contribution of information from its SEMI World Fab Watch report, updated and extended by Yole to include the full range of emerging More-than-Moore micro manufacturing technologies, to better serve the needs of suppliers, fabless developers and investors.

Note that the data includes more total types of fab lines than total production sites, as companies often have different types of lines at the same site.


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