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Manufacturing

It’s an obvious thing to say, but the semiconductor industry is all about semiconductor materials. However, due to its excellent chemical, mechanical, electrical, and optical properties, glass applications are constantly evolving. Glass is therefore playing an increasingly important role in the semiconductor market, adopting various functions in integrated circuit (IC) semiconductor devices.

It is used as a structural material in image sensors, MEMS, and integrated passive devices (IPDs). It is also used as a temporary substrate for the production of thin wafers in memory and power devices applications and fan-out wafer level packaging (FOWLP).

Consequently, we at Yole Développement expect the glass wafer market to have a 23% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through to 2022. By that time it will be shipping the equivalent of around 14 million 8-inch glass wafers, and revenues will exceed $594 million. This growth rate is much higher than the semiconductor market as a whole. The new Yole report "Glass Substrate Manufacturing in the Semiconductor Field" provides more details about the evolution of glass materials in the semiconductor industry.

Yole overall glass wafer substrate market size

Source: Glass Substrate Manufacturing in the Semiconductor Field, Jul. 2017, Yole Développement

Some IC device applications using glass are already mature, such as infra-red cut filters in CMOS image sensors (CIS), microfluidics, and actuators and sensors. In those cases, the glass material growth rate is linked to the growth of these markets, languishing at 5-8% per year. The glass material market’s ascent will be more due to the fast growth of glass carriers for FOWLP, actuators and sensors. Other applications, like through glass via (TGV) interposers, are still in the development phase. However, Yole expects adoption for production by 2019-2020.

FOWLP is very interesting as glass substrates are used as temporary materials for manufacturing. Investment from TSMC and of the major outsourced semiconductor assembly and test (OSAT) companies supports this growth, which remains the driver for the whole industry.

Glass material used in semiconductors typically comes in two formats: wafer and panel. Panels are increasingly important. IR cut filters, implemented in the CIS camera modules, as well as CIS proximity sensors using glass are already manufactured on panels. IR cut filters are already well- established and represent a huge business in the glass substrate market. Yole now expects other devices, like FOWLP and radio-frequency (RF) devices, to use glass panel substrates. This is partly because glass is already available in panel sizes and has been adopted for large-volume manufacturing in the display and touch-panel areas. That makes transitioning from glass wafers to panels easier, since it’s possible to use existing glass manufacturing processes and tools. Going from wafer to large-panel format will offer a path to scalability, delivering a lower-cost process compared to glass wafers.

Yole estimates that panel demand will reach 28 million mm² in 2017, 100% of which is for existing CIS applications. Demand is expected to exceed 46 million mm² by 2022, driven by FOWLP applications. Although it is difficult to predict the success of glass panel-based advanced packaging, we expect the first glass panel activities by 2019, mainly driven by FOWLP and RF device applications. These semiconductor devices will be respectively fueled by glass carrier and TGV interposer functionalities.

The millimetre-wave frequencies above 28 GHz will strongly influence the growth of glass material within RF devices, and will drive panel-based TGV interposers. RF is becoming huge, as explained in Yole’s report, “RF Front End Modules and Components for Cellphones 2017”.

Additionally, some firms have already invested in a panel line for FOWLP, integrating the glass-carrier panel format into their process flows due to its desirable mechanical properties and ease of thickness control. FOWLP is becoming the main platform for many devices, as Yole has described in its reports “Equipment and Materials for Fan-Out Packaging 2017” and “Status of the Advanced Packaging Industry 2017”.
The semiconductor glass material market is shared amongst suppliers from different categories. Manufacturers like Schott, Corning, and AGC provide glass raw materials and blank wafers or sheets. These companies have limited wafer-processing capabilities.

FOWLP materials market forecast Yole reportSource: Equipment and Materials for Fan-Out Packaging 2017, March 2017, Yole Développement

In the next link of the supply chain, glass processors and structured substrate manufacturers like PlanOptik and Tecnisco can pattern and structure glass wafers from these raw materials. These companies typically purchase wafers from raw-glass material suppliers and then design and create products from the raw material.
Then, structured and patterned glass wafer manufacturers operate mainly in the MEMS and microfluidics areas. This category mostly includes foundries that start from blank or pre-patterned wafers. However, unlike typical foundries such as Silex Microsystems, these companies also create their own products.

Yole 2016 glass wafer market share for semiconductor applications and devices revenue
Source: Glass Substrate Manufacturing in the Semiconductor Field, Jul. 2017, Yole Développement

As this market is highly segmented, different companies have advantages for specific applications. Established glass applications such as CIS and microfluidics have led Schott to dominate the glass material market in the semiconductor field. However, emerging applications including RF devices, FOWLP technology could require the use of different glass materials. These emerging fields represent real business opportunities for the major glass companies, both for raw materials and also for structured wafer and panels.

Yole also sees increased competition, even in mature markets like actuators and sensors and power devices. In these industries Chinese glass processor companies are likely to challenge established players like PlanOptik and Tecnisco. In order to capture market share, aggressive players like NEG have penetrated the FOWLP market deeply. But competing in a market growing at 23% per year is normal, and there are lots of opportunities for companies to differentiate themselves.

Source: www.yole.fr

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