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Chip Making Equipment Sales Slide - Again

Hampered by soft demand and rising macroeconomic uncertainty, worldwide sales of semiconductor manufacturing equipment dropped for the second year in a row, according to analyst group Gartner .

Except for test equipment, the survey released Tuesday shows sales totaled $18.5 billion in 2002, a decline of 30.4 percent from 2001. Gartner based its stats on reviewing SEC fillings of both public and private companies.

"The dire outcome of 2002 hit semiconductor vendors rapidly in the second half of 2002," Gartner semiconductor research group vice president Klaus-Dieter Rinnen said in a statement. "Consequently, spending plans were adjusted downward, projects were delayed or shelved, and equipment orders were either pushed out or cancelled."

All major segments were impacted in 2002 by the industry decline, Gartner said. Electrochemical deposition (ECD) and low-density plasma deposition fared better than most segments, only declining 11.2 percent and 8.1 percent, respectively.

The market was also kinder to companies in hot technology segments such as lithography and photomask, copper interconnect, factory automation, contact probe, flip chip, and interconnect bonding in general. Companies more strongly dependent on capacity buys and Greenfield activity were more negatively affected.

"Some small emerging technologies such as atomic layer deposition (ALD), which grew 53.2 percent, and silicon germanium epitaxy, which increased 55 percent, grew above the marketplace as these new technologies are beginning to emerge from R&D and move into production," Rinnen said.

High-current implanter with the emergence of advanced transistors and silicon-on-insulator (SOI) technology declined 22 percent year over year. High-voltage implant, on the strength of the memory market, only declined 19.3 percent.

"Segments associated with factory automation also saw above-market growth as 300 mm fabs and advanced automation at leading-edge fabs continued to implement advanced automation technology, resulting in only a 26 percent decline in this segment," Rinnen said.

The market continues to be led by the wafer fab equipment market. Worldwide wafer fab equipment sales totaled $16.53 billion, which represented 89.1 percent of all semiconductor manufacturing equipment sales in 2002. Wafer fab equipment sales declined 31.6 percent in 2002.

Packaging and assembly equipment sales totaled $2.34 billion in 2002, a 21.7 percent decline from 2001 sales. Wire bonders continued to be the largest equipment segment for semiconductor packaging, accounting for almost 16 percent of the identified packaging equipment market.