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microchip

By Dilek Isik Akcakaya, PhD

Microelectronics manufacturing is heavily dependent on the availability of semi-grade Silicon and technologies that enable precise patterning of or on the Silicon Wafers. Creating nano- and micro-scale stationary and/or moving structures allows advancements in computers, consumer electronics, aerospace, automotive (transportation), health, and defense (military) applications.

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For example, artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality, quantum computing, drones, 3D printing, robotics, IoT, and 5G wireless network are among the top exploratory and innovative technologies which depend on the Semiconductor Industry that require sophisticated design and manufacturing. 

2021 Global Semiconductor Industry Revenue

In 2021, Intel, one of the top global semiconductor chip manufacturers, reported $77.9 billion dollars of sales, followed by Samsung at $60.39 billion, and TSMC at $45.05 billion. Broadcom, Qualcomm, and Micron were in the 20 -30 billion brackets. The global semiconductor industry revenue was reported as $488.3 billion (memory: $126.4 billion, logic: $133.9 billion) in 2021 by the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA).

Almost a quarter of this number was from the sales of memory chips and the other quarter was logic. A global chip shortage has taken effect leading governments and industry leaders to take action towards increasing the capabilities of chip manufacturing.

Tens of billions of dollars are being deployed to support companies’ manufacturing capabilities growth, as these companies look for new sites for their production fabs. Looking at the entire picture and the steady growth trend (1988-2021, Figure 1) of the industry, one can easily derive the importance of semiconductor manufacturing. 

1987 to 2021 Global Semiconductor Sales graph
Figure 1 1987 to 2021 Global Semiconductor Sales (Source: Statista[1])

Semiconductor Industry Drives Innovation

Considering today’s technology, there has been tremendous development in all areas governing semiconductor manufacturing. The production of microelectronics began with the invention of the first transistor, which also brought the Nobel Prize in 1956 to its innovators. In 1947, physicists John Bardeen and Walter Brattain invented the point-contact transistor[2]).

Innovation in the semiconductor industry is driven by demand which fuels advancements in materials, processes, business models, and equipment. There is significant competition between manufacturers to bring valuable innovation in the semiconductor industry, resulting in the release of new features and products. This new focus on innovation also creates jobs and fluidity in the global semiconductor market.

Semiconductor Company Differences

In the semiconductors industry, as it is in any other sector, there exist different types of players.

Well-known companies such as Intel are named Integrated Device Manufacturers (IDM), and design and manufacture integrated circuits.

Broadcom and Qualcomm are two well-known Fabless semiconductor companies that design devices and outsource the designs to be produced in available Fabs (factories). Pure Play Foundries such as Rogue Valley Microdevices offer manufacturing services to various companies, including those within the semiconductor industry.

Finally, individuals, a very small percentage, offer consultation, design, and R&D services using available fabs. 

REFERENCES:

[1] “Semiconductor market size 2019,” Statista. https://www.statista.com/statistics/266973/global-semiconductor-sales-since-1988/ (accessed Jun. 19, 2021).

[2] J. Bardeen and W. H. Brattain, “The Transistor, A Semi-Conductor Triode,” Phys. Rev., vol. 74, no. 2, pp. 230–231, Jul. 1948, doi: 10.1103/PhysRev.74.230.