Despite current market conditions in the semiconductor sector, the annual SEMICON West conference in San Francisco ended on a positive note

The shows featured almost 31,000 attendees from 64 countries, displaying their wares in 1277 booths and perhaps reflecting the confidence held in the electronics sector at present.

Major topics at SEMICON West included the 450mm wafer transition, which some players are seriously investing in, while others were less enthusiastic and wondered what the double whammy of extreme ultra violet (EUV) and 450mm wafers means. In other words, which comes first?

Meanwhile, big capacity spending buys are not in the offing, some thought, and a bit of austerity for the remainder of the year appeared prudent to many. But many do see a positive outlook for chip gear, as tool spending should benefit from the shift to mobile devices.

In fact, the mid-year edition of the SEMI Capital Equipment Forecast released on the eve of the exposition projects 2011 semiconductor sales to reach up to $44.33bn. The forecast indicates that following a 148% market increase in 2010, the equipment market will expand by 12.1% in 2011.

The year 2011 is likely to be the second highest spending year in history, the report adds, second only to the $48bn spent in 2000. It will also be the highest spending year ever for wafer processing equipment, we understand.

Stanley T. Myers, President and CEO of SEMI, said in a statement, “Semiconductor equipment manufacturers will still see a double-digit increase in spending for 2011 following a phenomenal recovery year with triple-digit growth in 2010. We expect worldwide equipment sales to remain at high levels in 2012.”

Technical sessions were standing room only and filled with presentations such as The New Age of Computing Continuum Experience, which indicated that no end to Moore’s Law is in sight.

This year’s show also saw SEMI honour five industry technologists for their outstanding accomplishments in developing standards for the microelectronics and related industries. The SEMI North America Standards awards were announced at a reception held during the show.

The Merit Award was presented to Mohamed Saleem of Fujikin and Slava Libman of Air Liquide for making a major contribution to the industry through the SEMI Standards programme. The Leadership Award was presented to Janet Cassard of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), while the Honour Award was presented to Dick Hockett of Evans Analytical Group who has demonstrated a long-standing dedication to the advancement of SEMI Standards, dating back to 1997.

The Corporate Device Member Award, meanwhile, was presented to Mike Goldstein of Intel, for outstanding contributions to the development of SEMI Standards. Goldstein’s ‘unfailing leadership’ of the International 450mm Wafer Task Force has resulted in the publication of two standards.

Expanding capabilities
A plethora of companies were exhibiting at the events. Among them, Tiger Optics unveiled its latest innovation in the field of gas analysis at SEMICON West 2011 – and is more excited than ever about the prospects for its patented CW-CRDS technology.

Continuing to expand the capabilities of CW-CRDS (Continuous Wave Cavity Ring-Down Spectroscopy), the company introduced the LaserTrace 3TM trace gas analyser at the annual trade show this July.

The LaserTrace 3 can detect moisture, oxygen, methane, and other analyte contaminants at limits that are more than two times (2X) lower than previous generations of the product line. Building on the success of those previous generations, it’s also the result of years of development and refinement.

Fred Conroy, Global Director of Sales at Tiger Optics, told gasworld, “Since its inception, R&D efforts at Tiger Optics have always been focused on the business needs of our customers.”

“The new LaserTrace 3 is the culmination of years of development working towards the provision of superior performance, at extremely low levels of contamination.”

A visible commitment
Air Liquide Electronics underlined its commitment to the semiconductor industry at this year’s SEMICON West. This ‘visible commitment’ to the electronics industry is reinforced by an expected expansion at the company’s ALOHA precursors manufacturing facility in Fremont, California.

Speaking at the sidelines of the show in San Francisco, Air Liquide Electronics’ Vice-President of Sales & Marketing, Chris Ryan, gave gasworld and sister publication Specialty Gas Report his take on this year’s event and the trends that are emerging.

“This year I would say the SEMICON event was pretty healthy. Each year it seems like there are fewer and fewer exhibitors, but in my experience it has been better attended by customers than it has been in the past.”

“Compared to years passed,” Ryan qualifies, “where our customer base may have sent a representative or two, we’re now seeing much more delegations of customers than what I’ve seen going back to, say, 2008.”

“In general I think the show seemed pretty healthy. SEMICON remains a very important location or event to network with customers and suppliers, and that focus continues to be the case – it’s a highly effective vehicle for doing that. There are less outright exhibitors, but certainly it is still well attended.”

Ryan alluded to both the buoyancy returning to the electronics market, and a trend that might soon shape the future of the semiconductor industry. “What is becoming clear from a semiconductor perspective, is that the market seems to be gradually moving towards acceptance that 450mm will one day become a reality. I saw a couple of presentations on that subject, where it seems the OEM’s have moved from a ‘no way’ perspective to thinking that it actually is going to happen, probably to a 2015/2016 timeframe.”

“The mood of SEMICON was certainly reflective of an industry that appears to be much healthier than it has been in the past. Customers have clearly been, for the most part, in healthier situations for the past 12 months – and I think that shone through at the show.”

“From Air Liquide’s perspective,” he added, “we’ve maintained that it’s important to be visibly supporting the industry and we think that having a booth at SEMICON is a visible commitment to our presence in electronics. We’re fully committed to this business and we think that SEMICON West here in the US is an important vehicle to communicate that to our customers.”

Engaged in electronics
US-based gases company MATHESON again exhibited at both Semicon West and Intersolar North America.

The company used the opportunity to roll out its developments in several technology areas of interest to the semiconductor and PV fabrications industries.

‘Engage the MATHESON EDGE’ was the theme for the company – an open invitation to learn about the company’s contributions in electronics and semiconductor fabrication. MATHESON is the largest global producer of hydride gases used in semiconductor fabs. In addition, MATHESON is a leader in high purity hydrocarbons, for ashable hard mask, and other applications.

The company recently opened its state-of-the-art Hydride Centre of Excellence in New Johnsonville, Tennessee and Robin Gardiner, Semiconductor OEM Key Account executive at MATHESON said, “As semiconductor devices get smaller and flat panels get larger, new opportunities come into play for higher volume specialty gases and new applications for our dopant molecules – the hydrides produced at New Johnsonville.”

Gardiner continued, “In the Solar arena, power modules can be based on flexible surfaces, usually a thin, flexible metallic film or on glass. This opens up a whole new range of possibilities for implementation.”