Wafer Pricing & Mask Cost Trends

Each quarter GSA releases the Wafer Fabrication Pricing Survey to gauge the average prices paid per wafer and mask set for fabless semiconductor companies and integrated device manufacturers (IDMs). The following article highlights findings from this survey to help semiconductor companies benchmark their own pricing against the market.

Average wafer pricing for 150mm, 200mm and 300mm production wafers has gradually decreased over the past four years, decreasing the price gap between wafer sizes (Figure 1). This is too be expected with more widespread use, increased capacity and as utilization rates have never again reached the 91.8% high posted in Q4 2005, which is when 300mm production wafers experienced a peak in pricing. For the period Q3 2005 to Q3 2009, 200mm production wafers experienced peak pricing at 90.1% utilization in Q3 2005, while 150mm production wafers reached average pricing of $479 at 89.3% utilization in Q2 2007. However, it is fairly surprising that 200mm and 300mm production pricing reached a trough in Q2 and Q3 2009, respectively, as wafer demand saw double digit growth in Q2 and Q3, according to Gartner. Gartner expects wafer demand to rise in Q4, fall in Q1 and then recover throughout 2010.

Figure 1. Average Price Per Wafer by Quarter and Wafer Size (Production Wafers)

Source: GSA Wafer Fabrication Pricing Reports

For the period Q3 2008 to Q3 2009, most fabless and IDM participants entered pricing for mature technology nodes such as 0.35µm, 0.25µm, 0.18µm, 0.15µm and 0.13µm. And GSA's last quarterly Wafer Pricing Report indicated that most respondents feel the 0.13µm technology node will maintain or increase their market share in the coming quarters, with 0.18µm following closely behind. This indicates that cost saving and risk management are perhaps higher priorities than being at the leading edge during these hard economic times. Len Jelinek of iSuppli stated, “Historically, the focus in the semiconductor industry was always how quickly you could move to the next geometry node. Now the question is how to make money by sustaining a specific node.”

As illustrated in Figure 2, wafer pricing has remained relatively stable for 200mm production wafers manufactured at mature process nodes. With the exception of 0.18µm and 0.15µm, foundries lowered pricing for mature nodes in Q1 2009 to fill up their fabs after experiencing a utilization rate of 68.3% in Q4 2008. However, average pricing for 0.18µm and 0.15µm dropped in Q2, after 56.8% utilization in Q1 2009. At 300mm, average pricing for production wafers manufactured at 90nm rose less than 1% in Q1 2009 and decreased 3% and 4% in Q2 and Q3 2009, respectively.

Figure 2. Average Price Per Wafer by Quarter and Process Geometry (200mm, Production Wafers)

Source: GSA Wafer Fabrication Pricing Reports

Average mask set pricing for 200mm wafers manufactured at 0.35µm, 0.25µm, 0.18µm and 0.13µm has generally decreased year after year, with 0.18µm posting the largest decrease of 57% in Q3 2009 over Q3 2006, followed by 0.25µm, 0.35µm and 0.13µm. As expected, average prices have risen from one node to the next. In Q3 2009, pricing at 0.13µm was 112% greater than 0.18µm, pricing at 0.18µm was 90% greater than 0.25µm, and pricing at 0.25µm was 10% greater than 0.35µm.

In Q3 2009, average mask set pricing for 300mm wafers manufactured at 90nm decreased 22% over Q3 2008, while pricing at 65nm increased 21% YoY. In Q3 2009, pricing at 65nm was 98% greater than 90nm.

The Wafer Pricing Survey also contains a section which tracks capacity trends. While a greater percentage of participants indicated that their foundry suppliers were not extending lead times, this percentage consistently decreased from Q1 to Q3 2009. Furthermore, a greater percentage of participants indicated they were getting the capacity they need, but that percentage also consistently decreased over the first nine months of 2009. However, Q4 2009 results indicate a slight turnaround with both percentages increasing by one percentage point QoQ.

GSA's Wafer Fabrication Pricing Report complements GSA's Back-End Pricing Report which includes assembly data. Those fabless and IDM companies that participate in the survey which fields both reports receive complementary access to the results. The author of this Survey/Report is GSA's Supply Chain Performance Working Group lead by Dan Wark of Amalfi Semiconductor. “The GSA Supply Chain Performance Working Group has worked to continue to improve the data set for the Wafer & Back-End Pricing Survey/Report. The report and query capability has shown to be a very useful benchmark data set for pricing trends and estimated costs. The data can help companies calibrate on their relative costs vs market trends,” stated Dan Wark, chairman of GSA's Supply Chain Performance Working Group.

For more information on the Wafer Fabrication & Back-End Pricing Survey/Report, click here.

To participate in the upcoming Wafer Fabrication & Back-End Pricing Survey, click here.

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