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Saturday, March 2, 2024

Semiconductor Fabs Want Tooling Recirculation

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Whereas the chip shortages of the pandemic period could also be over for now, it’s clear that the semiconductor trade will proceed to face challenges on account of inflexible provide chains, the excessive value of capability and evolving geopolitical tides that form world commerce.

As we’ve seen over the previous couple of years, the ripple results of disruptions to world chip manufacturing are exponential in nature. Certainly, one examine by researchers at MIT discovered {that a} 10-day delay in manufacturing at one fabrication heart (fab) may lead to a 12-month disruption to downstream provide chains.

But the truth is that disruptions to manufacturing occur on a regular basis. A device could go down, requiring a brand new half or alternative of your entire system. With most chips in use at present, manufactured on mature nodes, discovering a alternative half (or entire) for machines which will now not be in manufacturing themselves is difficult, to say the least.

As a 2021 Congressional Analysis Service report said, “tools to make 200-mm chips is now not available” and “corporations are hesitant to make new investments in fabs making ‘outdated’ chips, which might solely obtain the required revenue margins if produced on depreciated tools.” These dynamics may result in extra chip shortages within the mid- to long-term, as an funding in 200-mm fabs won’t be sufficient to fulfill the demand for older chips.

To state the issue succinctly: The tools required to provide nearly all of chips we depend on globally is each laborious to seek out and infrequently too costly to purchase new. Nevertheless, on the flip aspect, it is not uncommon observe for giant semiconductor producers to put money into instruments with decades-long lifespans, use them for 2 to 5 years after which retire them to warehouses, the place they sit idle. That is to say, the availability of semiconductor manufacturing tools used to provide legacy and present applied sciences exists, but it surely must be introduced on-line.

Traditionally, the resale marketplace for semiconductor tools has been fragmented: Six-figure transactions have occurred largely offline, with little knowledge and even fewer ensures—that’s, in the event that they occurred in any respect.

Prior to now, the secondary marketplace for semiconductor manufacturing tools has been estimated to be about 5% to 10% of the first tools market. Nevertheless, this quantity largely underestimates the availability and demand that might be transacted fab to fab if there was a safe, environment friendly approach of doing so.

Certainly, in a survey we carried out final 12 months, 57% of the 80 respondents indicated they’d be keen to promote tools now not in use to a different fab, and 43% indicated they’d possible improve the procurement finances allotted to pre-owned tools sooner or later. In one other ballot we carried out this month, a whopping 81% of the 176 trade respondents agreed that reliability is a high barrier to purchasing secondhand semiconductor tools.

It’s clear {that a} unified world resale marketplace for chip-manufacturing tools is neither supply- nor demand-challenged. As an alternative, the distinctive challenges to beat so as to add flexibility to the capital tools provide chain contain belief, transparency and effectivity.

For producers seeking to purchase used tools, there must be a dependable course of to make sure tools arrives within the situation anticipated, when anticipated and in compliance with world commerce rules. For fabs deciding whether or not to scrap, harvest or promote tools, higher knowledge on the true market worth of used tools and an environment friendly channel for offloading it could assist pave the way in which for extra fab-to-fab recirculation of kit.

Moov Technologies CEO Steven Zhou speaks at the opening of Moov’s new headquarters, in Tempe, Arizona, in June.
Moov Applied sciences CEO Steven Zhou speaks on the opening of Moov’s new headquarters, in Tempe, Arizona, in June. (Supply: Moov Applied sciences)

No less than, these have been our hypotheses at Moov, a worldwide market for used chipmaking tools based in 2017. At present, we host greater than $4 billion in out there belongings. I imagine our success in rising Moov over the previous six years has been because of the mechanisms we’ve established to earn the belief of semiconductor producers. These mechanisms embody safe transactions, purchaser and vendor validation, comparative pricing knowledge, digital tools inspection, real-time logistics monitoring and compliance assist.

Most just lately, we introduced an growth to our money-back–assure program that lets fabs that purchase tools return it inside 30 days for a full refund, no questions requested, if it doesn’t meet their specs.

Our objective right here is to broaden the secondary market as a viable procurement and disposition technique.

A worldwide secondary marketplace for semiconductor manufacturing tools provides much-needed liquidity to those high-value belongings. This market will assist cut back the barrier to increasing capability, particularly for small and mid-sized producers, create extra flexibility to react to altering demand and create a extra environmentally sustainable chipmaking trade by recirculating tooling which will in any other case idly devour vitality or turn out to be e-waste.

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