Articles


2022-09-23

China’s Domestic Semiconductor Industry Looking to Break Embargo, Impact of EDA Ban to be seen in 2025

According to TrendForce, as the United States continues to expand the content of various lists, successively pass anti-China bills, and explicitly prohibit the export of certain products to China, the two countries have gradually drifted apart and this antagonistic relationship will continue if no drastic changes occur between the two parties in the next 6-8 years.

In the face of U.S. encroachment, all sectors in China must continue to look for escape routes if the country wishes to tear down the many walls built by the U.S. and move towards industrial autonomy. China’s top priority is to make breakthroughs in the semiconductor field. As far as current development is concerned, there are still many companies in China’s domestic IC design industry moving towards advanced manufacturing processes even after leading manufacturers such as Huawei, Changsha Jingjia Microelectronics, and Goke Microelectronics were placed on the entity list. At the same time, semiconductor manufacturers such as SMIC, CXMT, and Yangtze Memory Technologies have repeatedly developed advanced process technologies while Hua Hong Group has gradually expanded in the field of mature processes. If this trend continues, it will not be difficult for China to realize semiconductor autonomy in processes above 10nm.

If U.S. effectively enforces EDA ban and does not expand controls, impact on China will emerge in 2025

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s export restrictions on Chinese manufacturers are escalating but the autonomy of China’s domestic semiconductor industry is also gradually increasing. As the confrontation between the United States and China intensifies, the United States has launched a new wave of export control measures. On August 12, 2022, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced that it will restrict the export to China of EDA software required to design integrated circuits with GAAFET structure. Since GAAFET is a structure that is used in processes below 3nm, this move is equivalent to setting an advanced threshold for China’s semiconductor development.

Domestic Chinese IC designers who are committed to the development of SoCs, cloud computing chips, and GPUs are destined to move to more advanced manufacturing processes in order to meet the iterative needs of product upgrades and are expected to move toward the 4nm manufacturing process in the next 2 to 4 years. If the U.S. effectively implements the EDA software ban and does not expand the scope of EDA software restrictions, the impact of the ban on China’s semiconductor industry is expected to gradually emerge in 2025, not only delaying the development schedule of some domestic Chinese IC designers but even causing developmental stagnation.

(Image credit: Pixabay)

2022-09-22

Global AI Chip Market Estimated to Reach US$39 Billion in 2022, ASIC Chip Sector Set to Grow Fastest

According to TrendForce, the scope of IoT devices continue to expand under a wave of global digitization and smart machines including in industrial robotics, AGV/AMR, smart phones, smart speakers, smart cameras, etc. In addition, the deepening application of technologies such as autonomous driving, image recognition, speech and semantic recognition, and computing in various fields has catalyzed the rapid growth of AI chip and technology markets. The size of the global AI chip market is expected to reach US$39 billion in 2022, with a growth rate of 18.2%.

Since current utilization of AI chips are mostly in cloud computing, security, robotics, and automotive applications, they will enter a period of accelerated growth in 2023. In particular, the two fields of cloud computing and automotive applications will lead rapid market growth. By 2025, the size of the global AI chip market size is expected to reach US$74 billion, with CAGR from 2022 to 2025 reaching 23.8%.

ASIC chips have wide-ranging prospects, with market share in AI chips increasing year by year

From 2020 to 2021, the amount of data generated by datacenters and various terminal devices continued to rise, pushing chip technology to its limit, with demand for computing power becoming more difficult to meet. Therefore, many manufacturers have successively invested in high-end IC design and development. With increasing demand from various parties, the AI chip market is set to grow rapidly. The size of the AI chip market is expected to reach US$93 billion in 2026. CPU and GPU still occupy the lion’s share of the AI chip market and are growing steadily, while the ASIC market has expansive prospects and its advantages and characteristics can assist users in data processing, consumer electronics, telecommunication systems, and industrial computing develop product portfolios and shorten the innovation cycle of products, services, or systems.

TrendForce research shows that CPU, GPU, and ASIC chips will account for 33%, 34%, and 26% of the AI market, respectively, in 2026. The ASIC chip market will grow the fastest for two reasons. First, demand in the consumer electronic equipment market has increased and most developers of small and medium-sized equipment prefer 7nm ASICs. Second, workloads and structural demands of 5G, low-orbit satellite communications, cloud, and edge computing continue to increase, as telecommunications systems are the largest end-use market.

Since current utilization of AI chips are mostly in cloud computing, security, robotics, and automotive applications, they will enter a period of accelerated growth in 2023. In particular, the two fields of cloud computing and automotive applications will lead rapid market growth. By 2025, the size of the global AI chip market size is expected to reach US$74 billion, with CAGR from 2022 to 2025 reaching 23.8%.

(Image credit: Unsplash)

2022-09-15

Notebook Panel Shipment Revision 1H22

In 2021, shipments of notebook computer panels increased quarter by quarter with record highs posted in each quarter. In addition to strong demand for display terminals, panel makers continued to invest in capacity and resources for notebook computer panel production. With notebook panel shipments hitting a record high in 2021, panel makers also set fairly aggressive BP targets for 2022.

Panel makers shipped 187.7 million notebook panels before the COVID-19 outbreak in 2019 and up to 287.9 million in 2021, an increase of more than 50% in two years. In 2022, panel makers planned to grow by an additional 14.1% to 328.5 million units. With such high expectations, the sudden shipment revisions in 1H22 were urgent and violent, catching panel manufacturers off guard.

In 1H22, terminal demand and inventory problems materialized at the same time

The Russian-Ukrainian war in 1Q22 had a dramatic impact on oil production capacity. In addition, strong terminal demand in the past few quarters drove up the prices of various commodities, causing the annual growth rate of inflation to climb, in turn changing interest policies from central banks to focus on suppressing terminal demand and inflation, and leading to plummeting terminal demand.

Shipments of whole devices in 1Q22 were lower than single-quarter shipments of any quarter in 2021, meaning pandemic-induced demand had weaker since the outbreak of COVID-19. However, China imposed restrictions to prevent resurgences of the pandemic in 2Q22. These measures affected the assembly capacity of notebook computer OEMs, and also reduced 2Q22 notebook computers shipments by 17.7%. Looking into the background of 2Q22, when China’s lockdown measures were implemented, brands did not scramble to request OEMs resume production and supply as they had in the past two years. Instead, brands lowered their annual BP and component orders, reflecting that when brands express a bearish attitude regarding waning pandemic-induced boons and pessimism towards future demand, canceled orders in the supply chain is unavoidable.

Before 1Q22, panels have always resided on the top 3 list of notebook computer components. Therefore, notebook computer brands have adopted overbooking and accumulated inventory in the past two years to respond to strong terminal demand and support performance. The average supply-demand ratio for the past 12 years of whole notebook computer panel devices fell at 12.5%. The supply-demand ratio exceeded the long-term average of more than 18% beginning in 3Q21, reaching an ultra-high level of 28% in 1Q22. A relatively high supply-demand ratio means that panel inventory on the brand side accumulated to a certain extent in 2H21 and rose sharply in 1Q22. A higher inventory level will lead to future revenue support when demand is strong but, when market demand reverses, high inventory becomes a heavy burden on financial reports.

In 2Q22, notebook computer panel shipments dropped by 24.3% QoQ, and this quarterly decline was much higher than the 17.7% QoQ decline in shipments of whole devices. This means that brands have begun to curb inventory and greatly reduce panel purchases. Looking at a wider perspective, the beginning of every downward economic cycle related to consumer electronics is accompanied by demand reversal and inventory problems. The Russian-Ukrainian war was only the last straw that led to this reversal.

(Image credit: Unsplash)

2022-09-15

Market Value of SiC Power Semiconductors Estimated to Reach US$1.589 billion in 2022, European and US IDMs Retain Market Hegemony

Looking at the development of the global SiC (silicon carbide) industry, IDMs in Europe and the United States occupy an absolute leading position, with the United States accounting for more than half of the market share in the substrate material sector. In order to ensure long-term and stable development of the SiC business, major manufacturers have also successively intervened in key upstream substrate materials in an effort to control the supply chain. Therefore, vertical integration has become an important trend in the development of the SiC industry. The global market value of SiC power semiconductors is estimated to be approximately US$1.589 billion in 2022 and will reach US$5.302 billion by 2026, with a CAGR of 35%.

Wolfspeed holds more than half the world’s SiC substrate market share and is first to move to 8-inch wafers

SiC substrates are characterized by difficult growth conditions, arduous processing, and high technical thresholds, which have become a key constraint on downstream production capacity. At present, only a few manufacturers such as Wolfspeed, ROHM, ON Semi, and STM have the ability to independently produce SiC crystals. From the perspective of SiC substrate market share in 2021, the leading players in order of market share are: Wolfspeed at 62%, II-VI at 14%, SiCrystal at 13%, SK Siltron at 5%, and TankeBlue at 4%.

Increasing the number of components on a single wafer is one of the main methods of further reducing the cost of SiC power components, so the industry is fully promoting 8-inch transformation. 8-inch SiC wafers have issues such as difficult material growth, laborious dicing, and losses during dicing. At this stage, yield rate is low. Therefore, 8-inch SiC wafers will not have much impact on the industry in the short term but, in the long run, with breakthroughs in material growth and process yield, the final chip cost of 8-inch wafers will inevitably present great advantages.

SiC MOSFET market highly competitive, STM comes out on top

With the successful application of high-quality 6H-SiC and 4H-SiC epitaxial layer growth technology in the 1990s, the research and development of various SiC power components entered a period of rapid development, leading to their current ubiquity in sectors such as the automotive and industrial fields. From the perspective of competition patterns in the SiC power component market, as Tesla’s first SiC supplier, STM took first place in 2021 with a market share of 41%, Infineon took second place with 22%, followed by Wolfspeed, ROHM, ON Semi and other manufacturers.

TrendForce indicates, from the perspective of SiC MOSFET technology, trench structure’s powerful cost and performance advantages will see it become the mainstream technology in the future. Infineon and ROHM have been working on this a long time and these two companies have successively introduced this structure to the market as core products. STM, Wolfspeed, and On Semi still employ planar structures at this stage but their next generation products will also move to trench structures.

(Image credit: Pixabay)

2022-08-23

Smart Watch Brands Ramping Up Sales, Global Smart Watch Shipments Estimated to Reach 119 Million Units in 2022

Smart watch shipments reached 107 million units in 2021, surpassing the shipments of smart bands for the first time. Smart bands declined in 2021 with only 70.33 million units delivered. As branded manufacturers strengthen their investment in the smart watch market, market growth has accelerated. Due to the proximity of functional applications, the smart band market has been gradually supplanted by low-cost smart watch products. Therefore, driven by new products in 2022, the current forecast indicates that smart watch shipments will continue to grow in 2022, reaching 119 million units, for an annual growth rate of 11.4%. Smart band shipments are expected to decline to 55.18 million units and the gap between the two continues to widen. It is worth noting, although branded manufacturers are optimistic regarding the development of the smart watch market, in light of risks such as the COVID-19 pandemic, war, and inflation, continuing downward revisions of smart watch shipment volume in 2022 cannot be ruled out and annual growth rate may even fall below 5%.

The top five major manufacturers of smart watches are Apple, Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi, and Garmin with a combined market share of 63%. Apple Watch shipments reached 36.6 million units in 2021, with an annual growth rate of 20%. Apple is optimistic regarding the market in 2022. On the one hand, the company believes that the Watch Series 8 can maintain the same consumer interest as the Watch Series 7. On the other hand, a wave of entry-level product replacements is expected with the launch of the second-generation Watch SE. Coupled with the launch of new Pro products, Apple believes that market demand in 2022 will surpass that in 2021 and shipment volume is expected to reach 43 million to 46 million units.

However, considering the negative economic impacts following the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and inflation, 4Q22 holiday sales may not pan out as expected. Throwing in the wildcard of China’s lockdown strategy, production of new Apple Watches may be affected if lockdown measures reappear in 2H22, which will lead to a risk of further delays in shipments of new products, upsetting shipments in 2022. Therefore, shipments of Apple Watches are conservatively forecast to reach 39.1 million units in 2022.

Although Samsung began exploring the wearable device market very early, due to the small market size and the rapid growth of the smartphone market, smart watches were not the focus of Samsung’s product development at the time. This was true up until recent years. As the growth of smartphones slowed, Samsung has once again strengthened its distribution of other consumer electronics products which has led to continuous growth in Samsung Galaxy Watch shipments. In addition, since Huawei has been flattened by Sino-US trade friction, Samsung leaped to claim the number two spot in the smart watch market in 2021. Samsung smartwatch shipments are estimated to grow from 11.09 million in 2021 to 14.1 million units in 2022.

After Google officially acquired Fitbit, although Fitbit remains nominally an independent brand, internal reorganization is bound to be carried out considering this affords more efficient resource allocation, integrating the companies’ procurement, product development, etc. Google will have two smart watch brands, Fitbit and Pixel. In terms of high-end watches, the Pixel Watch is a flagship product positioned as an extension of the Pixel mobile phone and is primarily used in synergy with smart phone functionality. Therefore, the Pixel Watch uses the Samsung Exynos chip and it is expected to highlight the features of various apps in the Google Play Store. Since Fitbit was acquired by Google, it has become necessary to adjust unified strategy and integrate and reorganize resources. Although smart watch shipments resumed growth in 2021, there is some distance between leading brands. Fitbit Is expected to launch new products in 2H22. Google Pixel Watch is also expected to be launched in 2H22, so Google/Fitbit smart watch shipments are estimated to grow to 3.65 million units in 2022.

(Image credit: Pixabay)

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