pandemic


2021-03-31

Despite Cyclical Off-Season, High Demand Results in Historical High for Notebook Panel Shipment in 1Q21, Says TrendForce

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in turn generated a high demand for notebook computers. While demand began ramping up in 2Q20, subsequently resulting in a shortage in 3Q20 and 4Q20, the shortage in the notebook market has yet to be resolved even now, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. The high demand for notebooks is estimated to propel the quarterly shipment of notebook panels to a historical high of 65.3 million units in 1Q21, which is a 3.5% increase QoQ and a 46.5% increase YoY.

With regards to supply and demand, TrendForce believes that the current shortage of notebook panels can primarily be attributed to the soaring market demand for notebooks. In terms of supply, notebook panel shipment underwent YoY increases of more than 20% during each quarter from 2Q20 to 4Q20. At the moment, panel orders from notebook manufacturers still exceed the order fulfillment capacity of panel suppliers by about 30-50%, as panel suppliers are bottlenecked by the shortage of certain semiconductor components, such as DDICs and T-cons.

Given the extremely tight supply of panels relative to demand, notebook panel prices have skyrocketed accordingly. Case in point, quotes for 11.6-inch panels, which are among the mainstream and are widely used for Chromebooks, are now closing in on quotes for 14-inch and 15.6-inch panels. As such, the high profitability of notebook panels have led panel suppliers to set more aggressive shipment targets this year.

In particular, after CEC-Panda sold its Nanjing-based Gen 8.5 fab and Chengdu-based Gen 8.6 fab last year, the company currently possesses a sole remaining Gen 6 fab in Nanjing. While this fab has never manufactured notebook panels in the past, plans for manufacturing 11.6-inch panels are now underway, with mass production expected to start in 2Q21, owing to the extremely high market demand for notebook panels. It should also be pointed out that HKC has been mass producing 11.6-inch panels since February 2021. The company is expected to start mass producing 14-inch panels in 2Q21 and 15.6-inch as well as 13.3-inch panels in 2H21. HKC aims to ship about 10 million notebook panels this year.

TrendForce indicates that the current demand for notebook panels will likely persist through 3Q21. However, as the shortage situation has persisted for more than three quarters since it surfaced in 2Q20, some notebook manufacturers may begin overbooking panel orders due to the expectation of further shortages. Therefore, if the actual market demand were met ahead of expectations, panel suppliers may potentially slow down their panel shipments in 2H21. Even so, the new normal brought about by the pandemic will continue to power the global digital transformation. For instance, in response to the digitization of distance learning, the education sector is expected to generate recurrent demand for Chromebooks. As a result, TrendForce has a positive outlook on the annual shipment volume of notebook panels for 2021, which is expected to reach 249 million units, a 10.5% increase YoY.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Display Research, please click here, or email Ms. Vivie Liu from the Sales Department at vivieliu@trendforce.com

2021-03-25

Global Automotive LED Revenue Projected to Reach Nearly US$3 Billion in 2021 Owing to High Demand for Headlights and Display Panels, Says TrendForce

LED

The COVID-19 pandemic heavily impacted the global auto market and in turn damaged the automotive LED industry in 1H20, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. In 2H20, however, the gradual recovery of vehicle sales as well as the development of NEVs provided some upward momentum for the automotive LED industry, whose revenue for the year reached US$2.572 billion, a 3.7% decline YoY. Automotive LED revenue for 2021 is projected to reach $2.926 billion, a 13.7% growth YoY, thanks to the increasing demand for automotive headlights and display panels. As automakers continue to incorporate LED lighting solutions into new car models, the penetration rate of automotive LED will continue to undergo a corresponding increase as well.

TrendForce analyst Joanne Wu indicates that, in the automotive LED player revenue ranking of 2020, OSRAM Opto Semiconductors, Nichia, and Lumileds remained the top three largest automotive LED suppliers, respectively, with a combined market share of 71.9%. In particular, European and American automakers favored OSRAM’s solutions for their high-end vehicle models and NEVs due to the high quality of OSRAM products. Adoption by these automakers subsequently became the main revenue driver of OSRAM’s automotive LED business.

On the other hand, the pandemic caused Japanese automakers to suspend their operations and therefore had a direct impact on the revenues and market shares of Japanese LED suppliers, such as Nichia and Stanley, in 2020. Nichia and Stanley saw their revenues decline by 9.8% YoY and 7% YoY, respectively, and were the two suppliers among the top 10 last year to have shown relatively noticeable declines. Seoul Semiconductor’s nPola and Wicop LED products were adopted by Chinese automakers, including CCAG, SAIC-GM, and NIO, due to these products’ high brightness and compact sizes. Seoul Semiconductor’s market share reached 5.1% in 2020. Finally, not only did other suppliers, including Samsung LED and CREE, deliver consistent performances in the automotive aftermarket (AM) and performance market (PM) segments, but they also gradually began entering the automotive Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) lighting market. Samsung LED and CREE each took seventh and ninth place on the 2020 ranking with a 2.8% and 1.1% market share, respectively.

On the whole, TrendForce finds that automotive demand has been recovering since 4Q20. Accordingly, LED suppliers indicate that their booking orders appear bullish throughout 2021, meaning most LED suppliers now need to extend their product lead times in response. At the same time, LED players indicated that double booking might happen in the near future. Thereby, they will make decisions in light of the actual booking order quantity to see the possibility of increasing prices.

(Cover image source: OSARM)

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Optoelectronics Research, please click here, or email Ms. Grace Li from the Sales Department at graceli@trendforce.com

2021-03-16

AMOLED Models to Reach 39% Penetration Rate in Smartphone Market in 2021 Owing to Competitive Prices for Mid-Range Segment, Says TrendForce

Among the various display technologies used for smartphones in 2021, AMOLED models are expected to account for a 39% penetration, thanks to smartphone brands’ increasing adoption of this technology, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. In the entry-level and mid-range segments, the smartphone demand for a-Si LCD models remains strong, although this technology’s penetration rate is expected to undergo a slight decrease to 28%. On the other hand, LTPS LCD models are continuing to lose market share to competing technologies, resulting in a 33% penetration rate, while LTPS HD LCD models will occupy a growing share of this segment.

TrendForce indicates that smartphone brands’ procurement activities for components in 2H20 will persist throughout 2021 for two reasons: First, the industry on the whole expects demand for smartphones to ramp up considerably this year. Second, production capacities across the entire semiconductor supply chain have been tight, with some segments even showing severe shortage, thus prompting downstream clients such as smartphone brands to stock up on certain components in order to mitigate the potential risk associated with component shortages.

With regards to the development of smartphone display technologies, panel suppliers have been regaining client orders for rigid AMOLED panels through aggressive pricing since 2H20. Owing to increased adoption by smartphone brands this year, rigid AMOLED models are expected to maintain a strong market presence in the mid-range and premium mid-range segments. Flexible AMOLED models, on the other hand, will likely dominate the high-end and flagship segments. Going forward, AMOLED models will gradually cannibalize the market shares of LTPS LCD models in the mid-range and premium mid-range segments, in turn forcing LTPS LCD models into a lower price segment.

Market demand for entry-level and mid-range smartphones, especially for HD models, has remained strong since 2020, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the supply of key components in these smartphones (including a-Si LCD panels as well as DDI and TDDI ICs) has been in shortage in light of the foundry industry’s tight production capacities. As prices of a-Si LCD panels and ICs spiked, panel suppliers saw this upturn as the perfect opportunity to fulfill the existing demand for a-Si products with LTPS products and in turn expend their production capacity for LTPD LCD panels. Smartphone brands began adopting a-Si HD and LTPS HD LCD panels interchangeably in an increasing number of models, thus giving TDDI ICs flexibility to be used in a greater number of compatible handsets.

At the moment, IC supply remains the greatest bottleneck in the overall smartphone supply chain; case in point, TDDI supply is tight to the point of shortage. TrendForce believes that two key factors will exert significant influence over the smartphone panel industry going forward: First, Chinese IC design companies are likely to obtain wafer input priorities in Chinese foundries thanks to government policies. These IC design companies may potentially experience considerable growth as a result and disrupt the predominant oligopoly of Taiwanese IC design companies in the smartphone panel market. Second, once the ongoing capacity expansion effort of Chinese foundries concludes, their additional production capacities will alleviate the current shortage of IC supplies, with IC prices subsequently entering a downward trajectory. As a result of lowered IC prices, the relationship between LTPS HD panels and a-Si HD panels will likely shift from complementary to competitive, with both product categories struggling for dominance in the HD smartphone model segment.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Display Research, please click here, or email Ms. Vivie Liu from the Sales Department at vivieliu@trendforce.com

2021-03-11

Strong Growth Expected for Third-Generation Semiconductors in 2021, with GaN Power Devices Undergoing Highest YoY Increase in Revenue at 90.6%, Says TrendForce

The third-generation semiconductor industry was impaired by the US-China trade war and the COVID-19 pandemic successively from 2018 to 2020, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. During this period, the semiconductor industry on the whole saw limited upward momentum, in turn leading to muted growth for the 3rd gen semiconductor segment as well. However, this segment is likely to enter a rapid upturn owing to high demand from automotive, industrial, and telecom applications. In particular, the GaN power device market will undergo the fastest growth, with a $61 million revenue, a 90.6% YoY increase, projected for 2021.

TrendForce expects three factors to drive the rapid growth of the GaN and SiC markets in 2021: First, widespread vaccinations are projected to drastically curb the spread of the pandemic, thereby galvanizing a stable increase in the demand for base station components, as well as for components used in industrial energy transition, such as power inverters and converters. Secondly, as Tesla began adopting SiC MOSFET designs for its in-house inverters used in Model 3 vehicles, the automotive industry has started to place increasing importance on 3rd gen semiconductors. Finally, China will invest enormous capital into its 14th five-year plan starting this year and expand its 3rd gen semiconductor production capacity to ultimately achieve semiconductor independence.

Resurging demand from EV, industrial, and telecom sectors will bring about a corresponding increase in 3rd gen semiconductor device revenue

Although certain foundries, such as TSMC and VIS, have been attempting to manufacture GaN devices with 8-inch wafers, 6-inch wafers are still the mainstream. As the pandemic shows signs of a slowdown, the demand for RF front end in 5G base stations, for smartphone chargers, and for automotive on-board chargers has now gradually risen. As such, total yearly revenue from GaN RF devices is projected to reach US$680 million, a 30.8% increase YoY, in 2021, whereas GaN power device revenue is projected to reach $61 million, which is a 90.6% increase YoY.

In particular, the remarkable increase in GaN power device revenue can primarily be attributed to the release of fast chargers from smartphone brands, such as Xiaomi, OPPO, and Vivo, starting in 2018. These chargers enjoyed excellent market reception thanks to their effective heat dissipation and small footprint. Some notebook computer manufacturers are currently looking to adopt fast charging technology for their notebook chargers as well. Going forward, TrendForce expects more smartphone and notebook chargers to feature GaN power devices, leading to a peak YoY increase in GaN power device revenue in 2022, after which there will be a noticeable slowdown in its upward trajectory as GaN power devices become widely adopted by charger manufacturers.

On the other hand, 6-inch wafer capacities for SiC devices have been in relative shortage, since SiC substrates are widely used in RF front end and power devices. TrendForce expects yearly SiC power device revenue to reach $680 million, a 32% increase YoY, in 2021. Major substrate suppliers, including Cree, II-VI, and STMicroelectronics, are planning to manufacture 8-inch SiC substrates, but the short supply of SiC substrates will unlikely be resolved until 2022.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at lattechung@trendforce.com

2021-03-09

Prices of Client SSDs for Notebook Computers to Enter Early Uptrend in 2Q21 with 3-8% Increase QoQ, Says TrendForce

Demand for notebook computers is expected to remain strong throughout 2Q21 due to the persisting stay-at-home economy that arose in the wake of the pandemic, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. In response to the high demand for notebooks, PC OEMs are actively raising a consistent inventory of components, including client SSDs. Nonetheless, client SSDs are now in increasingly tight supply because the preexisting shortage of NAND Flash controllers is now exacerbated by the power outage at Samsung’s Austin-based semiconductor plant. SSD manufacturers are therefore preparing to raise the prices of SSDs. Accordingly, TrendForce has also revised up its forecast of client SSD prices for 2Q21 from “mostly flat” to a 3-8% increase QoQ instead.

As previously mentioned, Samsung’s semiconductor plant in Austin, Texas (here referred as Samsung Austin) was affected operationally by a severe winter storm that blanketed the entire state last month. As a result, production activities at the plant were mostly suspended from mid-February to March 2. TrendForce’s investigation of this incident finds that the plant is starting to recover operationally. Even so, the capacity utilization rate of the whole plant is not expected to return to the level of above 90% until the end of March, and this delay has had a palpable impact on Samsung’s chip production. With regards to product mix, there is no wafer input for NAND Flash at Samsung Austin. Nevertheless, 10% of its production capacity is used to manufacture in-house controller ICs for Samsung’s own branded SSDs. TrendForce’s investigation also finds that most controller ICs made at Samsung Austin are for client SSDs shipped to PC OEMs. In particular, among Samsung’s client SSD offerings, products based on 128L NAND Flash are expected to be directly affected by the incident.

It should be pointed out that, after kicking off mass production of 128L client SSDs in 4Q20, Samsung originally planned to take advantage of the release of Intel’s Tiger Lake CPUs to expand Samsung’s market share of PCIe G4 SSDs through aggressive pricing. After all, its competitors have been slow in ramping up production of PCIe G4 SSDs due to the negative impact of the pandemic and due to the longer-than-expected qualification process from PC OEMs. In light of the shortage of controller ICs, however, all SSD manufacturers are now forced to extend the lead times for their SSD orders, making it difficult for any manufacturer to increase their supply of SSDs and compelling them to in turn raise 2Q21 prices of client SSDs.

On the other hand, the power outage has had an impact on enterprise SSD prices as well, since enterprise SSDs and client SSDs are highly correlated in terms of prices. Furthermore, clients in the data center segment are expected to ramp up their procurement activities for enterprise SSDs in 2Q21 after the previous bearish period, meaning there will likely be successive QoQ increases in the volume of enterprise SSD orders going forward. Enterprise SSD prices are therefore expected to enter an impending upturn, and TrendForce has in turn revised up its forecast of enterprise SSD prices for 2Q21 from a 0-5% decrease QoQ to a 0-5% increase QoQ instead.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at lattechung@trendforce.com

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