According to a recent report from Gartner, the worldwide semiconductor foundry market rose by 16.2 percent in 2012 to a $34.6 billion in revenue. This year marked the first time that advanced technology for mobile applications directly drove foundry revenue and prompted foundries to increase yield in 28 nm process technology and “fine tune device performance of legacy nodes.”
These changes have been attributed to a restocking of inventory by customers, increased demand for smartphones, and the “unexpected fast rise of low-cost smartphones” in China and other emerging markets.
Gartner also reported that chips for mobile devices were mostly supplied by fabless companies as indicated by an increase in foundry revenue from fabless customers and flat or declining growth from IDM customers.
With regards to the respective position of foundries themselves, Gartner provided the following:
- TSMC maintained its number one position due to the success of its advanced technology nodes
- GlobalFoundries advanced to the number two slot due to strong performance on 32 nm yields and the availability of sub-45 nm wafer capacity
- Though UMC’s market share decreased due to reduced wafer shipments, the company retained its number three position
- Driven by the wafers consumed by Apple's A6 and A6X chips, Samsung moved up four spots to the number five position with 175.5 percent growth in 2012
Finally, the report noted that the back-end segment, specifically the wafer-level packaging (WLP)-related segments "outperformed the market." These segments were either tied to the relative strength of logic investments, such as advanced RF or system-on-chip (SoC) test equipment, or to the increasing popularity of bump, flip-chip and other WLP processes, such as stud bump bonding and wafer bonders for through-silicon vias (TSVs).