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Veeco, Aixtron and Riber still rule the roost in epitaxy

Although there are another fifteen players in the MOCVD and MBE markets, they have had trouble establishing themselves due to the dominance of the other three firms

A new report , "III-V Epitaxy Equipment & Applications Market", from Reportlinker.com says that MOCVD and MBE are the techniques used to grow practically all III-V wafers. OK, but tell us something we didn't know. So what else has been revealed in the study? Well, apparently, the MBE and MOCVD market combined is predicted to hit around $6.1 billion between 2012 and 2020.

LED is by far and away the single largest application for MOCVD. In 2010 and 2011, the MOCVD market experienced the largest investment cycle in its history driven by a combination of drivers. These included demand for LED backlit LCD TVs, subsidies by the Chinese central and local governments and expectation in the general lighting market. On the down side, this has put the market into a significant overcapacity situation that could take 12 to 18 months to absorb. The next investment cycle driven by lighting applications and expected to start in 2013, will be more limited than the previous cycle due to improvements in equipment throughput and yields. Following this cycle, further Cost of Ownership (COO) improvements offered by the next generation of MOCVD reactors should justify the replacement of 2nd generation-old reactors installed during the 2010-2011 boom and drive a last small equipment cycle in the second half of the decade. By that time, power GaN will also represent a substantial upside for reactor makers. All in all, MBE use is heavily driven by R&D systems (over 50% of the total market) and laser applications (telecom, industrial, medical, research) that are not covered in the report. Regarding applications covered in the report, the MBE market is predicted to be essentially driven by the continuous growth in the cell phone and wireless applications that are making heavy use of GaAs based RF components. Emerging applications like smart grid and the trend towards increasing connectivity and "intelligence" incorporated in many consumer products will provide further opportunities. But, alternative technologies such as silicon CMOS, LDMOS, SoS, HR SOI represent a potential threat; they could capture shares of the GaAs RF market and reduce the opportunity for MBE. What's more, MOCVD is making progress in HEMT manufacturing. HCPV, however, could provide a small potential upside for MBE makers. MOCVD and MBE equipment market are duopolies but many emerging players could change the landscape: Aixtron and Veeco are the leaders in MOCVD, and together represented 96% of the market in 2011. Production MOCVD reactors are complex systems. Design and optimisation require expertise in multiple fields including flow dynamics, thermodynamics, chemistry, mechanical and electrical engineering. This makes technological barriers into the market pretty high. More than fifteen emerging players have been identified but so far, have been struggling to capture any sizeable share of the market. But the pressure is mounting and established MOCVD makers will need to maintain that technology gap to keep emerging competitors at bay. The main battlefield is that of total cost of ownership. Established MOCVD makers all have technology roadmaps to enable COO reduction of three to four times more within the next 5 years through a combination of improved yields, throughputs and precursor utilisation efficiency.

For MBE, Riber and Veeco are the only two players offering large capacity / large throughput MBE production tools for volume manufacturing. Reportlinker.com expects they will maintain this dominancy. However, there are about ten other MBE manufacturers offering R&D or pilot production systems that also have a strong presence on the general MBE market (DCA, SVT, Eiko among others). Potential overcapacity in MO precursor supply: The Metal Organic precursor market will also be essentially driven by LED applications. But MOCVD reactor technology improvements ; yield, consumption and wafer size to name but a few, will lower the amount of TMGa and TMIn needed per cm² of epiwafer. The 2010 metal organic shortage ended mid 2011 thanks to aggressive capacity expansion by leading suppliers. Further capacity expansion plans from established and emerging suppliers could come online within the next 3 years. If executed as announced, Reportlinker.com expects significant oversupply starting from 2012 that could continue through 2016 and beyond. This situation could put pressure on prices. Further MO synthesis technology improvements could provide opportunity for cost reductions. However, the usually volatile prices of raw indium and gallium also have a significant impact on cost.

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