Paul van Gerven
18 March 2021

Fueled by surging pandemic-inspired demand for electronics devices, the global semiconductor industry is on track to register a rare three consecutive years of record highs in fab equipment spending, with a 16 percent increase in 2020 followed by forecast gains of 15.5 percent this year and 12 percent in 2022, Semi predicts in its quarterly World Fab Forecast report.

The semiconductor industry last saw three straight years of fab equipment investment growth in a run that started in 2016. It was nearly 20 years before that streak that the industry recorded an expansion of at least three years. In the mid-1990s, the chip industry boasted a four-year period of growth.

Semi Fab equipment spending 2021

The bulk of fab investments in 2021 and 2022 will be seen in the foundry and the memory sectors. Driven by leading-edge investment, foundry spending is expected to grow 23 percent in 2021, reach 32 billion dollars and flatten in 2022. Overall memory spending will increase in the single digits to reach 28 billion dollars in 2021 while DRAM will surpass NAND flash, and then surge by 26 percent in 2022 on the strength of both DRAM and 3D NAND investments.

The power and MPU segments will also see strong spending growth over the forecast period. Power is forecast to show strong investment growth of 46 percent and 26 percent, respectively, in 2021 and 2022, driven by strong demand for power semiconductor devices. MPU will add to the momentum with 40 percent growth in 2022 as microprocessor investments increase.

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Fabs worldwide will add about 10 billion dollars worth of equipment in each of the three years, as spending climbs to top 80 billion dollars at the end of the forecast period.