[Insights] Analysis of the Global Photoresist Market in 2023

The sales revenue of the 2023 semiconductor photoresist market is expected to decline by 6-9% year-on-year. With continuous improvement in downstream customer inventory and gradual recovery of production capacity, the semiconductor industry is expected to experience a revival in 2024, and demand for photoresists is also expected to rebound.

TrendForce has released its latest report, ‘Analysis of the Global Photoresist Market in 2023,’ analyzing the market conditions and competitive landscape of the photoresist market. Excerpts from the report are as follows:

  1. Semiconductor Demand Expected to Rebound in 2024

With the ongoing improvement in downstream customer inventory, gradual recovery of production capacity utilization, and the maturation and surge in applications such as AI and smart automobiles, it is anticipated that the semiconductor industry will experience a revival in 2024.

The semiconductor photoresist market is also poised for a rebound, with market size returning to the historical peak of 2022 and further growing to surpass USD 2.8 billion by 2027.

  1. High-End Photoresists Show Significant Growth Potential as Chinese and Korean Suppliers Strive for Localization Breakthroughs

With the sustained growth in demand for advanced processes, high-end photoresists such as EUV, ArFi/ArF, will continue to grow as well. In particular, EUV photoresists are poised for substantial growth as the industry pursues chips with increased computational power and energy efficiency.

The quantity of advanced chips produced using EUV technology is expected to surge significantly, making EUV photoresists the segment with the greatest growth potential in the semiconductor photoresist market. It is projected that by 2025, EUV photoresists will account for a 10% share of the market.

Due to the high barriers to entry in photoresist production, currently, Japanese manufacturers dominate the global photoresist market with a supply proportion of approximately 80%.

Particularly in advanced photoresist areas such as EUV, ArFi/ArF, major Japanese companies like JSR, TOK, and Shin-Etsu Chemical hold absolute dominance, and incidents of supply disruptions from Japanese photoresist suppliers are not uncommon.

In response to the risk of supply disruptions, both China and South Korea have actively promoted the localization of photoresist production. In South Korea, companies like Dongjin Semichem and SK Materials have made significant progress in the field of advanced photoresists, achieving domestic production of certain ArFi and EUV photoresists.

In China, the domestic production rate of photoresists in the mid-to-low-end range has reached 30%, and efforts in research and development are continually strengthening in the field of ArF and EUV photoresists. Partial import substitution has been achieved for ArF photoresists, and it is anticipated that the domestic production rate will gradually increase in the future.

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[News] Samsung Reportedly to Open New Research Lab for Advanced Packaging in Yokohama, with a Total Investment of JPY 40 Billion

Following TSMC’s first plant built in Japan’s Kumamoto Prefecture, Samsung has also chosen Yokohama as the location for its new facility in Japan.

According to Japanese media NHK’s report, South Korean Samsung Electronics has decided the establishment of a new semiconductor research and development center in Yokohama, Japan. with a total investment of JPY 40 billion (approximately USD 278 million).

The Japanese government is set to provide half of the total subsidy for this investment. The project is expected to commence next year and will focus on the research and development of advanced packaging.

Additionally, Samsung plans to hire around 100 local engineers in Japan and is cautiously evaluating the possibility of collaboration with Japanese research organizations.

NHK, citing sources, reported that Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio plans to announce this expanded investment in Japan soon.

Given the continuous competition between China and the United States in the semiconductor sector, the calls for strengthening the domestic semiconductor supply chain in Japan have grown louder.

Consequently, the Japanese government has been encouraging foreign chipmakers to establish a presence in Japan, aiming to reinforce domestic supply chains.

As of May this year, Kishida Fumio met with seven semiconductor giants, including Intel, Samsung, Micron, and TSMC. The meeting demonstrated a commitment to revitalize Japan’s semiconductor industry. At that time, rumors about Japan providing subsidies to Samsung already existed, sparking market discussions.

(Photo credit: Samsung)

Please note that this article cites information from NHK and Financial Times


[News] Micron to Launch 1γ DRAM in 2025 and Manufacture HBM in Japan

Micron, the American memory giant, is gearing up to initiate the production of state-of-the-art “1γ” DRAM at its Hiroshima fab in Japan, starting in 2025. Concurrently, there are plans to manufacture High-Bandwidth Memory (HBM) at the same fab, tailored for the rising demand for generative AI applications.

According to a report from Nikkei Asia on December 13th, Joshua Lee, VP at Micron Memory Japan, made this announcement during the event SEMICON Japan 2023. Lee highlighted that the Hiroshima fab is slated to manufacture DRAM with the most advanced “1γ” process by 2025. He also pointed out that Micron is also going to be the first semiconductor company to introduce Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) lithography equipment to Japan.

In addition to this, Lee shared insights into Micron’s intentions to produce HBM at the Hiroshima fab, which is widely applied for generative AI applications. He stated that Japan’s strong semiconductor ecosystem will be a key driving force behind Micron’s progress. Furthermore, he emphasized that collaboration is pivotal for Japan to establish itself as a global leader in the semiconductor supply chain.

Earlier In October, the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) of Japan announced a substantial subsidy of JPY 192 billion for Micron’s Hiroshima fab. Micron has recently declared a comprehensive investment plan of JPY 500 billion in Japan over the next few years, encompassing the Hiroshima fab.

Micron has been actively developing its DRAM manufacturing operations in Japan and Taiwan. Donghui Lu, Corporate VP of Micron Taiwan, revealed in a September interview with the UDN News that approximately 65% of Micron’s DRAM output originates from Taiwan. Regarding the migration to the 1β process, mass production began at Micron Japan last year, and Micron Taiwan has also commenced mass production this year. As for the more advanced 1γ process, production is expected to take place in both Taiwan and Japan by 2025.

TrendForce’s analysis has also revealed that Micron is leveraging its 1β nm technology to produce HBM3e in a bid to gain a competitive edge over Korean suppliers. Its front-end manufacturing is strategically positioned in Japan, aligning with expansion plans for 1β nm capacity.

Additionally, Micron has established a backend factory in Taiwan to meet surging HBM demands driven by the AI era. TrendForce anticipates that HBM products will substantially boost the revenue of DRAM suppliers in 2024.

Please note that this article cites information from Nikkei Asia and UDN News

(Image: Micron)

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[Insights] Significant Impact of Chinese Export Restrictions, Material Alternatives Yet to Yield Immediate Results

With China intensifying export controls, Japanese companies relying on crucial battery and semiconductor materials manufactured in China are contemplating alternative solutions. They are actively seeking materials sources to achieve supply diversification.

TrendForce’s insight:

1. Alternative Solution Cannot be Translated into Immediate Success

While countries like Japan and South Korea have swiftly initiated strategies to find alternative solutions, the majority are still in the evaluation, research, or testing stages, unable to provide immediate assistance.

Even if alternative graphite production sources outside of China, such as in North America or Australia, are identified, it is likely to increase manufacturing costs, thereby impacting the selling price or profit performance of electric vehicles.

2. Back to Negotiation with Chinese Manufacturers

The post-export control scenario may accentuate the cost advantage of Chinese battery manufacturers, influencing the effectiveness of various protective measures taken by Europe and the United States to counter Chinese electric vehicles.

Consequently, countries may ultimately realize that returning to the negotiation table with China is more practical than going through a prolonged process, aligning with China’s primary objective.

3. Material Edge Won’t Last Forever

The continuous export restrictions on critical materials by China may encourage countries to persist in developing alternative solutions. For instance, OEMs like Tesla, GM, and Stellantis are actively investing in research on rare-earth-free motors to reduce dependency on Chinese rare earths.

While currently constrained by battery material technology, graphite remains the highest-value anode material. Yet, numerous companies are also exploring anodes with higher energy density, such as silicon oxide (SiO) and lithium metal (Li Metal).

Therefore, China must recognize that material advantages may not be permanent, and the core lies in the ability for technological iteration.

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(Photo credit: Pixabay)


[News] Japanese Companies Seek Battery and Chip Materials Outside China

According to IJWEI’s report, Japanese companies heavily reliant on key battery and semiconductor materials manufactured in China are expanding their sources as China intensifies export controls.

On October 20th, China announced that certain graphite items, including high-purity, high-strength, and high-density synthetic graphite materials and their products, cannot be exported without permission.

This regulation officially takes effect on December 1st of this year. Graphite is crucial for manufacturing the negative electrode of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles. While the permit requirements do not constitute a ban, they may lead to a reduction in China’s graphite exports.

Over 80% of the natural graphite used in Japan comes from China. In case of a disruption in graphite imports, Mitsubishi Chemical Group in Japan is considering strengthening its production of electrode materials in Shandong. The company is also exploring partnerships in Australia and production in Mozambique and Norway to diversify the supply.

Representatives from Nissan Motor Company have stated that they will consider sourcing graphite and other key electric vehicle materials from alternative regions.

Panasonic’s battery subsidiary, Panasonic Energy, is collaborating with a Canadian graphite company on research for large-scale production of electrode materials. In September of this year, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) and the Canadian government signed an agreement to strengthen the battery supply chain.

According to data from the United States Geological Survey, the global graphite production reached 1.3 million tons in 2022, experiencing a 15% year-on-year growth due to the popularity of electric vehicles. China contributes to 70% of the graphite production and is a major producer of synthetic graphite. China serves as the primary low-cost exporter for both types of materials.

“The costs of procuring graphite will inevitably rise, the focus will be on how companies maintain their competitive advantage while bearing the costs.” as stated by Noboru Sato, visiting professor at Nagoya University.

Graphite is not the sole crucial mineral for China. In August of this year, China intensified export restrictions on gallium and germanium, vital rare metals used in the manufacturing of electronic components and semiconductors. Customs data indicates a significant decrease in the export of these two metals.

Japanese manufacturers are also exploring materials sources unaffected by China’s export controls. Kanto Denka Kogyo, a chemical producer, is testing lithium compounds from regions like South America to manufacture battery electrolytes. The company is also collaborating with Sumitomo Metal Mining to test technology for lithium recovery from discarded electric vehicle batteries.

At the same time, Japan is using diplomacy and foreign aid to ensure a stable supply of critical materials. Both China and Japan have confirmed the establishment of new bilateral export control dialogues. Senior trade officials from both sides will engage in regular consultations on export restriction issues.

The Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry is seeking JPY 260 billion (approximately USD 1.74 billion) in the supplementary budget proposal for this fiscal year to support Japan’s battery manufacturing. Some of the funds may be allocated for investing in companies producing synthetic graphite in Japan.

Last year, Japan’s additional budget provided approximately JPY 200 billion to support the extraction, refining, and processing of critical minerals. Companies investing overseas in the production of rare metals will receive subsidies of up to half.

Companies outside Japan are also taking action to mitigate the impact of Chinese supply restrictions. According to Business Korea’s report, South Korea’s company Posco Future M, which produces battery materials, has preemptively planned to manufacture synthetic graphite using coal tar, a byproduct that can be sourced domestically in Korea.

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(Photo credit: Pixabay)

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