The semiconductor industry has every reason to be optimistic for the rest of the year. Global semiconductor sales registered their highest-ever quarterly sales increase during Q3 to $107.9 billion; and optoelectronics, sensors, actuators and discretes (OSD) are on track to set record-high annual revenues in 2017.
The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) reported global Q3 chip sales increased by 10.2 percent compared with the previous quarter. Sales for the month of September 2017 were $36.0 billion, an increase of 22.2 percent over the September 2016 total of $29.4 billion and 2.8 percent more than the previous month’s total of $35.0 billion. Sales of OSD products for the year are expected to follow a similar track as the overall chip market, with IC Insights forecasting 10.5 percent growth in 2017 to $75 billion.
Global chip sales were driven by strength in the Americas, said John Neuffer, SIA president and CEO, in a release. Regionally, year-to-year and month-to-month sales increased in September across all markets: the Americas (40.7 percent year-to-year/5.9 percent month-to-month), China (19.9 percent/2.5 percent), Europe (19.0 percent/1.8 percent), Asia Pacific/All Other (16.8 percent/1.9 percent), and Japan (11.9 percent/0.5 percent). “The Americas market continued to stand out, notching its largest year-to-year sales increase in more than seven years,” Neuffer said. “Standouts among semiconductor product categories included memory products like DRAM and NAND flash, both of which posted major year-to-year growth in September, as well as logic products, which enjoyed double-digit growth year-to-year.”
The IoT market is credited with driving OSD sales, as increasing levels of intelligent embedded controls and some inventory replenishment in commodity discretes is fueling a banner year. In 2017, according to IC Insights, above average sales growth rates are being achieved in all but one major OSD product category—lamp devices, which are now expected to be flat in 2017 because of continued price erosion in light-emitting diodes (LEDs) for solid-state lighting applications.
Neither SIA or IC Insights cited price increases as a factor in driving sales growth, however, some component makers have been able to raise ASPs. Outside of the memory market–DRAM and NAND have been especially volatile — some chip makers have been able to increase prices as a variety of semiconductors remain in high demand. Commodity and low-end semiconductors have seen pockets of increases, according to one research firm, and high-performance analog suppliers are raising prices. Acquired lines in particular have seen price increases with several examples already implemented: Microchip/Atmel/Micrel, NXP/Freescale, Avago/Broadcom, ON/Fairchild among them. There may be further price hikes in 2018, according to the analyst.
OSD products have not been on pace to see across-the-board sales growth since 2014, IC Insights reported. Moreover, 2017 is expected to be the first year since 2011 when all three OSD market segments set record-high annual sales volumes. The 2017 double-digit percent increase will be the highest growth rate for combined OSD sales since the strong 2010 recovery from the 2009 semiconductor downturn that coincided with the 2008-2009 financial crisis and global economic recession. Total OSD revenues are now forecast to reach a ninth consecutive annual record high level of $80.5 billion in 2018, which will be a 7.4 percent increase from 2017 sales
After a rare decline of 3.6 percent in 2016, optoelectronics is recovering this year with sales now projected to grow 8.1 percent in 2017 to an all-time high of $36.7 billion, IC Insights added, thanks to strong double-digit sales increases in CMOS image sensors (+22 percent), light sensors (+19 percent), optical-network laser transmitters (+15% percent, and infrared devices (+14 percent). Meanwhile, record-high revenues for sensors and actuators are being fueled by the expansion of IoT and new automated controls in a wide range of systems—including more self-driving features in cars. Sensors/actuator sales are now expected to climb 17.5 percent in 2017 to $13.9 billion, marking the strongest growth year for this market segment since 2010. Sales of sensors and actuators made with microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) technology are forecast to rise by 18.5% in 2017 to a record-high $11.6 billion.
Even the commodity-filled discretes market is thriving in 2017 with worldwide sales projected to rise 10.3 percent to $24.1 billion, which will finally surpass the current peak of $23.4 billion set in 2011. Sales of power transistors, which account for more than half of the discretes market segment, are forecast to grow 9.0 percent in 2017 to a record-high $14.0 billion, IC Insights said. The supply chain remains optimistic that C4Q can track at least slightly better than seasonal, said one market analyst, although concern remains over stretched lead times as a key driver to bookings.