The global semiconductor industry has experienced many challenges over the past several years amidst a growth in demand for semiconductors in products from earbuds to automobiles. Analysts are now optimistic the industry has begun recovery that will continue into 2024. World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS) predicts growth of 11.8% in 2024. In the area of AI semiconductor revenue, Gartner anticipates double-digit growth of more than 25%, to $67.1 billion.Among the many factors that will contribute to the growth will be the ability of semiconductor manufacturers to make the most of several key innovations:
- Artificial Intelligence: as much as AI is placing demands on chip manufacturers for AI-ready hardware, the semiconductor companies themselves have embraced the potential of AI to improve process quality, optimize production, and increase efficiency in their fabs.
- Internet of Things: has spurred demand for semiconductors while also being employed by the industry to help keep up with that demand. IoT devices have found their way into the production environment for real-time data capture and monitoring of tools, equipment, and processes. Armed with the right automation solution, these devices facilitate continuous process improvement.
- Simulated Fabrication: developing new recipes and processes is costly and time consuming. Simulation, or virtual modeling, with AI and ML models enables manufacturers to simulate the process flow. They can generate a high volume of data in days instead of in the weeks or months it would take to produce enough wafers to gather this data. The models can quickly provide insights into bottlenecks, cycle time and output, as well as predict problems that may impact products—all without having to interrupt current production.
- Innovative Technologies: increasingly smaller chips necessitate greater accuracy in placement of both patterns and wiring. Manufacturers have turned to advances in fabrication technology such as robotic wafer handling and unique fabrication techniques such as additive manufacturing.
- Innovative Materials: semiconductor companies have looked to materials such as gallium nitride (GaN) and silicon carbide (SiC), to achieve higher operating temperatures, high voltage resistance, a smaller form factor, and faster switching. Manufacturers’ continued ingenuity in working with innovative materials will help them overcome chip size limitations.