On the upswing

The scene is set for an upbeat Semicon West event this year with North American manufacturers of semiconductor equipment continuing to post relatively strong order bookings and the semiconductor manufacturers themselves reporting high capacity-utilization levels.

The scene is set for an upbeat Semicon West event this year with North American manufacturers of semiconductor equipment continuing to post relatively strong order bookings and the semiconductor manufacturers themselves reporting high capacity-utilization levels. "The capacity utilization trends are supported both by strong semiconductor unit growth and silicon wafer shipments in the first quarter," commented Stanley T. Myers in May. Myers is president and CEO of SEMI (San Jose, CA). All this bodes well for continuing strength in the "follow on" orders to the photonics firms that supply the semiconductor processing industry with optical technologies ranging from lithography to inspection (imaging) and metrology. Many of these companies have indicated over the past few months that they too are seeing strong order recovery from this market sector.

Current products and services are only one element of the Semicon West event—new and emerging technologies are also part of the picture and they too will present business opportunities for those of us in the world of optoelectronics. Recent improvements in solid-state UV lasers, for example, may make these lasers a viable option for the scribing of semiconductor wafers for separation (see cover and p. 73). In another instance, as wafer fabs transition from 248-nm lithography to 193-nm and beyond, reticule inspection systems are adopting novel image-enhancement techniques to keep pace (see p. 92).

Semiconductor processing is not the only photonics market that's seeing stronger orders. Driven in part by increased concerns about security and defense, the demand for imaging products such as detectors and cameras is also growing—to the point where some smaller imaging companies expect to double in size through 2005. Other areas driving demand for imaging products include biophotonics (see p. 85) and remote sensing (see p. 101). And evolving techniques—such as multispectral image acquisition—are also creating new opportunities. Applying lessons learned for commercial digital color cameras to IR imaging, for instance, provides benefits that include lower-cost, smaller-size, and more-robust IR cameras (see p. 78).

Stephen G. Anderson
Associate Publisher/Editor in Chief
stevega@pennwell.com

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