Steppers are devices that are used for manufacturing integrated circuits (IC’s) which are similar in operation to slide projectors or photographic enlargers. Steppers comprise of an essential part in photolithography, (also known as optical lithography or UV lithography is used for micro-fabricating pattern of a thin film) which creates huge amounts of microscopic circuit elements on the surface of minute chips of silicon. Such chips comprise of the heart of the IC’s such as memory chips, and computer processors among others.
The market for semiconductor stepper systems is expected to witness a steady albeit a slow growth during the forecast period. Change in wafer sizes due to the reduction in the size of electronic devices is the major factor aiding in the growth of this market at present. Other key driving the semiconductor stepper systems market are inclusive of increasing usage of memory and logic IC’s which are widely used in computers, laptops, memory devices, storage and mobile devices and the rising markets for flip chips and advanced packaging.
Further, due to the reduction in node sizes, the semiconductor stepping systems market is witnessing the advent of semiconductor technologies which in turn, has affected the overall lithography process. Double patterning technique is a type of high resolution technique that increases the litho cost per function, thereby resulting in the increase of the overall cost of patterning. Thus, the increasing cost of litho functions is another key factor augmenting the growth of the overall semiconductor stepper systems market across the globe.
The market has been classified on the basis of application into Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS), LED Devices and Advanced Packaging. The MEMS market was the largest market for semiconductor stepping devices and is expected to retain market dominance throughout the forecast period. MEMS find wide use across automotive, consumer electronics, medical, and defense segments among others for a variety of applications. Additionally, shifting preference towards vehicle automation such as in-car infotainment systems, navigation system and anti-lock braking systems (ABS) is fuelling the demand for MEMS sensors in the automotive industry, thereby fuelling the demand for semiconductor stepper systems market in this segment.
The global semiconductor stepper systems market has been bifurcated on the basis of regions into North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa and Latin America. Asia Pacific is was and will remain the market leader for semiconductor stepper systems throughout the forecast period with the key contributors being Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. Further, large presence of semiconductor foundries in China and Taiwan among others, such the Semiconductor Manufacturing International in China and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing and United Microelectronics in Taiwan is also expected to stimulate the growth of the market during the forecast period of 2016 to 2024.
The global semiconductor stepper systems market is a consolidated market and only a handful number of players are controlling majority of the market at present. Since the semiconductor industry is prone to frequent technological changes, the manufacturers operating in this industry are engaged in extensive research and development activities in order to adopt new technologies and upgrade their systems. Further, frequent mergers and acquisitions, joint venture and partnerships, geographical expansion are some of the other key strategies adopted by these leading players to sustain in this market and to have a competitive advantage over their peers. Major players operating in the global semiconductor stepping systems market include Canon, Nikon, and ASML Holding among others. However companies like Leica Microsystems, SUSS Microtech, JEOL, Optical Associates and ZEISS also have a significant presence in the market. However, owing to significant growth potential of this market, several local players are trying to increase their presence and compete with the major players.
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