With the economy in the doldrums, 2003 was tough on contamination control businesses. With no visible sign that the semiconductor industry was ready for a comeback, there was little done to expand facilities or move toward 300mm operations. And almost all the action that did occur, took place in Southeast Asia. The only bright spot was the slowly increasing bio/pharmaceutical marketplace. But there are signs that things might be turning around in the next year. Statistics from the McIlvaine Company, a market research firm, indicate that while cleanroom revenues came in at $4 billion in 2000, the market since then has dropped more than 25%. “For an industry accustomed to double-digit growth, this has been a huge adjustment,” comments McIlvaine. However, the future is starting to have an optimistic glow. Worldwide sales of cleanroom hardware this year will rise to $3.8 billion from $3.4 billion in 2002, and in 2004, revenues will increase another $600 million to $4.4 billion. By 2007 cleanroom hardware sales will be in excess of $6 billion. As McIlvaine points out, cleanroom requirements are a function of product quantity and do not necessarily follow revenues. And while the 300mm fabs were temporarily placed on hold, McIlvaine anticipates that at least 10 new 300mm fabs either have already started construction or will start construction in the next year.
Also forecasted to bounce back are ultra-pure water systems ($2.2 billion in 2004), and the sale of air filters at a rate of 8 % per year over the next four years, rising to $6.2 billion in 2007, with McIlvaine’s ranking (in decreasing order) of where the money will be spent is: semiconductors, pharmaceuticals, disk drives, flat panel displays, other electronics, medical devices, food, hospital, and aerospace.
Another cross-discipline technology where the growth looks excellent is industrial, specialty, and medical gases. Wherever gases are used, there are gas purity measurement and contamination control issues. Semiconductor manufacturing is demanding higher and higher purity (sometimes in parts-per-trillion) as microcircuit feature size decreases. Also, the call for medical gas purity is being driven by new biotechnology advancements.
Business Communications Company (BCCI), in its latest report, “The World Industrial Gas Business,” forecasts that the industrial gas market will increase 7.8% annually between 2003 and 2008, reaching $51 billion. Medical and semiconductor usage will play a large part in this expansion, BCCI points out. For example, Linde, the international gas supplier, has expanded its $500 million health care market sales with its inhaled nitric oxide (INO) technology used to treat newborn babies with breathing disorders.
In all, A2C2 is looking positively on the market for cleanrooms, supplies, instrumentation, and services based on these and similar forecasts. Even if the gain is minimal over the next quarter or two, “Up is Better than Down.”
The McIlvaine Company, 191 Waukegan Road – Suite 208, Northfield, IL 60093 can be reached at 847-784-0012. BCCI, 25 Van Zant Street, Norwalk, CT, can be reached at 203-853-4266.