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IC analysis labs upbeat about 2H22

Taiwan's IC analysis and inspection labs are optimistic about better performance in the second half of 2022 than the first half, bolstered by increasing wafer material analysis (MA) demand by foundry houses and reliability analysis (RA) for advanced chips packaging, as well as mounting penetration of 5G and Wi-Fi 6/6E technologies in midrange handsets, notebooks and CPE (customer premise equipment), according to industry sources.

Materials Analysis Technology (MA-tek), Sporton International, BTL and other peers with labs in Shanghai and other eastern Chinese cities saw their operations notably affected by COVID lockdowns there in April-May, the sources said, but their deferred shipments will be fully delivered in the months ahead thanks to operations gradually returning to normal as the cities are reopened.

MA-tek, for instance, said its Shanghai lab staff will be working overtime to fulfill deferred April-May orders, expecting its revenue performance to rise substantially in the second half of the year.

MA-tek and many local peers also including Integrated Service Technology (iST), Masscorps and Audix are all moving to expand their capacities in Taiwan to better support continuous R&D projects at clients for AI, HPC and automotive applications, and third-generation III-V semiconductors, industry sources noted.

These labs are also making early deployments in B5G (beyond 5G) applications, where semiconductor content and complexity will increase significantly, further driving demand for IC analysis and inspection services, the sources said.

Huge R&D investments at major foundry houses, OSATs and IC designers present the clearest growth momentum for the labs, the sources continued, and an increasing number of international semiconductor players coming to set up or expand presence in Taiwan further bolsters their operations.

Some major Taiwanese vendors of display driver ICs (DDIs) for consumer applications are stepping up R&D on automotive DDIs, which require much stricter analysis and testing services, promising stable growth momentum for related labs.

The growing penetration of 5G and Wi-Fi 6/6E technologies is another growth driver for Sporton and other labs focusing on wireless communications applications. Sporton has clinched deals with clients in Japan and Europe to jointly develop next-generation communication specs and strengthen AI and information security capabilities needed in B5G applications, the sources disclosed.

Sporton, with China market contributing only 20% of its revenues, has been less affected by lockdowns there, and its labs in Taiwan remain busy fulfilling orders from a variety of device segments such as handsets, notebooks, cars, drones, robots, VR/AR, edging computing devices, and datacenters. Its order visibility for mmWave RF2 devices is already clear into 2023.

BTL is set to commercialize its new EMC, RF, and customized Wi-Fi throughput inspection facilities in Taiwan and China in the second half of 2022, looking to better fulfill orders visible through the fourth quarter of the year.