Last week we attended the Semicon West 2016 trade show, presented by the Semiconductor Equipment and Materials Institute (SEMI) at Moscone Center in San Francisco. For several years, the show has been co-located with two other related meetings focusing on solar energy and photovoltaics: Solar 2016 and Intersolar North America. Organizers estimated that 30,000 attendees would participate in the show.

The exhibition floor covers everything one might find in a semiconductor fabrication facility or R&D lab, from vacuum tweezers for picking things up without using your bunny-suited fingers, to enormous plasma etching tools. Although not a major focus of the show, we found that lab and process instrumentation could be seen at a number of booths throughout the floor. Various forms of microscopy are the most prominent techniques, along with related tools for metrology and inspection. Spectroscopic techniques for monitoring semiconductor processes are probably the next most common type of instrumentation we saw displayed at the show.

In concert with the trade show, SEMI presented its mid-year consensus forecast for semiconductor-related capital equipment expenditures. After falling 3% in 2015, the new forecast calls for a modest expansion of 1.1% to reach $36.9 billion in 2016. However, the forecast for 2017 is considerably rosier, with expenditures estimated to grow by 11.2%. Taiwan remains the largest geographic segment, but mainland China will see some of the strongest growth in demand in the short-term, with ten new fabs and other semiconductor facilities slated for construction over the next two years.