Diversifying supply chains has become one of the key strategies for reviving the global economy. The COVID-19 pandemic has had only a minor impact on the semiconductor industry, with more than 50% of the companies in the Epi wafer market expected to meet their manufacturing output goals. However, common concerns such as employee safety, volatile demand and supply, and shipping need to be addressed in order to achieve business recovery post the COVID-19 era.

Companies in the Epi wafer market are expecting re-establishment of supply chains in full capacity in the first quarter of 2021. The ongoing trade war between China and the U.S. has compelled Chinese manufacturers to pan toward Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand and Vietnam to circumvent tariffs. As such, travel restrictions and factory closures have resulted in labor shortage.

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Additive Processes Help Overcome Challenges in Micro PCB Designs

The Epi wafer market is estimated to cross a value of US$ 5.8 Bn by the end of 2030. However, micro PCB (Printed Circuit Board) challenges associated with tight space constraints result in signal loss for devices, thus inhibiting market growth. Hence, companies in the Epi wafer market are increasing their R&D capabilities in additive processes to make improvements in microelectronic designs.

The burgeoning growth of the 5G, sensors, and RF (Radio Frequency) technology sectors has been translating into value-grab opportunities for Epi wafer manufacturers. France-based company Soitec— a specialist in generating and manufacturing high performance semiconductor materials, is capitalizing growth opportunities in the 5G sector by increasing its production capacities for gallium nitride (GaN) Epi wafers. Next-gen GaN Epi wafers are deploying innovations at device level to meet the demanding applications in cellular networks as well as the consumer power supplies segment.

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GaN or GaAs: Which is Better for LED Devices?

Apart from microelectronics, manufacturers in the Epi wafer market are tapping into incremental opportunities in the optoelectronics sector. Innovative LED (Light Emitting Diode) devices and VCSEL (vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser) products are helping the global Epi wafer market to mature at a favorable CAGR of ~6% during the forecast period. Disruptive non-silicon-based More than Moore devices are helping manufacturers gain competitive in the market landscape.

The market for Epi wafers is transitioning from GaN materials to GaAs (Gallium Arsenide) substrates in the LED devices domain. As such, GaN materials dictate the lion’s share of most LED devices. Manufacturers are diverting toward bespoke UV and IR (Infra-Red) LEDs with the help of GaAs substrates. They are increasing their output capabilities for consumer displays, miniLEDs, and microLEDs. For instance, Apple is anticipated to take the forefront in miroLED application with its awaited high-end 2021 smartwatch model.

Military-funded Research Initiatives Grab Attention of Epi Wafer Manufacturers

Strategic partnership between the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and Arms Company— a provider of chips and device architectures, has become an important reference point for Epi wafer manufacturers, owing to the agreement’s Electronics Resurgence Initiative. Companies in the Epi wafer market are expanding their business in the military and defense sector, since military organizations are funding research projects that involve semicon companies. This trend is prominent in the microelectronics sector where Epi wafer manufacturers are also receiving financial incentives.

Companies in the Epi wafer market are seeking military academy think tanks that help to steer innovations in UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) and robots. These vehicles and robots play a pivotal role in offensive and defensive tactics during conflicts. As such, semicon companies are increasing their production capabilities in wireless devices for defense applications. Since the spectral environment is highly dynamic, manufacturers are addressing the challenges to optimize radiofrequency signal flows.

U.K. Optical Communications Technology Industry Holds Lucrative Revenue Opportunities

Investments in R&D and innovations have become an important prerequisite for companies in the Epi wafer market. For instance, HiSilicon— a Chinese fabless semiconductor company based in Shenzhen, is offering its 25G colored optical modules to scale its business in optoelectronics. On the other hand, manufacturers in the Epi wafer market are increasing efforts to meet demands in 5G wireless communications, owing to the availability of enhanced mobile broadband and massive machine type communication (mMTC).

Optoelectronics has become one of the key technologies for fiber optic communication systems. Hence, Huawei— a leading telecommunications equipment company, has announced to build an optoelectronics R&D site in Cambridge, U.K., to scale its business in consumer devices. Telecom companies are collaborating with research institutes to support the U.K.’s optical communications technology industry.

InP and InAs Materials Aid in Development of High Performance Optoelectronic Devices

The growing startup culture is bolstering the growth of the Epi wafer market. Apart from GaN and GaAs, startups are utilizing indium phosphide (InP) and indium arsenide (InAs) materials to develop high performance optoelectronic devices. For instance, the U.S.-based startup Duet Microelectronics is harnessing the advantages of InP and InAs such as high electron mobility and low exciton binding energy to develop high performance optoelectronic devices. Increasing number of startups is developing microelectronics solutions for telecom companies to optimize 5G wireless technologies.

Microelectronics startups are scaling their business in III-V semiconductors and its related process technologies to innovate in next-gen devices. The III-V semiconductors are being highly publicized for reducing costs for telecom network operators. The concept of microelectronics failure analytics is gaining popularity in the market landscape. Micro-imaging instruments are being used to analyze potential failures in microelectronics.

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