For many years, the used semiconductor equipment market has been an important part of the IC manufacturing supply chain. In fact, nearly all chipmakers have bought used tools over the years. Buying used equipment is a quick and relatively inexpensive way to fill a particular need in both 200mm and 300mm fabs.
After years of flying under the radar, the used IC equipment market is heating up. Today, in fact, demand for 200mm used gear is robust. There are even shortages of certain and critical used gear in the marketplace.
But buying used fab tools is a challenging process. Today, there are more than 100 entities selling used tools. By some estimates, the used tool business is roughly 10% of the overall wafer fab equipment (WFE) market. In 2017, the total WFE market reached over $50 billion so the used equipment is roughly a $5 billion business, whereas 80% of the WFE spendings was done by Asian manufacturers.
The used equipment market gained traction more than a decade ago, when many chipmakers migrated from 200mm to 300mm fabs, causing an excess of used 200mm tools to hit the open market. And as equipment companies went out of business or were acquired over the years, there was no longer support for certain types of tools, however these machines are still out there and and need to be supported in parts supply, maintenance and even software and hardware updates.
Since its establishment, SoS has been growing along with the market. Starting as the in-house service group of one of the largest used equipment traders in 2004, we matured into an organization that launched its own facility in 2008. Ever since that time we were free to develop our own businesses and from our customers we learned that the OEM support level was declining. At the same time their tool sets were aging and required more support and upgrades.
Let's take the system application software as an example. OEM support for legacy equipment software is very poor or even in most cases unavailable. It must be obvious that software development came to a stop many years ago. Furthermore, hardware components like CPU boards became obsolete. Options provided by the OEM's are like buy yourself a >20K new platform and you receive a newer CPU capable to operate a (probably already obsolete) Windows version.
We at SoS observe a different angle of approach; we have developed our own software that allows you to use the current software and paid license for on a modern PC for a fraction of the costs.
Just get in touch with us and you'll be surprised about the possibilities. From our background and experience, we know the used equipment market best and can advise the best possible tool match for your production needs.