Microelectronics market demands increasingly pure water – a boon for the water treatment equipment market

Despite a recent decline in the sales of microchips, which might have been expected to produce a knock-on effect for companies supplying the industry, the market for water treatment equipment is booming, with sales to the microelectronics industry expected to grow from US$54 million (£39 million) in 2001 to US$73 million (£53 million) in 2007.

According to a new report by international marketing consultancy company, Frost and Sullivan, the principal force driving the water and wastewater treatment market in the microelectronics industry is the continuous need for customers to increase efficiency levels and to improve water treatment processes.

“The purity of water used during the microelectronics manufacturing process is of paramount importance,” said Saana Karki, Research Analyst at Frost and Sullivan. “Also, safe wastewater discharge requirements are intensifying. Demand for on-site treatment facilities is likely to persist and rise to a level of extreme sophistication.”

However, the downturn in the microchip market also means that customers will develop a more cautious purchasing policy, resulting not only in demands for better technology, but also for a better level of customer care, says Frost and Sullivan. “The current supply appraisals are undermined by various problems with the service level,” said Karki. “In stark comparison to the product-related strength, all identified weaknesses involve a service-related criticism: after sales service, insufficient service capacities, delivery failures, product training and prices. While these shortcomings are a concern to the current suppliers, they provide an essential and interesting analysis for future supply trends.”

Within Europe, Germany, the UK, Ireland and France are the leading regional customers for water and wastewater treatment equipment in the microelectronics sector, accounting for 73% of the total revenue. Within these regions, the dominant players in the market are Pall, Millipore, Christ and Philipp Müller H+E, says the Frost and Sullivan report. “It is of interest to note that the list includes a mixture of specialists and original equipment manufacturers as well as process contractors and complete service providers,” added Karki. “This indicates the head start these various types of strategists enjoy to accurately address the customer’s requirements and successfully conquer the market.”

Recently, scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the US announced that they had invented a new technology for the manufacture of computer chips that, they predict, will all but eliminate the use of hazardous corrosives and the production of wastewater (see related story).

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