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TrendForce 2024: Riding the Wave of Revolutionary Tech Trends

TrendForce’s Tech Forecast for 2024! Dive into major trends: 1. AI-driven growth in server shipments 2. HBM3 revenue boost 3. Advanced chip packaging 4. Broadened NTN applications 5. Rise of 6G with satellite comms ... and more!

In a recent announcement, TrendForce details the major trends that are expected to take place across various segments in the tech industry in 2024, as follows:

CSPs increase AI investment, driving a 38% growth in AI server shipments by 2024

Major CSPs such as Microsoft, Google, and AWS are ramping up their investments in AI in light of the growing popularity of ChatBOTs, generative AI, and other applications, boosting demand for AI servers. TrendForce estimates that shipments of AI servers (including those equipped with GPUs, FPGAs, and ASICs) will exceed 1.2 million units in 2023—a YoY increase of 37.7%—making up nearly 9% of total server shipments. This number is expected to grow 38% in 2024 with AI occupying a share of 12%.

Beyond NVIDIA and AMD’s GPU solutions, major CSPs have been leaning toward developing their own ASIC chips. Google, for instance, has been accelerating the introduction of its custom TPU into AI servers since 2H23, with an annual growth rate exceeding 70%. AWS intends to adopt more of its custom ASICs in 2024, and shipment volume is expected to double. Others, like Microsoft and Meta, are also planning to expand their self-developed ASIC solutions, which may eat into the growth potential of GPUs. In summary, demand for AI servers is expected to grow in 2023–2024, mainly driven by aggressive investments from CSPs. It’s expected that after 2024, more companies from application sectors will delve into developing specialized AI models and software servers, promoting the growth of edge AI servers equipped with mid-to-low-end GPUs (such as the L40S series) or FPGAs. The expected average annual growth rate for edge AI server shipments from 2023 to 2026 will exceed 20%.

HBM3e set to drive an annual increase of 172% in HBM revenue

Demand for AI accelerator chips grows following the construction of AI servers. HBM stands out as a critical DRAM product for these accelerator chips. In terms of specs, aside from the current mainstream HBM2e, the proportion of demand reserved for HBM3 has also increased this year with the mass production of NVIDIA’s H100/H800 and AMD’s MI300 series. Looking ahead to 2024, the three major memory suppliers will further introduce HBM3e—boosting speeds to 8 Gbps—and ensure even better performance for AI accelerator chips in 2024–2025.

In the AI accelerator chip market, beyond leading server GPU manufacturers like NVIDIA and AMD, CSPs are also accelerating their steps in developing proprietary AI chips—a common feature being HBM integration. With the growing complexity of training models and applications, demand for HBM is expected to skyrocket. It’s projected that in 2024, HBM will make a significant contribution to memory suppliers’ revenues given that the average unit price of HBM is several times higher than other DRAM products, for an annual growth rate of 172%.

AI chips: Rising demand for advanced packaging in 2024, emergence of 3D IC technology

Industry leaders like TSMC, Samsung, and Intel are not only exploring significant changes to transistor architecture but also recognizing the vital role of packaging technology, especially as semiconductor front-end manufacturing processes approach physical limits. Advanced packaging is becoming essential for improving chip performance, conserving hardware space, reducing power consumption, and minimizing latency. Both TSMC and Samsung have taken steps to establish 3D IC research centers in Japan, highlighting the critical role of packaging in the evolution of semiconductor technology.

In recent years, the rise of ChatBOTs has fueled robust growth in AI applications, significantly increasing the demand for 2.5D packaging technology that enhances AI computational power by integrating computing chips and memory. 2.5D packaging primarily employs a silicon interposer layer created during the front-end manufacturing process to integrate multiple chips of varying functions and manufacturing processes side by side before combining them with a PCB substrate to complete the packaging. In fact, several 2.5D packaging solutions, including TSMC’s CoWoS, Intel’s EMIB, and Samsung’s I-Cube, have been seen in development for years. These technologies have now reached a level of maturity and are widely utilized in high-performance chips. By 2024, suppliers are set to focus on ramping up 2.5D packaging capacity to meet the rising demand for high computational power in applications like AI.

Meanwhile, the emergence of 3D packaging technology is also on the horizon. Solutions such as TSMC’s SoIC, Samsung’s X-Cube, and Intel’s Foveros have been successively announced. Unlike 2.5D packaging, which uses a silicon interposer layer, 3D packaging directly connects chips with different functions using TSVs. This eliminates the need for a silicon interposer layer, reducing package height, shortening the data paths between chips, and increasing computational speed. In addition to breakthroughs in packaging technology, the methods and even the materials used for interconnecting chips will be a focus of technological development. Effective integration of chips with varying functions and manufacturing processes is essential to meet the requirements for high computational power, low latency, and energy efficiency in applications such as AI and autonomous vehicles.

In 2024, the global initiation of NTN is set to begin with small-scale commercial tests, paving the way for broader applications of this technology

Collaboration has flourished among satellite operators, major semiconductor firms, telecom operators, and smartphone makers with the steady increase in satellite deployments by global operators Starlink and OneWeb, along with 3GPP’s Release 17 and 18 guidelines for 5G’s New Radio development in NTNs. These partnerships have culminated in preliminary validations of NTN scenarios. Currently, the focus of NTNs is predominantly on mobile satellite communication applications, where the user equipment (UE) interfaces directly with satellites for bidirectional data transmission tests under specific conditions.

Looking ahead to 2024, major semiconductor manufacturers are ramping up their efforts in satellite communication chips. This surge is expected to prompt leading smartphone makers to integrate satellite communication functionalities into their high-end phones using the SoC model. With consistent demand for high-end smartphones among certain user segments, the stage is set for small-scale commercial testing of NTN networks. This development is poised to be a significant driver in the widespread adoption of NTN applications in 2024. From a long-term perspective on mobile satellite communications, ISL communication technologies hold promise; they enable data transmission between low-orbit satellites and simultaneous relays to large-scale cross-regional user devices, thereby aligning with the vision of achieving low latency 6G communication on a global scale.

Planning for 6G communication to begin in 2024, with satellite communication taking center stage

The standardization process for 6G is set to commence between 2024 and 2025, with the introduction of the first standard technologies anticipated around 2027 to 2028. As breakthroughs in 6G key technologies evolve, the scope extends beyond just integrating ultra-wideband receivers and transmitters. The seamless integration of terrestrial and non-terrestrial networks—and innovations introduced through AI and machine learning—will be at the forefront. 6G is expected to usher in an array of novel technological applications. These include the use of Reconfigurable Intelligent Surfaces (RIS), terahertz frequency bands, Optical Wireless Communication (OWC), NTNs for high-altitude communication applications, and more immersive Extended Reality (XR) sensory experiences. Through these advancements, 6G aims to deliver revolutionary applications like holographic projections, tactile communications, and digital twins.

Low-orbit satellites will progressively support 6G communications as the standards for 6G technology progressively solidify. It’s predicted that global deployments of low-orbit satellites will peak around the commercialization of 6G. Furthermore, the demand for drones utilized in 6G communication and environmental sensing is projected to see a significant rise in the era of 6G.

Innovative entrants drive cost optimization for Micro LED technology in 2024

2023 is a pivotal year for the mass production of Micro LED display technology, and the primary task ahead is to address persistently high costs. When it comes to developing chips, miniaturization efforts have taken center stage; the current mainstream chip size of 34x58 µm for large displays is poised to be superseded by 20x40 µm, and even smaller dimensions such as 16x27 µm. It is projected that merely through chip downsizing, the cost reduction achievable for Micro LED chips over the next four years will be at least 20–25% annually. Transfer processes are the heart of Micro LED manufacturing. While stamping offers stability, lasers are favored for their speed (unit per hour, UPH). As the industry gears up for mass production, there’s a heightened focus on striking an optimal balance between efficiency and yield. Combining the stamp method with laser bonding in a hybrid transfer approach has gained significant attention. This cold processing technique effectively addresses the challenges of pressure and temperature encountered in the stamp’s thermal bonding, making it a highly anticipated production model.

The market for micro-projection displays in transparent AR lenses is a field where Micro LED holds tremendous potential. Given the stringent requirements for an ultra-high PPI, the size must be constrained to 5 µm or even smaller, which makes the challenge of diminished chip EQE even more daunting. While using a combination of red, blue, and green LEDs might seem straightforward, the low efficiency of red lights poses a significant obstacle. Opting for blue LEDs combined with quantum dot materials for color conversion effectively sidesteps this challenge, but it introduces other issues related to additional manufacturing steps and the lifespan of materials.

Innovative startups are eschewing traditional approaches, with solutions like InGan-based red LEDs and vertically stacked RGB LEDs garnering significant attention. While it’s still difficult to ascertain which technological path will emerge as the dominant trend, the current landscape of having a myriad of competing solutions will likely hasten the discovery of the most optimal one. Enhancements in components, process optimizations, and a variety of solutions all point to a vibrant future. Driven by the lure of mass production and diversified applications, more manufacturers are expected to venture into this domain in 2024, not only strengthening the supply chain but also further refining the cost structure of Micro LED.

Intensifying competition in AR/VR micro-display technologies

Driven by increasing demand for AR/VR headsets, the need for near-eye displays with ultra-high PPI is on the rise, with Micro OLED being a leading technology in this space. While there are only a few AR/VR devices currently employing Micro OLED displays, this could change as key brands begin to adopt them, potentially leading to a broader market presence for Micro OLEDs. Future trends lean toward personalized displays, with miniaturization taking shape. This evolution hinges on the integration of semiconductor processes with display technologies. Concurrently, other micro-display technologies, like Micro LED, are also under active development.

Currently, Micro OLED displays are the epitome of combining semiconductor processes with AMOLED deposition techniques. For Micro OLED panel makers, securing stable wafer foundry resources is crucial. Both new and established players are realigning their industry resources, and there’s an ongoing shift from current white light OLED technology toward RGB OLED technology. However, Micro OLED displays do have their challenges, such as brightness and limitations to luminous efficiency. Their potential to dominate the head-mounted display market will largely depend on the progression of various micro-display technologies.

Advancements in material and component technologies are propelling the commercialization of gallium oxide

The rise of applications requiring high voltage, high temperature, and high frequency continues to grow, and gallium oxide (Ga₂O₃) is emerging as a strong contender for next-generation power semiconductor devices. This is especially true in sectors like electric vehicles, electrical grid systems, and aerospace. Compared to vapor-phase-grown silicon carbide and gallium nitride, gallium oxide crystals can be produced using melt growth methods similar to those used for silicon crystals. This offers greater potential for cost reduction. Currently, the industry has realized the mass production of 4-inch gallium oxide mono-crystals, with aspirations to expand to 6-inch in the coming years. Concurrently, there have been significant advancements in structural design and fabrication processes for Schottky diodes and transistors based on gallium oxide materials. The first batch of Schottky diode products is expected to hit the market by 2024, potentially becoming the first commercially scaled gallium oxide power components. While gallium oxide still faces challenges, such as poor thermal conductivity and the absence of P-type doping, it's anticipated that with the engagement of major players in the power semiconductor industry and the pull of key applications, commercialization is just around the corner.

The EV battery industry is on the brink of ushering in a new era of battery technology, with solid-state batteries poised to reshape the industry landscape over the next decade

As the EV battery industry enters the era of TWh manufacturing, the demand for batteries with better safety and energy density has become increasingly pronounced. However, current mainstream EV battery technologies are nearing the limits of energy density capabilities, and existing material systems are no longer sufficient to meet the market’s rising demand for both energy density and safety. New breakthroughs are imminent as major automakers and battery manufacturers accelerate their investment and research in next-gen battery technologies. Solid-state batteries, which offer higher energy density and improved safety, have become a focal point for corporate R&D efforts. The industry has delved deeper into practical applications and exploration, including semi-solid-state technologies like colloidal-state batteries. The development and commercial application of these technologies is expected to speed up the EV battery industry’s entry into a new cycle of technological iteration by 2024, exerting a significant impact on the industry landscape over the next decade.

While Li-ion batteries have established their prominence in the EV sector, the diversity of vehicle types and varied use cases means that alternative battery technologies still have their specialized niches. Sodium-ion batteries, for instance, offer a cost advantage due to the abundant and evenly distributed reserves of sodium. However, their lower energy density makes them suitable for more budget-friendly EVs that don’t require extensive driving range. Currently, Chinese battery manufacturers are actively working to commercialize this technology.

Hydrogen fuel cells tout several advantages such as zero emissions, long driving range, quick refueling, and the ability to support cold starts. They are primarily targeted for use in heavy-duty commercial vehicles. However, hydrogen fuel cells face challenges such as low energy conversion efficiency, high costs for hydrogen production and storage, and controversial production process of hydrogen. Due to the industry’s relative lack of maturity, the market currently has only a limited selection of passenger and commercial vehicles that utilize this technology. Widespread commercial adoption in long-range heavy-duty trucks is anticipated to occur after 2025.

Enhancing power conversion efficiency, driving range, and charging efficiency will be the three primary focuses for BEVs in 2024

SiC chips, which boast low-loss advantages, are pivotal components in elevating BEV energy conversion rates. By 2024, the production capacity of 8-inch SiC wafers is expected to gradually ramp up. However, yield rates still need improvement, and the majority of the capacity is already reserved by downstream manufacturers. This means there’s limited potential for a reduction in chip costs. With an emphasis on reducing chip size, there will be an increased focus on R&D investments in Trench technology.

NCM and LFP remain the top choices for automakers when it comes to driving range. The primary goals are to optimize battery pack structures through adjusting material ratios to increase energy density, and therefore extending driving range. Solid-state batteries, known for their high energy density, are anticipated to begin limited installations in vehicles as semi-solid batteries in 2H23. 2024 is a critical time to observe the commercialization of these state batteries. There will also be a noticeable increase in vehicles based on the 800V platform in an effort to reduce charging times. These vehicles can support high-power fast charging of over 360 kW, leading to a surge in the construction of high-power charging stations. Moreover, progress in wireless charging is accelerating. The US has introduced legislation to support wireless charging for EVs, and Michigan is set to unveil a 1.6 km wireless charging highway. The diversification in charging methods can potentially alleviate range anxiety among EV owners.

Furthermore, the burgeoning field of AI is propelling EVs toward advanced autonomous driving. In the development of autonomous driving systems, reliability is a key determinant for market readiness. AI plays a vital role in enhancing efficiency, including assisting in the classification and labeling of vast amounts of images, as well as simulating scenarios. With competitors quickly advancing in intelligent driving, Tesla’s Dojo supercomputer has announced its plans for mass production. They aim to invest US$1 billion in neural network training with Dojo in 2024. Introducing a more advanced autonomous driving system and setting an affordable price point will be Tesla’s strategy to maintain its stronghold in the world of intelligent driving.

The global push for green solutions intensifies, with AI simulations emerging as a linchpin for renewable energy and decarbonized manufacturing

The IEA predicts that by 2024, global renewable energy generation is expected to reach a staggering 4,500 GW—nearly on par with fossil fuels. This surge is primarily attributed to strengthened policy advocacy, rising fossil fuel prices, and war-induced energy crises. To ensure stable energy generation from renewable sources, peripheral systems like electrical grids, energy storage, and management just inevitably adopt AI-driven smart technologies to increase buffering capacity and accuracy.

Take a smart power grid for example: Supervised learning optimizes power input and output, unsupervised learning improves the quality of data captured, and tools like load forecasting and stability assessments enhance overall efficiency. These are pivotal to the advancement of green energy technologies in 2024. Furthermore, in 2024, the focus of smart manufacturing and energy management will be on optimizing energy consumption in drive systems, creating a fully interconnected data ecosystem, and visualizing energy flow and consumption. Leveraging the integration of virtual and physical systems through Dynamic Digital Twins, the goal is to transform data from carbon-centric to environmentally friendly flows, which can then be converted into financial benefits. Additionally, emerging technologies like generative AI and 3D printing have the potential to expedite design and production modeling phases, thereby reducing resource waste and showing significant future potential. Given the increasing focus on sustainability across various sectors, organizations must first understand their own carbon emissions and footprint. Consequently, carbon auditing tools are becoming a priority for major CSPs, and continue to leverage AI and machine learning to optimize carbon emissions.

Foldable phones lead innovation trends: Commercialization of new technology and materials to drive the OLED industry’s expansion across various applications

As OLED folding phones continue to innovate and successfully capture market attention, newly launched foldable phones are making substantial improvements based on consumer expectations. For example, the use of lightweight composite materials for the door panel and screen support plate, a teardrop-shaped hinge structure that effectively reduces the number of components, and even replacing the hinge backbone with a shell cover plate, are all contributing to a form factor approaching the thickness and weight of traditional slab smartphones. As the market penetration of folding phones gradually increases, it's not only important to continue technological advancements but also to effectively reduce costs, ensuring profitability as the products become more widespread in the market.

As OLED technology increasingly penetrates the smartphone market, the IT sector is emerging as the next critical battleground for OLED development. To further expand their footprint in the existing IT market, several key moves are being made by industry players. Apart from Samsung, which has already announced its investment plan for a new G8.7 factory, BOE Technology's planned B16 plant, JDI’s continued plans to focus on the development of new eLEAP technology, and Visionox's aggressive push into OLED-related technologies and markets, are all noteworthy. These initiatives by panel makers are not solely aimed at meeting Apple's demand for medium-sized applications but also serve as a catalyst for OLED panels to venture into other application markets. It is anticipated that by 2025, the introduction of new technologies will overcome the size limitations of current FMM and evaporation equipment. Coupled with the commercialization of longer-lasting materials and the successful mass production from next-gen production lines, these developments are expected to significantly boost the market penetration rate of OLED technology across various applications.

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