As the rapid acceleration of technological advancements reshapes industries worldwide, the semiconductor sector is powering innovation across a broad array of industries including everything from artificial intelligence and 5G infrastructure to renewable energy and the electric vehicle revolution.
Operating in the heart of this transformative landscape, Axcelis Technologies designs, manufactures, and services ion implantation and other processing equipment used in the fabrication of semiconductor chips. By embedding ions or charged particles into a material like silicon, ion implantation allows for greater precision, flexibility, and control in altering the properties of semiconductors. These devices form critical components in a variety of high-growth markets. The company’s goal is to help semiconductor manufacturers achieve the highest quality and yield, with the lowest cost of ownership.
Spanning the globe, Axcelis’s broad customer base encompasses many of the world’s leading semiconductor manufacturers. And with a burgeoning demand for high-performance semiconductors and the surge in AI-driven technology, Axcelis finds itself in a period of significant growth. As more industries incorporate advanced technologies into their operations, the need for the innovative products and solutions Axcelis offers continues to surge.
The company’s strategy is centered around strengthening its competitive edge through ongoing R&D investment and strategic partnerships to retain its competitive edge, and ultimately providing innovative, top-tier equipment to keep pace with the rapidly evolving market needs.
Complement its hardware offerings, Axcelis also maintains a comprehensive customer service model designed to tackle the intricate challenges presented by the dynamic semiconductor sector; as it remains steadfast in bolstering its technological capabilities, identifying new growth opportunities in emerging markets, and expanding its market share.
Axcelis Technologies was founded in 1995 and initially carved its niche in the market through the production and servicing of ion implantation equipment. In 2000, Axcelis went public after Eaton Corporation spun off its semiconductor manufacturing equipment business.
Axcelis then expanded its product line beyond ion implantation tools launching new products such as the Purion series of implanters, which soon became renowned for their precision and flexibility. By 2005, Axcelis had broadened its reach to customers worldwide, with its equipment being used in more than 40 countries. As part of its international expansion, the company also established several service and support centers across North America, Europe, and Asia, making it easier to accommodate its diverse, global clientele.
The company continued to diversify its portfolio and began to focus more heavily on customer support, establishing a comprehensive service model to complement its product offerings.
As it continues to push the boundaries of technology, the company’s enduring commitment to quality, precision, and customer service has helped maintain its role as a key player in the rapidly evolving semiconductor industry.
After serving the company in various executive roles since 2016, Dr. Russell Low was appointed Axcelis president and chief executive officer in May 2023. Low brings a unique blend of technical and leadership skills gained over decades in the semiconductor and solar capital equipment industries with a range of companies including Veeco Instruments, Varian Semiconductor Equipment Associates, and Applied Materials Inc. His expertise in implanter platform technology, including ion source and dosimetry systems has been instrumental in the company’s growth. Low is a recognized leader in the semiconductor equipment market and also has 44 U.S. patents over multiple categories and has authored over 20 refereed papers.
Low is joined by executive VP and chief financial officer, Kevin J. Brewer, who in addition to driving operational efficiencies, improving financial performance, and increasing the company’s pace of profitable growth, also oversees manufacturing, supply chain, and logistics at Axcelis. Brewer also brings many years of experience from other senior operations and strategic planning roles both with Axcelis and Raytheon Aircraft Company.
Axcelis’s offering covers a broad range of equipment designed to enable the fabrication of high-performance semiconductor chips. These tools, particularly their ion implantation devices, provide the necessary technology for sectors including computing, telecommunications, renewable energy, and automotive manufacturing.
Axcelis’ flagship product line is the Purion series of ion implanters, lauded for their precision and adaptability. The Purion H is a high current implanter providing best-in-class reliability and productivity, while the Purion XE high energy implanter offers precision performance with versatile wafer handling. The most recent addition to the family, the Purion Dragon, integrates high-current and high-energy capabilities to deliver superior process flexibility.
The company also provides a comprehensive range of support equipment for the Purion platform and other product lines, including the IntelliGen and Optima series of products. This suite of technology focuses on aspects like high-dose implantation, photoresist removal, and thermal processing, offering customers a one-stop solution for their semiconductor manufacturing needs.
In addition to hardware, Axcelis provides technical support and equipment training, as well as parts supply and equipment refurbishment, to ensure that customers can maximize the effectiveness and longevity of their investments.
This expansive product portfolio serves a diverse array of customers globally. Axcelis’ clients primarily consist of leading semiconductor manufacturers, ranging from small, specialized chipmakers to multinational corporations. The types of products made using Axcelis’ tools are equally varied, from processors for smartphones and data centers to memory chips for various electronic devices.
The advanced capabilities of Axcelis’ equipment also make them highly suitable for more specialized sectors such as artificial intelligence applications, high-speed 5G networking equipment, and electric vehicle technology.
The robustness, versatility, and scalability of Axcelis’ product offerings, combined with its extensive customer service model, cater to a wide spectrum of customer needs and sizes.
Already looking set to achieve its ambitious target to surpass the $1.0 billion revenue model in 2023, Axcelis is working towards achieving $1.3 billion in ion implant revenue within the next two to three years, by strategically utilizing its comprehensive product suite and innovative approaches to penetrate new markets and strengthen its presence in existing ones. The company has identified key market segments and geographies, where it aims to expand the reach of its Purion series. This product line has redefined the ion implantation process in semiconductor manufacturing, marking major breakthroughs in areas like power devices and image sensors, which are highly implant-intensive devices.
Capitalizing on the robust growth in mature process technology, Axcelis plans to benefit from increased spending in this sector, particularly from power device customers. The company is also focusing on securing high-value memory business and penetrating the operations of leading-edge logic and foundry customers.
Axcelis’s “Customer Solutions & Innovation” initiative aims to consistently deliver customer satisfaction through innovative, high-value products and services. The initiative is projected to contribute to about 25% of total revenues, while also helping boost Axcelis corporate gross margins through supply chain optimization, the incorporation of lean manufacturing, and excellence in sales. In addition, low-cost sourcing is aimed at capturing additional material savings, while the plan to ship a higher mix of its flagship Purion series is expected to streamline operations and enhance profitability.
Significant investments in R&D and in particular, AI, are keeping Axcelis on the cutting edge of the rapidly evolving semiconductor industry. As AI applications continue to grow in complexity and demand, a focus on high-precision, high-performance tools are helping to facilitate the evolution of AI by enabling the production of powerful, efficient semiconductor chips. Furthermore, the company is integrating augmented reality and artificial intelligence into its own operations, a move that is expected to elevate efficiency and reduce waste.
As the only company with a complete family of implant products and strong technical differentiation, Axcelis appears extremely well positioned to benefit from mature process technology spending, which has already seen the total addressable market for ion implants more than double in the last few years.
Axcelis has been riding a significant wave of revenue growth, culminating in a record-breaking $920 million in 2022, a nearly 40% leap from the preceding year. This soaring performance was driven in large part by a substantial 52% increase in systems revenue and strong growth of the Purion Power Series product line thanks to demand in the power device market segment.
Axcelis’s gross margin also increased to a record 43.7% in 2022, as the company posted a record operating profit of $212.4 million, a 67% year-over-year increase. While net income of $183.1 million was also an 86% leap from the previous year.
Revenue of $254.0 million in the first quarter of 2023, represented a more tempered 24% year-over-year improvement, however, the company also managed to secure a record systems backlog of $1.27 billion. This has it well on track for its full-year revenue expectation at $1.03 billion, virtually matching consensus expectations at $1.04 billion, for year-over-year growth of a modest 12%. Analysts are also expecting full-year earnings per share to continue on a strong trajectory of double-digit year-over-year growth, coming in at $6.53 for FY23 for an almost 20% improvement on 2022.
In the area of ion implantation, Axcelis mainly compete against the giant Applied Materials Inc. With Axcelis and Applied Materials as the only ion implant manufacturers possessing a comprehensive range of implant products and global service capabilities, they hold a particular advantage in this niche sector. Furthermore, Axcelis benefits from a robust patent portfolio, a dedicated team of scientists and engineers, and the innovative Purion series which has revolutionized the ion implantation process.
However, non-U.S. suppliers, particularly those in China, could pose a challenge due to newly established U.S. export control regulations favoring local suppliers. These non-U.S. players across Asia include Sumitomo Heavy Industries Ion Technology, Nissin Ion Equipment, Advanced Ion Beam Technology, as well as CETC Electronics Equipment Group.
Leveraging its unique expertise in ion implantation, with innovative, high-quality, and cost-effective solutions that are molding the future of semiconductor manufacturing, Axcelis is capitalizing on the ever-increasing demand for high-performance semiconductors being driven by advancements in AI and other industries incorporating advanced technologies into their operations.