Semiconductor equipment sales reached a record breaking high in 2006 according to a new report, bringing in the highest revenues since the technology boom at the turn of the century.

Worldwide sales of chip making equipment hit $40.47 billion in 2006, representing a 23 percent increase over the previous year, according to the Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International.

The worldwide semiconductor equipment industry resumed strong growth in 2006 as the robust memory chip market and continued transition to 300mm wafers fueled sales of manufacturing technology, said Stanley T. Myers, president and CEO of SEMI. With double-digit gains in all market regions, the equipment industry posted annual sales second only to the extraordinary levels in 2000.

For the third year in a row, the Japan market region spent the most on semiconductor equipment, growing almost 13 percent over 2005 to reach $9.20 billion. North America claimed the second place, spending $7.32 billion, with Taiwan and S. Korea with spending of $7.31 billion and $7.01 billion respectively.

The China market region grew the most in 2006, rising over 74 percent to US$2.3 billion

The equipment market in Europe increased 10 percent, the organization said.