The Week In Review: Manufacturing

Intel buys multi-beam firm; Intel supplier awards; RF SOI; image sensors.

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In a surprising move, Intel is quietly in the process of acquiring IMS Nanofabrication, a developer of multi-beam e-beam tools for mask writing applications, Semiconductor Engineering has learned.

With the deal, Intel is moving into uncharted territory by buying a semiconductor equipment company. In the past, though, the chip giant has invested in equipment vendors, such as ASML, Nikon and others.

Intel also views multi-beam mask writing as a critical part of the mask infrastructure. “Intel is completing its acquisition of IMS Nanofabrication, a leader in multi-beam mask writing technology based in Vienna, Austria,” according to a statement from Intel. “The technology IMS Nanofabrication is developing, multi-beam mask writing (MBMW), makes it possible to pattern finer features at high speed to enable cost-effective, advanced lithography.

“The current plan is for IMS Nanofabrication to operate as a standalone subsidiary of Intel – continuing their collaborative efforts and supporting their other industry customers,” according to Intel.

Intel, Photronics and others were early investors in IMS. In addition, Intel, DNP, Photronics and TSMC are collaborating on an effort to accelerate IMS’ multi-beam tool in the market.

IMS is also working with JEOL to develop the industry’s first multi-beam mask writers in the market. In addition, NuFlare is also developing a multi-beam e-beam system.

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Intel has announced the eight winners of the company’s most distinguished supplier recognition, the Intel Supplier Continuous Quality Improvement (SCQI) award. In addition, Intel has recognized 26 companies with its 2015 Preferred Quality Supplier (PQS) award, which celebrates exceptional performance and continuous pursuit of excellence. KLA-Tencor and Lam Research were among the award winners in this category. Lam has been recognized for its contributions in providing Intel with etch and deposition equipment.

Applied Materials announced it has been recognized as a 2016 World’s Most Ethical Company by the Ethisphere Institute.

Paul Lindner, executive technology director at EV Group, is the recipient of the 2015 European SEMI Award. Lindner was nominated and selected by his peers within the international semiconductor community in recognition of his contributions in the field of wafer processing equipment.

Front-end fab equipment spending (including new, used, and in-house) is projected to increase 3.7% in 2016 (to $37.2 billion) and another 13% in 2017 (to $42.1 billion), according to most recent edition of the SEMI World Fab Forecast. Fab equipment spending for 2015 ended almost flat ($35.9 billion), with a slight decrease of -0.4% year-over-year.

Mubadala has no plans to sell GlobalFoundries and other entities in its portfolio, according to reports.

GlobalFoundries has announced the availability of a new set of process design kits (PDKs) for its RF silicon-on-insulator (RF SOI) process. The company’s most advanced RF SOI technology, 7SW SOI, is optimized for multi-band RF switching in next-generation smartphones.

Samsung Electronics rolled out a 12-megapixel (Mp) image sensor for smartphones. Already in mass production, this 1.4μm-pixel-based image sensor is equipped with Dual Pixel technology that has been reserved for DSLR cameras. The technology enables rapid auto-focus for fast photo shooting while producing premium image quality on mobile devices, even in low light situations.

The United States has imposed sanctions on China’s ZTE, as it allegedly uncovered a scheme by ZTE to cover up the sales of equipment to Iran. Iran is currently on the U.S. embargo list. The U.S. also banned U.S. companies from selling components to ZTE. “We believe the U.S. Department of Commerce’s sanctions against ZTE will have a modest negative near-term impact to companies in our universe, but anticipate the longer-term impact could be negligible given the potential for share shifts at end customers. Ultimately there could be a resolution for the sanctions if ZTE conforms to U.S. embargos,” according to a report from Pacific Crest Securities. “We see modest near-term impacts to Cavium, Integrated Device Technology, Qualcomm, Qorvo, Skyworks Solutions, Silicon Laboratories and Xilinx.”