The Week In Review: Manufacturing

28nm AI; China fab; memory doldrums.

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Chipmakers
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has purchased a brain-inspired supercomputing platform for deep learning developed by IBM Research. LLNL will receive a 16-chip TrueNorth system from IBM. A single TrueNorth processor from IBM consists of 5.4 billion transistors wired together to create an array of 1 million digital neurons. The chip is fabricated based on a 28nm LPP process from Samsung, according to officials from IBM, who said the device is not using 28nm FD-SOI.

As expected, TSMC has announced that the company and the municipal government of Nanjing, China have signed an investment agreement. This agreement affirms that TSMC will make an investment in Nanjing valued at $3 billion to establish TSMC (Nanjing) Co. Ltd., a subsidiary managing a 12-inch wafer fab and a design service center. TSMC’s 12-inch fab site in Nanjing will be located in the Pukou Economic Development Zone. Planned capacity is 20,000 12-inch wafers per month, and the facility is scheduled to commence production of 16nm process technology in the second half of 2018.

Micron Technology posted mixed results for the quarter. Based on the results, the memory sector has gone from bad to worse. “According to the company, DRAM bit supply is expected to grow low-to-mid 20% in 2016, and NAND supply growth is expected to be mid-to-high 30%. The company is forecasting its own DRAM bit growth CAGR in the 20–30% range from FY16–FY17, and 30–40% CAGR for NAND bit growth,” said Amit Daryanani, an analyst from RBC, in a report. “Micron continues to expect 50% of NAND bit output to be on Gen 1 3D NAND by the end of FY16. The company continues to expect $5B of capex (net of partner contribution) for FY16. Management does not expect wafer additions on DRAM and expects industry DRAM capex to be down 30% in 2016.”

Deals
The merger and acquisition (M&A) activity has cooled down in semis. However, Pacific Crest Securities believes that two chipmakers should merge in the near term. “We believe Skyworks should acquire/merge with Maxim, as it would provide Skyworks with compelling long-term diversification away from mobile and into data center and automotive end markets,” according to the firm.

Market Research
Gartner said global smartphone sales will for the first time exhibit single-digit growth in 2016. Global smartphone sales are estimated to reach 1.5 billion units in 2016, a 7% growth from 2015. The total mobile phone market is forecast to reach 1.9 billion units in 2016.

Strategy Analytics forecasts global business tablet shipments will grow at a 6% CAGR between 2015 and 2020, reaching 110.2 million units in 2020. “While the tablet market overall has become somewhat saturated resulting in slowed growth, business tablet shipments are expected to be a bright spot and ramp up in the next several years as businesses shift computing models from PCs or laptops to 2-in-1 tablets,” said Gina Luk, an analyst with the firm.

According to IHS, the wireless charging receiver market grew more than 160% in 2015 over the previous year, as annual global shipments reached 144 million units. Integrated receivers hit mainstream devices, and refinements to system design and diversification for various applications and power ratings is now driving the development of the technology. Annual shipment volume is expected to top one billion units by 2020 and two billion by 2025, according to IHS.