The Week In Review: Manufacturing

Fab tool and IC rankings; Samsung’s 1xnm DRAM; Intel’s China fab.


Fab tool vendors
In terms of sales for 2015, Applied Materials retained the No. 1 position in the wafer fab equipment (WFE) market with 1.3% growth last year, according to Garnter. Lam Research experienced the strongest growth of the top 10 vendors in 2015, moving into the No. 2 position. In the rankings, Lam jumped ahead of ASML and TEL. ASML was in third place, followed in order by TEL, KLA-Tencor, Screen Semiconductor Solutions, Hitachi High-Technologies, Nikon, Hitachi Kokusai and ASMI.

In terms of IC sales in 2015, Intel retained the No. 1 market share position for the 24th consecutive year, capturing 15.4% of the worldwide market, according to Gartner. Samsung was second in the rankings, followed by SK Hynix. Infineon experienced the strongest growth among the top vendors, moving from No. 12 to the No. 9 position in 2015, according to the firm.

Another research firm, IHS, has a slightly different version of the IC rankings in 2015. NXP is in the top 10. And interestingly, Apple is ranked No. 14.

Samsung has begun mass producing the industry’s first 10nm-class DRAMs. The first chips are 8-gigabit (Gb) devices, based on DDR4 technology. It’s no simple task to extend the DRAM beyond 20nm. For example, Samsung had to come up with some new and innovative technologies.Micron and SK Hynix are also moving full speed ahead in the scaling race and hope to break the 20nm barrier this year or next.

China’s semiconductor market is heating up again. Recently, TSMC announced plans to build a 300mm fab in China. And last year, Intel announced that its China fab will be converted from the production of 65nm chipsets to 3D NAND and 3D XPoint. It expects to begin selling 3D NAND products from this fab in the second half of 2016. Intel plans to invest $5.5 billion in the Dalian, China-based fab. “We believe that Intel has started taking lithography tool shipments (in the Dalian fab) at the end of March,” said Amit Daryanani, an analyst with RBC, in a report. “Based on our estimate of €200M lithography tool shipments, we think the Dalian fab is taking 2 ArF immersion, 1-2 ArF dry, 6-7 KrF, and 2-3 i-Line systems from ASML. Assuming ~25% litho intensity, we estimate that total WFE spending at Intel Dalian fab could reach $900-1,000M. This represents roughly 25,000 3D NAND wafer capacity at Dalian.”

Foundry/IDM vendor ams AG announced that it is manufacturing Sarda’s advanced high-voltage CMOS drivers. Sarda’s custom driver is currently being fabricated in ams’ 0.35-micron high-voltage CMOS specialty process, which allows the efficient integration of voltage domains ranging from 3V to 120V on a single monolithic IC.

According to Bloomberg, Aixtron is looking for a buyer. It has approached rival Veeco. Veeco and Aixtron dominate the MOCVD market. “We think that VECO buying AIXG would be fraught with anti-trust concerns,” said Srini Sundararajan, an analyst with W.R. Hambrecht + Co./Summit Research, in a report. “On the other hand, there could be plenty of other suitors including semiconductor capital equipment companies. In any case, we believe that the market is likely to bid up the stock price of AIXG. Additionally, it will also bid up the stock price of VECO as VECO is seen as the more successful member of the MOCVD duopoly. If one semi-cap company, say LRCX buys AIXG, then its competitors are likely to be circling around VECO, bidding up its stock price. We would like to re-emphasize that fundamentally the GaN MOCVD market is still in the doldrums, which is why AIXG is shopping itself in the first place.”

KMG, a provider of specialty chemicals, has acquired Nagase FineChem (NFC), a Singapore-based manufacturer of electronic chemicals. NFC manufactures wet process chemicals, including solvents, acids and custom blends for the liquid crystal display, electronics and semiconductor markets.

GigOptix has been renamed GigPeak. The company has also closed its acquisition of Magnum Semiconductor.

Movers and shakers
Marvell Technology announced the departure of Chief Executive Sehat Sutardja and President Weili Dai from their management positions, effective immediately. Sutardja and Dai will remain on the board, with Sutardja continuing as chairman. Marvell will conduct a search for a new CEO and president.