The Week In Review: Manufacturing

RF SOI consortium; EUV power; flash cards; WFE outlook.

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Fab materials/tools
The Reference Project, a pan-European research program created to develop radio-frequency silicon-on-insulator (RF-SOI) technology, was recently launched at the Bernin, France-based facilities of Soitec. Soitec is the project leader in the group, which has an eligible budget of 33 million euros.

The project will focus on developing technologies for 4G+ communications using RF front-end modules with data rates above 1 Gb/s. It will pave the way for next-generation 5G communications. The scope of the work encompasses materials, engineered substrates, processes, design, metrology and system integration.

The project includes 16 partner organizations from five countries. Besides Soitec, the group includes STMicroelectronics, TELIT, CEA-Leti and Universite Claude Bernard Lyon 1/Laboratoire Multimateriaux et Interfaces (LMI). In addition, it also includes GlobalFoundries, Siltronic, Airbus, AED, Sentronics, Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, Technische Universitat Dresden and Universitat der Bundeswehr (UBWM). In addition, the group also includes Imec, Namium, and Ferfics.

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Imec has announced the opening of Imec Florida, a new entity focusing on photonics and high-speed electronics IC design based in Osceola, Florida. Imec Florida kicked off with the signing of a collaboration agreement with the University of Central Florida (UCF), Osceola County and the International Consortium for Advanced Manufacturing Research (ICAMR), that is setting up fab facilities for the development and production of highly innovative III-V-on-silicon solutions for a broad range of applications including sensors, high-speed electronics and photonics.

Gigaphoton has announced success in achieving a 250 Watt light output at a 4.0% conversion efficiency with its laser-produced plasma (LPP) light source prototype for EUV scanners. At this output level, the EUV light source can be used in high-volume manufacturing. The company also announced its success in achieving 119 hours of continuous operation at over 130 Watts in testing.

Plasma-Therm has acquired Nano Etch Systems, a developer of ion beam etch and ion beam deposition systems.

Chipmakers
Paul Kyungwhoon Cheun, executive vice president and head of the Next Generation Business Team at Samsung, explains the company’s most recent developments in the 5G arena.

Samsung has unveiled the industry’s first removable memory cards based on the JEDEC Universal Flash Storage (UFS) 1.0 Card Extension Standard. The cards are designed for use in high-resolution mobile shooting devices such as DSLRs, 3D VR cameras, action cams and drones.

United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC) has reported unaudited net sales for the month of June 2016. Sales were up 12.16% during the month, compared to the like period a year ago.

Market research
Weston Twigg, an analyst with Pacific Crest Securities, said that NAND supply and demand continues to remain relatively healthy, at least right now. In the future, though, the market looks cloudy. “On a three month-rolling basis, contract pricing showed relatively no change in June compared to a decline of 3% in the prior month. We believe rapid adoption of solid-state drives (SSDs), along with limited bit growth from Micron, S.K. Hynix, Intel and Western Digital/Toshiba, has helped NAND pricing. We believe near-term pricing is benefiting from limited bit growth as companies focus efforts on 3D NAND ramps, with low output in the near term. Still, 3D NAND production should ramp meaningfully by early 2017, which could drive overcapacity next year,” Twigg said.

Here’s another forecast: “Our semiconductor capex and wafer fab equipment (WFE) model suggests that demand will be up slightly in 2017, with WFE reaching $32.4 billion in 2017, up from $32.0 billion in 2016. We expect flash spending to be up 6%, DRAM down 5%, logic up 2%, and foundry up 1%. Demand from China domestic producers should grow moderately in 2017, but we expect larger domestic memory projects to materialize further out,” Twigg said.

Here’s more: IC Insights lowered its 2016 semiconductor market forecast to -1%. IC Insights forecasts 2016 global GDP growth of only 2.3%, which is below the 2.5% level that is considered to be the global recession threshold.