The Week In Review: Manufacturing

Nikon’s litho woes; MRAMs; silicon wafer surge; helium glut.

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Fab tools
Is Nikon’s semiconductor lithography equipment business on the ropes? Amid losses and dwindling market share, the company has announced a major restructuring plan for this unit. It will reduce fixed costs related to its 193nm immersion scanner business “by headcount rationalization and re-assignments of 1,000 employees,” according to Nikon. In addition, Nikon is reassessing its ArF immersion scanner strategy to stop the losses. It will reduce the extent of R&D in ArF immersion scanners, according to the company.

Chipmakers
The next-generation memory market continues to heat up. For example, Everspin has devised the industry’s first 1-gigabit ST- MRAM designed with its perpendicular magnetic tunnel junction technology. The device is being processed on a foundry basis by GlobalFoundries.

In addition, the 5G cellular market is also heating up, especially in China. Samsung has conducted a 5G prototype trial in China. This was done in conjunction with the China Mobile Research Institute (CMRI).

Materials
GlobalWafers recently moved to acquire SunEdison Semiconductor, the last major U.S.-based silicon wafer maker. The deal has been approved by SunEdison Semiconductor’s shareholders. Regulatory agencies in Austria and Taiwan have also approved the deal.

Worldwide silicon wafer area shipments increased during the third quarter 2016, according to the SEMI Silicon Manufacturers Group (SMG). Total silicon wafer area shipments were 2,730 million square inches during the most recent quarter, a 0.9% increase from the 2,706 million square inches shipped during the previous quarter. New quarterly total area shipments are 5.4% higher than third quarter 2015 shipments and are at their highest recorded quarterly level.

The market for helium, which is used in medical resonance imaging (MRI), semiconductors, welding and other industries, is growing at 2% per year, according to IHS Markit. It is also in an oversupply mode. “Except for hydrogen, helium is the lightest of all gases, which makes it ideal for numerous applications, particularly for MRI and scientific uses,” said Ralf Gubler, director at IHS Markit, in a report. “However, the global market for helium has been extremely volatile in recent years, which has caused significant challenges for suppliers and consumers. The market has gone from intensely undersupplied to oversupplied in just three years, as tight supplies have caused product substitution and recycling in some applications.”

Market research
Total smartphone shipments are forecast to grow by 4% in 2016 to 1.49 billion units after jumping by 13% to 1.430 billion in 2015, according to IC Insights. Moreover, smartphone shipments are forecast to grow by 5% in 2017, reaching 1.565 billion units, according to the firm.

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  • witeken

    “Total silicon wafer area shipments were 2,730 million square inches during the most recent quarter,”

    Which in sensible units is 1.76 km².