The Week In Review: Manufacturing

More on Intel-Trump fab; finFETs; RF SOI; SEMI CEO.

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Chipmakers
Recently, Intel announced plans to invest more than $7 billion to complete its previously-announced fab in Chandler, Ariz. Targeted for 7nm processes, Fab 42 will be completed in 3 to 4 years. As reported, the fab announcement was made by U.S. President Donald Trump and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich at the White House.

There is more to the story. Typically, Intel has two fabs for a given process to reduce its risk. “If one fab has a yield excursion or other issues, then they can ramp the other fab,” according to one source. “In the past, Intel didn’t want a new fab to be (the first high-volume manufacturing or HVM fab). So, it’s not 100% clear if Fab 42 will be HVM #1 or #2.”

Fab 42 is huge. It could run all of Intel’s 7nm process, called ”1276” by Intel. Bottom line: look for Intel to announce another fab or use an existing plant for 7nm. In response, a spokesman for Intel said: “We haven’t made any other disclosures about where we plan to produce 7nm.”

For 7nm, Intel is expected to equip Fab 42 in the second quarter of 2019, sources said. Intel’s 7nm chips will ship a year later, meaning around 2020, they added. The spokesman for Intel said: “We haven’t made any statements regarding the production schedule for 7nm other than what we said about the expected build-out time for Fab 42 (3-4 years) and that it is targeted for 7nm.”

For now, Intel plans to push finFETs to 7nm. “They will stay with finFET unless they technically have to transition to something else. So I think they are doing everything possible to push finFET to the limit,” the source said.

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It’s official. Taiwan’s United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC) has entered the finFET market. It has begun mass production for its 14nm finFET technology. UMC’s 14nm finFET technology is 55% higher speed and twice the gate density over 28nm process technology. The 14nm process also consumes approximately 50% less power than 28nm. UMC is producing the 14nm customer ICs at the company’s Fab 12A in Tainan, Taiwan. “We will continue to refine this process and are working with other customers to bring the full performance, power and gate density benefits of 14nm finFET to enable next generation silicon in areas such as networking, AI and various consumer products,” said Po-Wen Yen, chief executive of UMC.

Samsung Electronics has announced the launch of its latest application processor, the Exynos 9 Series 8895. This is Samsung’s first processor chipset based on its 10nm finFET process. This allows up to 27% higher performance, while consuming 40% less power when compared to 14nm technology. The 8895 embeds a gigabit LTE modem that supports five carrier aggregation, or 5CA. It delivers data throughput at 1Gbps (Cat.16).

Samsung and Verizon have completed the deployment of 5G wireless networks in five U.S. cities. This is in preparation to begin customer trials of 5G technology. The trials, to begin in April, involve network systems, including the use of 28-GHz millimeter wave spectrum and advanced beam-forming antenna technology.

GlobalFoundries has announced the availability of its 45nm RF SOI (45RFSOI) technology offering. The technology is produced on 300mm wafers. It supports next-generation millimeter-wave (mmWave) beam forming applications in future 5G base stations and smartphones. “5G is expected to become the dominant worldwide mobile communications standard of the next decade and will usher in a new paradigm in mobility, multi-GBps data rates, security, low latency, network availability and high quality of service (QoS),” said Bami Bastani, senior vice president of RF Business Unit at GlobalFoundries. “Utilizing our long history of SOI leadership and high-volume manufacturing, we are excited to release our most advanced RF SOI technology that will help play a critical role in bringing 5G devices and networks to reality.”

T.J. Rodgers, founder and former CEO, president and director of Cypress Semiconductor, and the company’s largest individual stockholder, filed suit against his former firm, alleging conflict of interest and other charges. He has also nominated two candidates to serve on Cypress’ board.

Cree has terminated its plans to sell its Wolfspeed Power and RF division to Infineon Technologies. Cree and Infineon have been unable to identify alternatives which would address the national security concerns of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), and as a result, the proposed transaction will be terminated.

Fab tools
SEMI has announced the appointment of Ajit Manocha as its president and chief executive. He will succeed Denny McGuirk, who announced his intention to retire last October. Manocha was formerly CEO at GlobalFoundries, during which time he also served as vice chairman and chairman of the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA).

Coventor will present findings from its research on advanced semiconductor fabrication processes at SPIE Advanced Lithography 2017. The results of these studies provide insight into techniques for advancing semiconductor technology. In addition, Lam Research is also making several presentations at SPIE.

Packaging and test
National Instruments (NI) has announced the availability of next-generation software defined radio (SDR) solutions for design, prototyping and deployment. The products include the USRP-2945 quad receiver SDR device and the USRP-2944 high-performance 2×2 multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) SDR device. Engineers can use the SDR product family to transition from design to prototyping and deployment across a wide range of wireless applications through a unified design flow.

Asian Correspondent (AC), an independent Asian news site, has announced the launch of Asia’s first annual CSR Index. This is a table of the most environmentally-conscious companies who promote sustainable practice within the Asian region. The ASE Group is among the 50 listed on the index.

Chip-packaging developer Tessera Holding will change its name to Xperi Corp. and its Nasdaq ticker symbol to “XPER” effective Feb. 23.

Market research
Taiwan led all regions/countries in wafer capacity with 21.3% share, a slight decrease from 21.7% in 2015 when the country first became the global wafer capacity leader, according to IC Insights. Taiwan was only slightly ahead of South Korea, which was in second place.

North America-based manufacturers of semiconductor equipment posted $1.86 billion in billings worldwide in January, according to SEMI. The billings figure is 0.5% lower than the final December 2016 level of $1.87 billion, and is 52.3% higher than the January 2016 billings level of $1.22 billion.

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