The Week In Review: Manufacturing

Samsung gains on Intel; foundries jump in IC rankings; 10nm vs. 14nm; Qualcomm buys DSL chip company.

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IC Insights released its top-20 chip rankings in terms of sales for the first half of 2015. Samsung’s growth rate in 2Q ‘15 put the company closer to catching Intel, the world’s largest chipmaker. IC Insights also showed how the top-20 rankings would have looked if the proposed Avago/Broadcom and NXP/Freescale mergers were in place. Avago/Broadcom would have been ranked 7th and NXP/Freescale would have moved into the 10th spot.

IC Insights’ top-20 rankings list also includes three pure-play foundries, TSMC, GlobalFoundries, and UMC, and four fabless companies. GlobalFoundries moved up in the rankings. And Sharp and UMC replaced Nvidia and AMD in the top-20 rankings. AMD saw its sales drop 35% year-over-year.

Based on recent conference calls, executives from fab tool vendors predict that the 10nm node will be larger than 16nm/14nm. There is growing evidence that 10nm has a cost-per-transistor advantage over 16nm/14nm. “We’ve seen more 10-nanometer designs than we might have thought at this time, and it does appear to be true that the (fabless) guys view 10-nanometer, because it’s more of a shrink as actually being more of a real node and more advantageous to go to,” said Rick Wallace, president and CEO of KLA-Tencor, on a transcript on TheStreet Web site. “The negative of course is people have not yet really determined how difficult it’s going to be in terms of the ability to get yield and the impact that (it) will have on all the costs per wafer.”

Qualcomm has entered into a definitive merger agreement to acquire DSL chipmaker Ikanos Communications.

Amid mixed results for the quarter, silicon wafer supplier SunEdison Semiconductor, formerly MEMC, will close its Ipoh, Malaysia plant by the end of 2016. The Ipoh plant produces 200mm wafers.

While overall smartphone market growth continues to slow, global demand for low temperature polysilicon thin-film-transistor liquid-crystal displays (LTPS TFT LCD) for smartphones is on the rise. Led by Apple’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, LTPS TFT LCD smartphone display shipments grew 31% in the first half of 2015 to reach 251 million units, according to IHS.

Led by declining TFT LCD revenues, global flat panel display (FPD) industry revenue is forecast to fall 2%, from $131.4 billion in 2014 to $129 billion in 2015. Dwindling TFT LCD display revenues, declining panel demand in the PC sector, along with ongoing panel-price erosion are the primary reasons for overall FPD revenue declines this year, according to IHS.