The Week In Review: Manufacturing

Intel’s foundry chief retires; Applied’s results; 3D NAND; 3D SSDs.

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Sunit Rikhi, vice president of the Technology and Manufacturing Group at Intel and general manager of Intel’s Custom Foundry unit, has retired. “I left Intel on a sabbatical in late March and ended my career with Intel on June 1,” Rikhi said in an e-mail.

Now, Rikhi has started a new company. The company, called Reach for Infinity LLC, “is a management development company devoted to helping managers engineer their own approach to leadership and growth without limits.” He is the founder at Reach For Infinity. At his new venture, he will provide the following services: public presentations; individual and group mentorships for senior and executive management; workshops for first, mid-level and executive management; and custom consultation projects.

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Applied Materials reported its results for the third quarter ended July 26, 2015. Third quarter orders were $2.89 billion, up 15% sequentially and up 17% year-over-year. Net sales were $2.49 billion, up 2% sequentially and up 10% year over year. “Management noted that orders in the quarter would have been $84 million higher if not for an order cancellation (by a) foundry,” said Weston Twigg, an analyst with Pacific Crest Securities, in a report. “We also note that Applied exited two solar segments in the quarter, wafer saw and implant, showing that the company is willing to cut bait and focus on more profitable opportunities.”

Applied said the 3D NAND business was strong, but foundry was weak. “Applied Materials indicated that foundry demand has gotten worse over the past few weeks, and it blamed higher equipment reuse rates, improving yields and excess inventories,” Twigg said. “Until foundry and Intel demand improve, expect headwinds for the sector. We are concerned that foundry demand is softening due to end-market weakness, which could last several quarters. Worse, if 16/14nm ramps slow down, and 10nm capacity is limited to smaller pilot lines next year, foundry capex could decline in 2016. We also expect Intel’s capex to remain low next year as it maximizes equipment reuse amid low PC demand.”

Randhir Thakur, executive vice president of Applied Materials, has resigned, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission (SEC). Thakur’s departure from Applied is expected to occur on or about Oct. 30, 2015.

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At this week’s Flash Memory Summit, Samsung Electronics rolled out a new 3D NAND chip. The latest device is a 256-gigabit chip based on a 48-layer, 3-bit multi-level-cell (MLC) technology.

Samsung’s new V-NAND chip utilizes the same 3D charge trap flash (CTF) structure as previous chips. The new chip makes use of cell arrays, which are stacked vertically to form a 48-storied mass. It is electrically connected through some 1.8 billion channel holes. In total, each chip contains over 85.3 billion cells. They each can store 3 bits of data, resulting in 256 billion bits of data.

The devices will be used in Samsung’s solid-state storage drives (SSDs). Young-Hyun Jun, president of the Memory Business at Samsung Electronics, said: “By making full use of Samsung V-NAND’s features, we will expand our premium-level business in the enterprise and data center market segments, as well as in the consumer market, while continuing to strengthen our strategic SSD focus.”

In a related announcement, Samsung is also adding three new SSDs based on its 3D NAND chips. The first SSD, the PM1633, is designed to meet the requirements of Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) interface based systems. The 2.5-inch, 12 gigabit-per-second (Gb/s) SAS SSD will be offered in 480GB, 960GB, 1.92 terabyte (TB) and 3.84TB versions.

The second SSD is the PM1725. Targeting the next-generation enterprise storage market, the PM1725 is a half-height, half-length (HHHL) card-type NVMe SSD. It has 3.2TB or 6.4TB storage capacity. And not to be outdone, Samsung is introducing an update to the industry’s first NVMe SSD in an M.2 form factor. The new PM953 comes in NVMe interface and is available in both M.2 and 2.5-inch form factors.

“We are providing high-end capabilities and capacities for all of our latest SSDs, something we believe will elicit a high degree of interest from OEMs and computer enthusiasts throughout the world,” said Jim Elliott, corporate vice president, Samsung Semiconductor.

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Worldwide silicon wafer area shipments increased during the second quarter 2015, compared to first quarter area shipments according to the SEMI Silicon Manufacturers Group (SMG).

Sarvint Technologies has completed a Series A round of financing to further develop and commercialize its “Wearable Motherboard” technology. The $6 million investment was led by CTW Venture Partners with participation from Monta Vista Capital and Maxim Ventures. Sarvint has also entered into a strategic alliance with Maxim Integrated Products to bring Sarvint’s products to market.

China’s Uphill Investment continues to make progress of its proposed acquisition of Integrated Silicon Solution Inc. (ISSI). ISSI has also completed the internal restructuring of its subsidiary in Taiwan, dubbed Chingis Technology. ISSI has entered into a deal with MediaTek to sell Chingis for $27.1 million.