The Week In Review: Manufacturing

Improving IC/tool forecasts; SoftBank strikes again; climate change; 5G test.

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Market research
Earlier this year, the IC and equipment markets were projected to be flat. More recently, though, analysts have raised their forecast, including Pacific Crest Securities. “We are raising our 2017 capex outlook meaningfully, with the upside coming predominantly from Samsung,” said Weston Twigg, an analyst with Pacific Crest Securities, in a report. “We’re raising our 2017 semiconductor capex outlook to +18% from +10% and are establishing our 2018 outlook at +2%.

“We now model 2017 fab equipment spending at $40.3 billion. Samsung is the main driver, as we believe it has: (1) become more aggressive with its 3D NAND ramp at Pyeongtaek, (2) recently accelerated its 7nm foundry ramp, and (3) decided to move ahead with a planar NAND fab conversion to DRAM (line 16),” he said. “We project modest 2% growth in 2018, with memory capex up 2%, logic up 1%, and foundry up 5%, leading to fab equipment demand of roughly $41.1 billion.”

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The latest update from SEMI’s World Fab Forecast report reveals record fab spending for 2017 and 2018. Korea, Taiwan and China will all see large fab investments. In 2017, over $49 billion will be spent on equipment alone, a record for the semiconductor industry, according to SEMI. Records will shatter again in 2018, when equipment spending will pass $54 billion, according to SEMI.

The World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS) group has released its new semiconductor market forecast. The WSTS expects the world semiconductor market will grow to $378 billion in 2017, an 11.5% increase over 2016. This reflects expected growth in all major categories, with the largest growth coming from memory at 30.4%. For 2018, the overall semi market is projected to grow 2.7%.

Chipmakers
First, Softbank acquired ARM. Then, SoftBank has amassed a $4 billion stake in Nvidia, according to reports. Now, SoftBank has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire robotics pioneer Boston Dynamics from Alphabet, part of Google. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

What’s the latest on Toshiba’s NAND business? As reported, Toshiba has put its NAND flash business on the block. Then, the company said it plans to keep the unit. Now, however, it’s still up for grabs. Apple and Amazon will join Foxconn’s bid for Toshiba’s chip unit, according to Reuters, who cited Nikkei as its source.

TSMC has announced the promotion of Dave Keller as president of TSMC North America. Rick Cassidy, who held that title, remains as chief executive of TSMC North America. Keller is now responsible for managing the North America business, which accounted for over 60% of TSMC’s 2016 sales of $29.4 billion. Cassidy will guide technical, financial and human resource matters within TSMC’s North America unit. Keller joined TSMC in 1997 and has three decades of semiconductor industry experience.

Fab equipment and test
Ajit Manocha, chief executive of SEMI, issued a statement on the trade group’s position on climate change. “SEMI reiterates our strong commitment to environmental performance and reducing the industry’s carbon footprint,” Manocha said. “Despite the unfortunate withdrawal of an individual government from the voluntary international accord on climate change, SEMI and our industry remain dedicated to sustainable manufacturing.”

Aixtron has announced it is to sell the ALD and CVD memory product line to Eugene Technology, a wholly owned U.S. subsidiary of Eugene Technology, based in South Korea.

National Instruments (NI) has announced a pre-5G waveform generation and measurement technology. The demonstration features signal generation and analysis of waveforms representative of both the Verizon 5G Technical Forum(5GTF) and 3GPP’s proposed New Radio (NR) physical layers. In addition, NI has rolled out a baseband model of its second-generation Vector Signal Transceiver (VST). The PXIe-5820 module is the industry’s first baseband VST with 1-GHz of complex I/Q bandwidth. It is designed to address RF front-end module and transceiver test applications, such as envelope tracking, digital pre-distortion and 5G test.