The Week In Review: Manufacturing

Making chiplets; 5G; tax reform; TowerJazz China fab.

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Packaging and test
IoT chip startup zGlue recently announced its technology, dubbed the zGlue Integrated Platform (ZiP). In ZiP, chip customers select and configure their designs based on chiplets. Chiplets are proven silicon IP from existing vendors. Then, the technology automatically generates potential implementations of a design. As part of the effort, zGlue has selected Advanced Semiconductor Engineering (ASE) as its strategic IC packaging and assembly partner. ASE is a key manufacturing partner for the ZiP technology. ASE provides multiple options for assembling zGlue-certified chiplets, which are automatically interconnected through the zGlue Smart Fabric, a silicon interposer platform, onto the ZiP hardware to create an IoT system.

National Instruments (NI) has come up with a complete guide that provides an overview and update covering next-generation 5G cellular networks and related technologies.

Chipmakers
U.S. tax reform is back on the Congressional agenda. “Tax reform usually only comes about once in a generation,” according to Jamie Girard of SEMI Americas on SEMI’s Web site. “Getting members from both sides of the aisles to work together on this issue isn’t easy, but will be necessary to make lasting reforms. Likewise, getting agreement from the House, Senate, and White House on a tax reform plan comes with a lot of potential landmines as well. It is clear, however, that the current U.S. tax system is out of date and in need a major update.”

Jay Y. Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, was sentenced to five years in jail for bribery, according to multiple reports. Here’s an analysis of the news. Samsung recently announced financial results for the second quarter.

Western Digital (WDC) has resumed negotiations with Toshiba for sale of its memory assets, according to RBC, which cited Nikkei Asian Review as its source. “WDC is partnering with KKR, INCJ and Development Bank of Japan and has bid 1.9 trillion yen or $17.3 billion,” according to Amit Daryanani, an analyst with RBC, in a research note. “WDC would acquire initially a non-voting rights stake that would convert to ~20% stake, which should ease anti-trust concerns and also keep its leverage at manageable levels of ~2.0x. While the bid is not materially different from amounts that have been mentioned in the past, it would be attractive for Toshiba because it is likely to clear regulatory hurdles quickly, should be preferable to Japanese regulators versus a Foxconn bid, and also removes the arbitration overhang. We also note that Toshiba’s lenders have been pressing for a deal to be signed within this month to have a fighting chance for getting all regulatory approvals through before the March 2018 delisting deadline.”

Israel’s TowerJazz and China’s Tacoma Technology have announced a partnership to build a new 200mm fab in Nanjing, China. Tower has received a first payment of $18 million, rendering phase one of the framework agreement with Tacoma. As part of the terms, TowerJazz will gain up to 50% of the capacity. Tacoma Technology is an investment holding company established in Hong Kong. The group also includes Tacoma (Nanjing) Semiconductor Technology, which provides analog design and foundry technology integration services.

Separately, TowerJazz has announced that its 0.18-micron silicon-germanium (SiGe) technology was used to develop a 24-GHz rear and side radar sensor for Denso, a supplier of advanced automotive technology. TowerJazz is making a big push in automotive.

During the second quarter of 2017, silicon foundry vendor X-Fab posted sales of $139.3 million and net profit of $24.1 million, or $0.18 per current outstanding share. Compared to the second quarter of 2016, sales show an increase of 18%.

In an e-mail, Intel Chief Executive Brian Krzanich announced that Stacy Smith, group president of Manufacturing, Operations and Sales at Intel, has decided to retire from the company at the end of January 2018.

Market research
IC Insights has revised its outlook for semiconductor industry capital spending. IC Insights’ latest forecast is for semiconductor industry capital spending to climb 20% this year.

SEMI reports that the three-month average of worldwide billings of North American equipment manufacturers was $2.27 billion in July. The billings figure is 1.4% lower than the final June 2017 level of $2.30 billion, and is 32.8% higher than the July 2016 billings level of $1.71 billion.