The Week In Review: Manufacturing

Kobe Steel scandal; GF’s auto portfolio; AI, SOI at S3S.


Materials and equipment
A scandal has rocked Japan’s Kobe Steel. The company disclosed that it has falsified inspection data for iron powder, aluminum and copper products that were sent to over 200 customers in the automotive, electronics, transportation and other sectors. The falsified data involves 20,000 tones of products, according to reports. Kobe apologized for the issues and provided some details. But the problem is widespread and troubling. For example, two bullet trains in central Japan had aluminum parts from Kobe Steel that did not meet spec. Auto makers and others may have also been impacted, according to multiple reports.

In a blog, Applied Materials discusses the use of a CD-SEM for layer-to-layer overlay applications. “In the study, we demonstrated a new, more accurate, reliable and rapid way of achieving the best possible performance for inline control for optical overlay and measurement,” according to Applied.

In a video, Aki Fujimura, chief executive of D2S, provided his takeaways from the latest eBeam Initiative surveys and the recently concluded SPIE Photomask Technology Conference.

Keysight Technologies announced that its corporate headquarters, located in Santa Rosa, Calif., is temporarily shut down, due to the wildfires burning in the area.

Astronics, through its subsidiary, Astronics Ballard Technology, introduced its new Wireless Aircraft Communications Server (webCS)–the industry’s first highly-integrated smart AID/server/router that enables aircraft operators to easily capture, record, and process aircraft data.

GlobalFoundries has unveiled AutoPro, a platform that incorporates its automotive processes and technologies. The platform provides automotive customers with a broad set of technology solutions and manufacturing services that helps customers speed up their cycle times.

As reported, Toshiba recently signed a deal to sell its memory unit to a group led by Bain Capital. The group doesn’t include Western Digital, which is Toshiba’s fab partner. Western Digital is trying to block the deal and issued a Q&A to clarify the confusing situation.

As reported, there is a shortage of 200mm fab capacity and equipment. Companies are scrambling for fab capacity. For example, On Semiconductor will purchase a 30% incremental share of Fujitsu’s 8-inch wafer fab in Aizu-Wakamatsu, resulting in 40% ownership when the purchase is completed. On Semiconductor plans to increase ownership to 60% by the second half of 2018 and to 100% in the first half of 2020.

Qualcomm has announced that the Taiwan Fair Trade Commission (TFTC) has reached a decision in its investigation. The TFTC imposed a fine of approximately $773 million on Qualcomm for alleged unfair business practices. Qualcomm disagreed with the decision.

More changes at Samsung Electronics. The company announced that Vice Chairman Oh-Hyun Kwon plans to resign as the company’s head of the Device Solutions Business and will not seek re-election as a member of the board and chairman when his term ends in March, 2018. Kwon will also resign as the chief executive officer of Samsung Display. As reported, Jay Y. Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, was recently sentenced to five years in jail for bribery. “The outlook for the shares remains pretty steady which makes it the perfect time to deal with the corporate governance issues that have been plaguing the company,” said Richard Windsor, an analyst at Edison Investment Research. Samsung needs “new blood to take the helm of Samsung and clean-up these long-standing issues. This is becoming increasingly important as the long-term discount in Samsung’s valuation has evaporated over the last 18 months. This means that the murky way that the company is owned, controlled and managed needs to be changed into something much more transparent.”

Imec and Analog Devices Inc. (ADI) have entered into a strategic research partnership to develop the next generation of Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

One joint research initiative focuses on localization technology. “ADI and Imec will pursue the development of a low-power sensor for highly accurate indoor localization in the context of smart building or smart industry solutions,” stated Kathleen Philips, Imec’s program director. “Concretely, we want this sensor to localize objects with a superior accuracy in a robust manner and achieve up to five times better accuracy than today’s best-performing solutions.”

A second initiative includes the creation and the commercialization, of a highly-integrated liquid sensor that can be used in a variety of application domains, such as the analysis of water, blood or urine.

Market research
Worldwide semiconductor revenue is forecast to total $411.1 billion in 2017, an increase of 19.7% from 2016, according to Gartner. This represents the strongest growth since the 2010 recovery from the financial crisis when revenue increased by 31.8%. “Memory continues to lead the semiconductor market higher and is expected to increase 57 percent in 2017 as supply and demand dynamics increase prices. A shortage of memory, and in particular DRAM, is driving semiconductor revenue higher,” said Jon Erensen, research director at Gartner. “Strength is spreading to other semiconductor categories as well with nonoptical sensors, analog, discretes and image sensors all forecast to grow over 10 percent in 2017.

3D integration, artificial intelligence (AI), chip architectures, neuromorphic computing and silicon-on-insulator (SOI) technology are among the featured topics that will be addressed at next week’s IEEE International SOI-3D-Subthreshold Microelectronics Technology Unified Conference (IEEE S3S).

Now in its 43rd year, IEEE S3S is mainly focused on SOI technologies, low-voltage architectures and 3D. But the event will also feature a keynote from Intel on 3D NAND and 3D XPoint as well as a panel from leading experts on artificial intelligence. Other topics include FD-SOI, RF SOI, monolithic 3D, among others.

The event is from Oct. 16-19. It is located at the Hyatt Regency, San Francisco Airport. For more information, here’s the link to the conference.

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