The Week In Review: Manufacturing

Rising IC forecasts; wafer shipments; MRAM; Lam results.


Market research
The IC market remains hot, as several market researchers are raising their forecasts–again. Gartner recently raised its overall IC forecast. Now, IC Insights has raised its IC market growth rate forecast for 2017 to 22%, up six percentage points from the 16% increase shown in its mid-year update.

In March, IC Insights raised its worldwide IC market growth forecast for 2017 to 11%—more than twice its original 5% outlook. Now, the number is 22%. “The IC unit volume shipment growth rate forecast has also been increased from 11% depicted in the mid-year update to 14% currently,” according to the firm. “For 2017, IC Insights expects a whopping 77% increase in the DRAM ASP, which is forecast to propel the DRAM market to 74% growth this year, the largest growth rate since the 78% DRAM market increase in 1994. After including a 44% expected surge in the NAND flash market in 2017, including a 38% increase in NAND flash ASP this year, the total memory market is forecast to jump by 58% in 2017 with another 11% increase forecast for 2018.”

Bob Johnson, an analyst with Gartner, added: “The semis market is in one of its ASP driven booms–it should easily surpass $400 million this year. Memory is going crazy, as both DRAM and NAND are currently in an undersupply condition. As a result, memory capex is way up, and the equipment market is following. WFE should be up around 25% this year. The other factor is that foundries and Intel are all investing to bring 10nm to production.

“However, as with prior cycles, this one will also peak, and then go through a down cycle. Our latest forecast has WFE up slightly next year, then a couple of years of downturn,” he added.


Total wafer shipments this year are expected to exceed the market high set in 2016 and are forecast to continue shipping at record levels in 2018 and 2019, according to SEMI. “Silicon shipment volumes are expected to ship at historic highs for this year and into 2019,” said Dan Tracy, senior director of Industry Research & Statistics at SEMI. “The expectation is for steady annual growth due to the proliferation of connected devices required for automotive, medical, wearables, and high-performance computing applications.”

SEMI reports that the three-month average of worldwide billings of North American equipment manufacturers in September 2017 was $2.03 billion. The billings figure is 6.9% lower than the final August 2017 level of $2.18 billion, and is 36.0% higher than the September 2016 billings level of $1.49 billion. “Global semiconductor equipment billings of North American headquartered suppliers for September were $2.0 billion, down 12% from the peak level set in June of this year,” said Ajit Manocha, president and CEO of SEMI. “Total billings through the first three quarters of this amazing year have surpassed total billings for all of 2016.”

Equipment and materials
The MRAM market is heating up. Spin Transfer Technologies (STT) and Tokyo Electron Ltd. (TEL) have signed an agreement for a collaborative engineering program. The goal is to propel the development of STT’s ST-MRAM. The combination of STT’s ST-MRAM technology and TEL’s deposition tools will allow the companies to develop MRAM processes.

Lam Research reported its financial results for the quarter ended Sept. 24. Revenue was $2.478 billion and net income was $591 million, or $3.21 per diluted share on a U.S. GAAP basis. This compares to revenue of $2.345 billion and net income of $526 million, or $2.82 per diluted share, for the quarter ended June 25, 2017. “Lam delivered another record quarter for revenue and non-GAAP income in September and our positive momentum continues, with calendar year shipments on track to grow nearly double the rate of 2017 industry growth,” said Martin Anstice, Lam Research’s president and chief executive.

Commenting on Lam’s results in a research note, Weston Twigg, an analyst with KeyBanc Capital Markets, said: “LRCX is significantly outgrowing the semiconductor equipment market. We project LRCX CY17 revenue to increase 50% year-over-year, massively outperforming our general semicap (fab equipment) demand model of up 21% year-over-year. The biggest contributor, in our view, has been the accelerated ramp of 3D NAND capacity this year, which is driving a major increase in demand for etch and deposition tools. We expect 3D NAND equipment demand to grow 6% in CY18, a slower rate than our 31% growth projection for CY17, but still above our general CY18 semi-cap demand projection of up 4%.”

In a video, Jed Rankin, a member of the technical staff at GlobalFoundries and co-chair of next year’s SPIE Photomask Technology Symposium, talks about photomasks, EUV and other technologies. The interview was conducted by Jan Willis, co-founder of the eBeam Initiative. Willis is also an executive advisor of Calibra, an independent consulting business.

Praxair has signed a long-term agreement to supply gaseous nitrogen to GlobalFoundries in Malta, New York. Praxair will build, own and operate a plant to support the foundry vendor.

National Instruments (NI) has released its so-called Data Management Software Suite. This enterprise software solution offers a complete workflow to standardize measurement data across teams, mine that data for useful information, transform the data through automated analysis and deliver reports.

Rambus has announced the availability of a suite of SerDes solutions for GlobalFoundries 14nm ASIC platform, dubbed FX-14. Rambus’ SerDes is optimized for power and area at peak bandwidth, generating Ethernet speeds up to 100-Gb and beyond.

China’s Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC) has announced the appointment of Haijun Zhao and Liang Mong Song as co-CEOs and executive directors. Liang, a former exec at TSMC, allegedly leaked process technology information to Samsung several years ago, according to reports.

NXP has announced an all new control and compute concept for connected, electric and autonomous cars. The NXP S32 platform is the world’s first fully-scalable automotive computing architecture. Soon to be adopted by both premium and volume automotive brands, it offers a unified architecture of microcontrollers/microprocessors (MCU/MPU) and an identical software environment across application platforms. “Our insight into the future of automotive caused us to re-evaluate the interrelationship between hardware and software,” said Matt Johnson, senior vice president and general manager for product lines and software, auto MCU and processors at NXP. “We saw that to build the software of tomorrow, the software behind future vehicles, we had to reinvent the hardware. We built our hardware to enable an identical software development environment across products and applications, thereby significantly reducing software development effort and shortening time to market. Our customers see it the same way.”

The IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM) is taking place in San Francisco from Dec. 2-6, 2017. Here’s a preview of some of the papers.

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