The Week In Review: Manufacturing

Samsung’s panel fan-out; GF’s FD-SOI push; UMC ships 28nm in China; device demand.

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Chipmakers
At this week’s International Wafer-Level Packaging Conference (IWLPC), Samsung disclosed details about its efforts in the panel-level fan-out market.

Samsung as well as ASE, Nepes and others are developing a next-generation fan-out technology using a panel-level format. In panel-level fan-out packaging, you can put more die on a panel as compared to a traditional round wafer, which could potentially lower the cost for the technology.

The problem? The industry is working on several panel sizes and there are no standards in the arena.

For its part, Samsung is working on two versions of panel-level fan-out—chip-first and chip-last. Samsung’s chip-first technology, dubbed ePLP, is expected to ship by the second half of 2018. Then, the company will ship its chip-last technology, called PLP-m.

Samsung is working on two panel size types. The first is 510mm x 500mm, according to Richard (Kwang Wook) Bae, vice president of corporate strategy and planning at Samsung Electro-Mechanics. The other format involves 600mm, although Samsung didn’t elaborate.

Meanwhile, ePLP is targeted for small-die, multi-die and related packages under 10-10µm line and space, Bae said. “By the end of next year, we are going to do small-die, multi-die, multi-die with back RDL and SoCs,” he said.

The chip-last version is geared for high-end packages. This could be an FPGA with high bandwidth memory (HBM). Another configuration might be an applications processor (AP) with Wide I/O memory. “For chip-last, the line/space is under 5-5µm, down to 1.5µm,” Bae said.

Panel-level fan-out is targeted for several apps, such as 5G, wearables and others. “(It’s) not only AP, but also cellular RF modules, passive modules, WiFi/Bluetooth modules and especially for PMIC,” he said.

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In a blog, Wallace Pai, vice president and general manager of GlobalFoundries’ China unit, discusses China’s semiconductor market. Then, at an event, GlobalFoundries revealed three Chinese customers that will be adopting its new 22nm FD-SOI technology. The customers are Shanghai Fudan Microelectronics Group, Rockchip and Hunan Goke Microelectronics.

As planned, United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC) has begun shipping its 28nm process from its fab in Xiamen, China. Now, UMC is shipping both 40nm and 28nm technology from China. “Our 12-inch fab in Xiamen, Fab 12X, began shipping 28nm wafers, with yield rates and chip performance reaching the same quality as our Tainan (Taiwan) Fab 12A,” said Jason Wang, co-president of UMC, in a conference call that addressed the company’s results.

In addition, UMC posted its results. Third quarter consolidated revenue was flat. “In 3Q17, we continued to sustain stable utilization rates across our 8- and 12-inch mature technologies, driven by strong chip demand in consumer and computing peripheral segments. Our 8-inch facilities remained nearly full, while mature 12-inch fabs operated above 90% capacity, lifting overall wafer shipments to 1.75 million 8-inch equivalents,” Wang said.

Macom Technology Solutions has entered into an agreement to sell the compute business it acquired in its AppliedMicro acquisition earlier this year to Project Denver Holdings LLC (NewCo), a new company backed by The Carlyle Group.

Fab and test equipment
KLA-Tencor announced its operating results for its first quarter of fiscal year 2018, which ended on Sept. 30, 2017, and reported GAAP net income of $281 million and GAAP earnings per diluted share of $1.78 on revenues of $970 million.

In a blog, Applied Materials discusses the world of virtual reality (VR). Image persistence and screen refresh rates are keys to the display technology in VR.

Advanced Semiconductor Engineering (ASE) reported its results. Sales for the third quarter were up by 2% year-over-year and up by 12% sequentially.

ATE vendor Advantest posted its results for the quarter. Thanks to a surge in memory testers, Advantest’s sales were up 17.2%, while net income jumped 297.1%.

National Instruments (NI) has rolled out a new PXI FlexRIO architecture that integrates mezzanine I/O modules with Xilinx’ Kintex UltraScale FPGAs. The first wave of products based on this new architecture includes two high-resolution PXI FlexRIO digitizers, three dedicated PXI FlexRIO coprocessor modules and a module development kit that helps with custom front-end development.

NI also announced third-quarter revenue of $321 million, up 5% year-over-year. NI received $8 million in orders from its largest customer compared with $5 million in orders from this customer in the like period a year ago.

Astronics has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire substantially all of the assets of Telefonix and a related company,Product Development Technologies, for approximately $104 million in cash. Telefonix PDT designs and manufactures advanced in-flight entertainment and connectivity equipment, as well as providing industry leading design consultancy services for the global aerospace industry

Market research
TrendForce presented its IT industry forecast for 2018. “TrendForce expects the DRAM industry in 2018 to be dominated by Samsung, SK Hynix and Micron. Since none of these three top suppliers intend to significantly expand their production capacity, high prices will also continue next year and provide them with healthy profits,” according to the firm.

Worldwide shipments of PCs, tablets and smartphones are predicted to exceed 2.35 billion units in 2018, an increase of 2% from 2017, according to Gartner. This would be the highest year-over-year growth since 2015. The misconception persists that the world has gone mobile. “However, our latest online end-user survey shows that users depend just as much on PCs or tablets as they do on smartphones,” said Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner. “Forty percent of respondents said that they use mostly a PC/tablet for certain daily experiences, such as reading and writing detailed emails or watching videos, while 34% mostly use a smartphone for its convenience while on the move.”