The Week In Review: Manufacturing

Apple’s VCSEL play; WD-Toshiba deal; fab tool spending.


Apple has announced the latest award from its $1 billion Advanced Manufacturing Fund. Finisar, a manufacturer of optical communications components, will receive $390 million in funds from Apple. The award will enable Finisar to increase its R&D spending and high-volume production of vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs). A VCSEL is a type of semiconductor laser diode. The laser beam emission is perpendicular from the top surface. VCSEL technology is a more cost-efficient solution compared to traditional edge-emitting lasers. VCSELs power some of Apple’s most popular new features, including Face ID, Animoji and Portrait mode selfies made possible with the iPhone X TrueDepth camera, as well as the proximity-sensing capabilities of AirPods.

Toshiba and Western Digital have entered into a settlement to resolve their ongoing disputes in litigation and arbitration. “WDC will allow the sale of Toshiba’s memory assets to the Bain-led consortium as part of the settlement; this consortium reportedly includes SK Hynix, Apple, Dell, Seagate, Kingston Technology, and Hoya, along with the Innovation Network of Japan and the Development Bank of Japan,” said Weston Twigg, an analyst with KeyBanc, in a report. “WDC will benefit from its continued access to NAND production capacity (some JV terms were extended), and it will participate in future fabs on a 50/50 basis. Toshiba and Bain likely needed WDC to drop litigation as they seek regulatory approval for the sale.”

Investor activist Elliott Advisors, which holds 6% of NXP’s shares, has released a letter to shareholders, making the case that it believes NXP is worth $135 per share on an intrinsic standalone basis. This is far above the $110 offered by Qualcomm in its bid to acquire NXP. Of course, Broadcom is trying to acquire Qualcomm. Then, Qualcomm issued the following statement in response to Elliott Management regarding NXP. “Elliott’s value assertion for NXP is unsupportable and is clearly nothing more than an attempt to advance its own self-serving agenda. We remain fully committed to closing the acquisition of NXP and believe that the agreed-upon price of $110 is full and fair.”

Test, measurement, fab tools
Advantest and SJ Semiconductor (SJSemi), a middle-end-of-line (MEOL) semiconductor test service company based in China, have signed a volume purchase agreement that calls for the Chinese company to buy numerous T5830 memory testers from Advantest. SJSemi will use the systems for testing serial peripheral interface (SPI) NOR flash memory devices.

National Instruments (NI) has rolled out a line of data acquisition systems, dubbed FieldDAQ. The systems can acquire measurements in the most severe test cell and outdoor environments. FieldDAQ devices have an ingress protection rating up to IP67, can operate in -40 °C to 85 °C environments and can sustain 100g shock and 10g vibrations.

Hitachi Kokusai operates two business segments. The first is the Video and Communication Solutions business, which engages in video security, IoT high-reliability wireless and railroad solutions. The second is a Thin-Film Process Solutions business, focusing on semiconductor manufacturing equipment. In a complex deal, global investment firm KKR has bought the semi equipment business from Hitachi Kokusai. A joint venture will assume ownership of Hitachi Kokusai’s Video and Communication Solutions business.

Graycliff Partners, an independent investment firm, has completed the sale of Talon Innovations, a provider of high precision machining primarily to the semiconductor equipment market, to Ichor Holdings.

Market research
SEMI has released its year-end equipment forecast. SEMI projects that worldwide sales of new semiconductor manufacturing equipment will increase 35.6% to $55.9 billion in 2017, marking the first time that the semiconductor equipment market has exceeded the previous market high of $47.7 billion set in 2000. In 2018, 7.5% growth is expected to result in sales of $60.1 billion for the global semiconductor equipment market – another record-breaking year.

SEMI reports that the three-month average of worldwide billings of North American equipment manufacturers in November 2017 was $2.05 billion. The billings figure is 1.6% higher than the final October 2017 level of $2.02 billion, and is 27.2% higher than the November 2016 billings level of $1.61 billion.

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