The Week In Review: Manufacturing

China buys U.S. chip unit; 5nm fab; self-driving taxis.

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Chipmakers
China has struck again, as the nation continues to acquire semiconductor technology. In December, Silicon Labs announced plans to acquire Sigma Designs for $282 million. The deal involves Sigma’s Z-Wave chip business. Now, Sigma Designs has sold its connectivity chip business unit to Integrated Silicon Solution Inc. (ISSI).

In 2015, a Chinese consortium of investors led by Uphill Investment entered into a definitive merger agreement to acquire ISSI. That deal was completed. Then, Uphill Investment attempted to sell ISSI to China’s GigaDevice, a fabless supplier of flash memories. But according to officials from GigaDevice, GigaDevice’s move to buy ISSI was terminated last August. So ISSI is not part of GigaDevice, but rather it is still part of Uphill Investment.

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TSMC recently held a groundbreaking ceremony for its Fab 18, Phase 1 facility at the Southern Taiwan Science Park. TSMC’s Fab 18 will be its fourth 300mm gigafab in Taiwan and is aimed for 5nm processes. The company plans to complete construction of Phase 1 and begin equipment move-in in the first quarter of 2019, with volume production in early 2020.

UMC has announced that the recent 6.4 magnitude earthquake recorded off the east coast of Taiwan in Hualien on Feb. 6 had no impact to UMC’s operations. All personnel are safe at UMC’s Hsinchu and Tainan fabs and manufacturing remains normal, according to the company.

Lee Kun-hee, the ailing chairman of Samsung, has been named by South Korean police as a suspect in a tax evasion case, according to a report from Reuters. For some time, Lee has been hospitalized in Korea after a recent heart attack. Meanwhile, the chairman’s son Jay Y. Lee was released from detention, according to the report. A court halved Lee’s sentence for bribery and corruption to 2-1/2 years and suspended it for four years.

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National Instruments (NI) recently reported revenue of $350 million for the quarter, up 6% year-over-year. NI currently expects first-quarter revenue to be in the range of $305 million to $335 million, which would be a new record at the midpoint.

Market research
Self-driving taxi services combine ridesharing and autonomous vehicles. Various companies have undergone road tests in 2017 with plans to launch their commercial self-driving taxi services in 2021, according to TrendForce, which estimates the CAGR of self-driving taxis to reach 81% from 2018 to 2023.

China’s solar market is rapidly growing. It pushed the size of the global solar market to over 100GW in 2017, according to EnergyTrend, a division of TrendForce. The market research firm estimates that the worldwide solar demand will increase further in 2018 to 106GW.

In a report, IC Insights expects that new manufacturing lines are expected to boost industry capacity by 8% in both 2018 and 2019. From 2017-2022, annual growth in IC industry capacity is forecast to average 6.0%, compared to 4.8% average growth from 2012-2017.

Worldwide silicon wafer area shipments in 2017 increased by 10% against 2016 shipments, while worldwide silicon revenues rose by 21% over 2016 levels, according to the SEMI Silicon Manufacturers Group (SMG) in its year-end analysis of the silicon wafer industry.



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