The Week In Review: Manufacturing

Trade wars; fab tool M&A; wafers; ASE’s plant.

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Trade wars
China and the United States are in the midst of a trade war. Click here for the latest from CNN. Meanwhile, click here for a list of the winners and losers so far.

Display Supply Chain Consultants, a research firm, provides more insights from a hi-tech perspective.

Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the U.S.-based Consumer Technology Association (CTA), issued a statement about the Trump administration’s announced tariffs on certain products from China, and China’s response.

“The Trump Administration’s proposed tariffs and China’s announced retaliation will hurt commerce, businesses and consumers. The saying ‘When elephants fight, the ground gets trampled’ is a fair description of how everyone loses when two trading partners start fighting.

“We note the Trump Administration singled out TVs as one of the largest proposed categories for a 25% tariff. This staple of brick-and-mortar retailing makes no sense given the president’s recent concern for their economic viability. But in the big picture, all these proposed tariffs and China’s equivalent response are a poison pill to U.S. manufacturing, production, our innovation economy and American pocketbooks.

“Technology is an American competitive advantage and the future of our economy. Instead of raising costs for Americans and slowing U.S. productivity, the administration should put the same requirements on China that China puts on non-Chinese doing business in its country and push for greater transparency, IP protection, competition and open markets. We must resist tariffs that would jeopardize more than two million American jobs associated with digital trade and could cost the U.S. economy $332 billion over the next ten years.

“We’re now reviewing the list of products to gauge the potential impact. But chapters 84 and 85 of the tariff code – which are included in part – have the potential to hit consumers. Other sections dealing with components could affect the consumer technology sector. With the 30-day comment period, we urge companies and consumers to take action, make their voices heard and tell the administration just how much damage this would do to American jobs and our economy.”

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Fab tools and materials
There is more consolidation in the equipment business. Tokyo Electron Ltd. (TEL) has signed a definitive agreement to sell its packaging equipment unit, TEL NEXX, to ASM Pacific Technology. With the deal, ASM Pacific gains an entry into the electrochemical deposition (ECD) and physical vapor deposition (PVD) markets for IC packaging. This follows KLA-Tencor’s proposed move to acquire Orbotech for approximately $3.4 billion.

Plasma-Therm has acquired KOBUS, a plasma deposition company. KOBUS provides a technology called F.A.S.T, an alternative to ALD where thick and conformal films are required. This deposition method combines ALD and CVD. “F.A.S.T. stands for “Fast Atomic Sequential Technology,” according to the company. “F.A.S.T. is enabled by proprietary CVD reactor design combined with pulsing capability, and while capable of depositing in traditional ALD mode, it is optimal for thick and conformal layer deposition and offers new solutions for 3D integration challenges.”

In a blog, Applied Materials talks about 5G. Several major U.S.-centric carriers as well as international carriers announced or reiterated 5G trials, according to the blog.

Silicon wafer supply remains tight. “Chip makers continue to struggle to secure more silicon wafers to meet market demand as production capacity has reportedly fallen short of their needs, particularly in the 300mm wafer segment – a trend that has led to record-low DOI (Days of Inventory) levels since the second half of 2017,” according to SEMI analysts Sungho Yoon and Dan Tracy.

Packaging and test
Advanced Semiconductor Engineering (ASE) has broken ground on its latest factory. The plant, dubbed K25, is located in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. The building is scheduled to be completed in 2020 and is expected to create more than 1,800 job opportunities. The K25 building will be a state-of-the-art facility. It will have a total of 355,800 square feet of floor space that will be used to research, develop and manufacture advanced packages. The design and layout of building K25 has been planned using local and global green standards.

Advantest has introduced its T5503HS2 memory tester. The tester is designed to provide test solutions for the new wave of memories as well as existing devices. It is capable of testing at speeds up to 8 Gbps with overall timing accuracy of ±45 picoseconds.

Chipmakers
Nantero has received funding from eight strategic investors. The total funding round was $29.7 million. The investors include Dell, Cisco, Kingston, CFT Capital and Schlumberger. CFT is an investment firm in China, which was incorporated by SMIC. Nantero’s main focus is the commercial introduction of NRAM – a carbon nanotube RAM.

Market research
SEMI reported that worldwide sales of semiconductor manufacturing equipment totaled $56.6 billion in 2017, a year-over-year increase of 37% from 2016 sales of $41.24 billion. In addition, IC packaging and testing in China generated $29 billion in revenue in 2017, making China the world’s largest consumer of packaging equipment and materials, according to SEMI.



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