The Week In Review: Manufacturing

R&D; China AI; GF-TPI mask deal; UMC award.

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R&D
Late last month, the U.S. Congress finalized the federal spending for the remainder of the fiscal year. This includes R&D spending as well. “There was grave concern over the future of federal spending with the release of the president’s FY 2018 budget, which would have cut the National Science Foundation (NSF) budget by 11% and National Institutes of Standards & Technology (NIST) spending by 30%,” said Jamie Girard, senior director of public policy at SEMI, in a blog. “Relief came with early drafts from Congress that whittled those cuts down to between 2-9%. But the real boost was a February bipartisan Congressional agreement that lifted self-imposed spending caps and introduced a generous dose of non-defense discretionary spending, increasing NSF spending 3.9% over the previous year and the NIST budget an astounding 25.9% over FY 2017 levels.”

OEMs and chipmakers
SenseTime, China’s leading artificial intelligence (AI) company, has raised $600 million in its Series C round of funding. Alibaba Group is taking the lead role for this round of funding. Other participants include Temasek and Suning. The AI company set a record by raising $410 million in its series B round of funding last July. SenseTime has developed a proprietary deep learning platform for use in computer vision technologies, including face recognition, video analysis, text recognition, and autonomous driving.

GlobalFoundries and Toppan Photomasks Inc. (TPI) have announced a multi-year extension to their Advanced Mask Technology Center (AMTC) joint venture in Dresden, Germany. Opened in 2002, AMTC provides GF’s with photomasks. Owned equally by TPI and GF, the AMTC joint venture was previously extended in 2012. The new extension aims to continue the current charter for manufacturing production masks at leading-edge nodes.

United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC) has announced that its Singapore-based Fab 12i was awarded the Watermark Award from Singapore’s National Water Agency. The Watermark Award is Singapore’s top award that recognizes contributions and commitment to protect and raise awareness of water as a precious resource. Fab 12i was the only semiconductor fab to win the award.

Fab tools and packaging
Tokyo Electron Ltd. (TEL) has moved to a direct selling and support model in Singapore and Southeast Asia. Previously, TEL relied on Hermes-Epitek Singapore to serve as the sales agent in those regions. Along with termination of the agent agreement with Hermes-Epitek Singapore, local subsidiaries of TEL will henceforth become the sole sales agent and service/parts provider for TEL products in Singapore and Southeast Asia.

One Equity Partners, a private equity firm, has completed the acquisition of ePak Resources, a designer and manufacturer of IC packaging. While financial terms of the private transaction were not disclosed, management will continue to own a significant stake in the company.

Market research
Here’s a bad sign: “The NAND flash market has witnessed a slight oversupply in 1Q18. The growth momentum remains weak in 2Q18 although the demand increases,” according to DRAMeXchange, a division of TrendForce. “It is expected that the slight oversupply in NAND Flash market will remain and the prices will continue to decline.”

After several years of flat growth, the worldwide semiconductor photomask market surged 13% to a record high $3.75 billion in 2017 and is forecast to exceed $4.0 billion in 2019, according to SEMI.

SEMI has announced the postponement of Semicon Southeast Asia from May 8-10 to May 22-24. This avoids a timing conflict with the recently announced Malaysian election planned for May 9. The venue remains unchanged.



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