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The Week In Review: Manufacturing

DRAM price fixing; China jobs; analog, IC rankings.

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Chipmakers
Consumers recently filed a class-action suit against the three DRAM makers, alleging that they illegally agreed to raise prices for their respective memory products.

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges that Samsung, Micron and Hynix agreed to limit the supply of DRAM, driving up prices for this widely used memory.

The price of 4GB DRAM saw a 130% jump during a period specified in the lawsuit, which boosted suppliers’ profits. “What we’ve uncovered in the DRAM market is a classic antitrust, price-fixing scheme in which a small number of kingpin corporations hold the lion’s share of the market,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman, a law firm. “Instead of playing by the rules, Samsung, Micron and Hynix chose to put consumers in a chokehold, wringing the market for more profit.”

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TSMC this week updated its roadmap in the logic arena. As reported, the silicon foundry giant has taken the lead in the process technology race, as it has begun shipping its 7nm finFET process. TSMC plans to have more than 50 tape outs of the technology by year’s end.

TSMC is using 193nm immersion lithography for 7nm. As expected, the company is working on a second version of 7nm using extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography. That version will move into “risk production” in the third quarter of 2018, according to C.C. Wei, president and co-CEO of TSMC. Production is slated for next year.

Then, TSMC disclosed it is extending the finFET to 5nm. At 5nm, it doesn’t plan to move to another transistor technology—it will stay with finFET at 5nm. The company will make use of more EUV at 5nm, which is slated for “risk production” in 2019.

Beyond 5nm, TSMC is looking at several transistor technologies, although it didn’t exactly reveal its plans. At the next node, which could be 3nm, the company is exploring both nanowire and nanosheet FETs. “We are looking at both,” said Y.J. Mii, senior vice president of R&D, design and technology platform at TSMC.

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MRAM developer Spin Transfer Technologies has disclosed the results of its proprietary technology, dubbed Precessional Spin Current (PSC). The results from testing of the PSC structure confirm that it will increase the spin-torque efficiency of any MRAM device by 40-70%.

LED maker Osram has acquired Vixar, a provider of advanced VCSEL technology. At the same time, Osram has acquired specialty lighting provider Fluence.

Looking for a job? Shenyang, a city in northeastern China, is opening its arms to talent and companies both at home and abroad. It has announced an upgraded package of incentives in addition to a series of preferential policies introduced last year, including granting a maximum subsidy of 10 million yuan to top talents and “zero threshold” for graduates from Chinese and foreign universities to locate in the city.

Packaging and materials
Advanced Semiconductor Engineering (ASE) posted its results. Recently, ASE and Siliconware Precision Industries (SPIL) merged. Here’s combined site of the two entities.

STATS ChipPAC has expanded qualification of its embedded Wafer Level Ball Grid Array (eWLB) technology for Grades 1 and 2 of the AEC-Q100 standards established by the Automotive Electronics Council (AEC).

The proposed merger between Praxair and Linde has received clearance from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). Under the plan, Linde will become the parent company of Praxair and Linde AG upon the completion of the merger. The merger is expected to be completed in the second half of 2018.

Market research
Who is the king of analog? “With analog sales of $9.9 billion and 18% market share, Texas Instruments was again the leading supplier of analog integrated circuits in 2017,” according to IC Insights, which released its rankings of top analog suppliers. “In 2016, TI’s market share was 17% in analog ICs. The company’s analog sales increased by about $1.4 billion last year—rising 16%—compared to 2016 and were more than twice that of second-ranked Analog Devices (ADI).”

In case you haven’t heard the news: “2017 saw two semiconductor industry milestones — revenue surpassed $400 billion, and Intel, the No. 1 vendor for the last 25 years, was pushed into second place by Samsung Electronics,” said George Brocklehurst, research director at Gartner. “Both milestones happened due to rapid growth in the memory market as undersupply drove pricing for DRAM and NAND flash higher.”



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