The Week In Review: Manufacturing

New foundries; Apple’s sapphire snag; Applied-TEL update; Lam’s results.

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Fujitsu Semiconductor and Panasonic’s chip unit announced that the parties have signed a definitive agreement to merge and establish a new fabless IC company. Panasonic isn’t exactly fabless–yet. Recently, Panasonic took its fabs and formed a fab venture with TowerJazz.

Meanwhile, as part of the move, Fujitsu and Fujitsu Semiconductor have decided to expand the scope of its foundry operations. Fujitsu Semiconductor’s manufacturing facilities in Mie and Aizu-Wakamatsu will be spun off into two new and separate foundry companies by the end of 2014. One foundry company, based in Aizu, will consist of a 150mm and a 200mm fab. In addition, On Semiconductor will obtain a 10% ownership interest in the new Aizu foundry company. Meanwhile, the Mie 300mm wafer fab operations will be transferred to a newly formed foundry company. The Mie fab unit is looking for partners. UMC is a potential partner in the fab, according to reports.

Apple is readying the iPhone 6 and iWatch. The covers on those products are supposedly based on stronger sapphire material, instead of traditional glass. In fact, Apple is developing its own sapphire material as part of a joint venture with GT. Apple’s move was expected to drive prices up for sapphire and create shortages for the material. But as it turns out, sapphire covers have failed to shine. “The sapphire glass version iPhone 6 will be issued in limited volumes this year, mostly because sapphire ingot manufacturers yield rates were lower than forecasts and issues involved in sapphire glass processing,’’ according to TrendForce, a research firm. “Sapphire ingot, substrate and patterned sapphire substrate (PSS) prices have all dropped in July 2014, with some product prices down 5%-10% quarter-on-quarter.”

Applied Materials’ acquisition of Tokyo Electron Ltd. (TEL) may have hit a small speed bump. Applied Materials has refiled an application with China’s Ministry of Commerce seeking approval of its takeover of TEL, according to reports.

Lam Research announced its financial results for the quarter ended June 29, 2014. Revenue was $1.249 billion, up 2% from the prior quarter.

In a conference call, Martin Anstice, president and CEO of Lam, said: “Restating my earlier message, we expect WFE (wafer fab equipment) at the $32 billion level in calendar year ‘14 and revenues at Lam to materially outperform to that baseline year-over-year comparison.”

Advantest has received multiple MPT3000 system orders from manufacturers of solid-state drives (SSDs). The new SSD tester, introduced in June, is being used in testing next-generation SSD devices that are soon to become commercially available.

Proteus Digital Health, a developer of digital medicine, announced that it has completed a second closing of its Series G financing, raising over $172 million.

Inphi will acquire Cortina’s high-speed interconnect and optical transport product lines for $52.5 million in cash and $73.5 million in stock. The acquisition does not include Cortina’s access and digital home business, which is currently scheduled to be divested prior to the acquisition close and will continue as an independent company.

IC Insightsshows that DRAM bit volume has been trending downward since the mid-1990s and in the most recent five-year span is forecast to show an average annual growth rate of only 36% per year.

Cognizant computing—the next phase of the personal cloud movement—will become one of the strongest forces in consumer-focused IT, according to Gartner. Cognizant computing is a consumer experience, in which data associated with individuals is used to develop services. These services include alarms, bill payments, managing and monitoring health and fitness, and context-specific ads. Cognizant systems will deliver their services across multiple devices.