The Week In Review: Manufacturing

Fab tool slowdown; GF-Samsung align; TSMC’s new finFET; 450mm still alive.

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There is more evidence of a fab tool slowdown. In fact, ASML itself sounded the alarm during its earnings conference call this week. “ASML noted uncertainty regarding the timing of both the 16/14 nm finFET ramp at foundries (the company is seeing a delay from customers as the technology is still in development, in our view) and 3D NAND,” said Weston Twigg, an analyst from Pacific Crest Securities, in a research note. “We are lowering our CapEx projection moderately (we previously modeled capex up 7%). At this point, we are concerned that gaps between technology transitions—28nm to 16/14nm finFET for foundry and planar NAND to 3D NAND—are lending to equipment demand risk. Our current model projects capex of $57.5 billion and WFE of roughly $30.4 billion for 2014. The lower number puts our 2014 estimates at risk for moderate reductions unless demand picks back up.”

As expected, Samsung and GlobalFoundries announced a strategic collaboration to deliver global capacity for 14nm finFET process technology. The process is developed by Samsung and licensed to GlobalFoundries.

TSMC has expanded its finFET lines. Besides the previously announced finFET, TSMC has rolled out something called 16-FinFET plus. “16-FinFET plus offers 15% speed improvement… More importantly 16-FinFET plus offers 30% total power reduction at the same speed compared to 16-FinFET,” said Mark Liu, co-CEO of TSMC, in a conference call on the Seeking Alpha Web site. “First custom tape-outs about 15 products planned for 2014, another about 45 in 2015. Volume production is planned in 2015.”

The industry has delayed 450mm technology, but 450mm is not dead in the water yet. In a conference call, Brian Krzanich, CEO of Intel, said 450mm is alive. He said: “We haven’t changed. We’ve said that actually our 450 is similar in the latter half of this decade, right? So, we’re still saying that. You’re going to see gives and takes on 450 spending. These are long, drawn-out programs over multiple years.”

SEMI reports that the worldwide semiconductor photomask market was $3.1 billion in 2013 and is forecasted to reach $3.3 billion in 2015. After contracting 3% in 2012 the photomask market increased 1% in 2013.

Applied Materials has completed the assembly of a superconducting fault current limiter (SCFCL) system for installation and on-grid testing at the Knapps Corners substation owned and operated by Central Hudson Gas and Electric Corp. (Central Hudson) in New York. This SCFCL system, which is scheduled to become operational in May 2014, is designed to help protect Central Hudson’s electricity grid from the potentially devastating effects of electrical faults.

Advantest has started sales of a new terahertz optical sampling system, the TAS7400TS.

Renesas remained the leader in the automotive semiconductor race in 2013, with the company’s dominance in microcomponents and logic integrated circuits (IC) helping it to hold a half-billion-dollar gap over the second-place competitor, according to IHS.

The latest member of Samsung’s line of Galaxy smartphones ups the ante on features—and on cost—with the S5’s discrete-intensive design yielding a high bill of materials (BOM), according to IHS.