The Week In Review: Manufacturing

Tablet market slows; CIA backs IC detector firm; 3D readiness; fab tool outlook; fast ATE cards.

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The smartphone market is maturing and slowing down. Now, according to International Data Corp. (IDC), the total tablet market, inclusive of both tablets and 2-in-1 devices, is forecast to grow 19.4% in 2014, down from a growth rate of 51.6% in 2013. IDC also reduced the 2014 forecast by -3.6% from its previous projection to 260.9 million units worldwide. The reduction in the short-term forecast was due to slowing consumer purchases as hardware iterations slow and the installed base—particularly in mature markets—continues to grow. Not surprisingly, IDC also expects that PC shipments will fall by 6% in 2014 and will decline through 2018.

Redlen Technologies has completed a $5.5 million financing round led by Pangaea Ventures with participation from other major investors including In-Q-Tel. In-Q-Tel is a not-for-profit venture capital firm that invests in high-tech companies for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and other intelligence agencies. Redlen Technologies is a manufacturer of high-resolution cadmium zinc telluride (CZT) semiconductor radiation detectors. CZT detectors provide a key technological advance in radiation dose reduction, image resolution, and diagnostic accuracy across a broad range of medical and security applications.

“Application Ready” was the theme for the recent “European 3D TSV Summit.” Raj Pendse, vice president and chief marketing officer of STATS ChipPac, made it a point to add a bit more of definition to the Summit agenda: “We are ready. But the application is not ready.”

SEMI projects that the fab tool equipment market will increase by 20% to 30% in 2014. The uptick to 30% depends on specific fab projects in the Europe/Mideast and Asia regions.

SEMI has published more than 19 standards for 450mm technology. New standards are being created to facilitate supplier and user for material and equipment. Revisions to published standards are needed as improvements are constantly identified.

Advantest has introduced its newest digital channel card, the Pin Scale Serial Link (PSSL) card, for at-speed characterization and volume production of today’s high-speed semiconductors. PSSL is the fastest automated test equipment (ATE) instrument on the market, capable of data rates up to 16 Gbps.

It will be interesting to monitor the integration effort of RF Micro Devices and TriQuint, according to Strategy Analytics. RFMD recently acquired TriQuint.

Samsung Electronics has expanded its 28nm foundry offerings with the addition of RF capabilities.

In addition to its results, X-Fab announced that Rudi De Winter will become sole chief executive of X-Fab Group as of June 2014, a move he and Hans-Juergen Straub planned for the past three years while they served as co-CEOs. Hans-Juergen Straub, who has served as CEO since X-Fab’s inception 22 years ago, will continue to serve on the board.

Silicon Labs announced the purchase of the full product portfolio and intellectual property of Touchstone Semiconductor. Silicon Labs purchased the assets of Touchstone for $1.5 million.

Intel has won a bidding war to buy smartwatch manufacturer Basis Science, according to reports.

IC Insights provided an updated forecast for 33 major IC product categories through 2018. Ten product categories, led by tablet MPUs, DRAM, and cellphone application MPUs, are forecast to exceed the 7% growth rate forecast for the total IC market this year, with seven of the ten categories forecast to enjoy double-digit growth. The number of IC product categories with positive growth in 2014 is expected to increase to 19 from 15 in 2013.