Week In Review: Manufacturing, Design, Test

Fate of IBM Micro; geeks vs gym rats; TEL exits solar; fab tool shakeout; memory test.


This is no surprise, but it could be the end of an era. IBM is exploring a sale of its semiconductor business, according to FT.com.

A survey, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Crucial.com, revealed that when asked to choose between these two specific types of men, 84% of women who prefer to be involved with men prefer their male love interest to be “super handy” with computers and gadgets over one that spends lots of time at the gym (15%). So potent is the “gadget geek” appeal that over two-thirds (66%) of women think that men have claimed to know more about technology than they actually do in order to impress a woman.

Tokyo Electron Ltd. (TEL), which is in the process of being acquired by Applied Materials, passed a resolution to withdraw from the photovoltaic panel production equipment business.

TEL also posted its results for the quarter. The company also projected that the wafer-fab equipment (WFE) market would grow 10% in 2014. The demand is coming from memory and logic customers, according to TEL. The completion of the merger with Applied is on schedule for the mid to the second half of 2014.

Advantest has announced its latest test solution for next-generation memory ICs that enable high-demand mobile applications and servers. With its parallel testing capabilities and full compatibility as an upgrade on Advantest’s T5503 test platform, the new T5503HS offers a low-cost of test within an upgradable design.

Is Nanometrics the next acquisition target in the fab tool market? The process control company has seen strong results and big customer demand. “We believe Nanometrics has now won OCD business at TSMC for 20nm and 16nm technologies, and at Samsung and GlobalFoundries for the 14nm technology. Nanometrics already has a strong OCD position at Intel, in our view. We believe Nanometrics has won Samsung’s OCD business for 3D NAND, along with a new integrated metrology win for the same process,” said Weston Twigg, an analyst with Pacific Crest Securities, in a research note. “Additionally, we believe Nanometrics is a prime acquisition target, and at a going rate of 2.5x to 3x 2015 sales, the purchase price could be over $30 per share.”

Entegris will acquire ATMI for a total equity value of approximately $1.15 billion. The combination brings together two suppliers in the semiconductor industry to create a technology leader in advanced process materials, contamination control and wafer handling.

FEI, an instrumentation company providing imaging and analysis systems, has acquired Lithicon AS.

Intermolecular posted its results. The R&D foundry also announced a reduction in its workforce of approximately 18% of full time headcount, resulting in estimated, annualized savings between $6 million to $7 million. “Intermolecular is having a rough go of it with a suspension of work with GlobalFoundries, a cancellation of development work with ATMI, and a reduction of scope with First Solar,” said Twigg of Pacific Crest. “On its earnings call last night, Intermolecular noted a suspension of work through 2014 with GlobalFoundries, one of its best customers. The suspension of work with GlobalFoundries through 2014 was a major surprise to us, although it makes sense if we consider that GlobalFoundries may adopt Samsung’s process technology at 14nm.”

David Rubenstein, an analyst with Advanced Research Japan, commented on Nikon’s results. “3Q operating profit was up sharply due to the impact of the weak yen, but weak sales of digital cameras are continuing. Due to depressed sales of digital cameras, 3Q sales declined 2% year-over-year,” he said. “For semiconductor (IC) stepper/scanners, 3Q unit sales of 6 units (ArF immersion) versus ASML’s 56 units (ArFi–27) shows a large disparity, and LCD steppers 11 units were less than Canon’s 16. Full-year semiconductor (IC) stepper/scanner unit sales were revised down by 3 units to 46 (last year 40), with LCD steppers unchanged at 55 (last year 43). Versus the competition in semiconductor (IC) steppers/scanners, this is not an easy level to catch up. Nikon’s LCD steppers compared with Canon products still have technological superiority, however its lead is narrowing on pricing and Canon’s client development of China users.”

The worldwide reclaim wafer market was estimated at $460 million in 2013 and is forecasted to reach $493 million by 2015, according to SEMI. Both revenues and number of wafers reclaimed grew 14% in 2013, with 300mm wafers accounting for 72% of the market by revenue and representing 48% of actual wafers reclaimed in 2013.

The market for semiconductor packaging materials, including thermal interface materials, is expected to maintain its $20 billion value through 2017, despite shifts away from the use of precious metals such as gold in wire bonding, according to a new study by SEMI and TechSearch International.

According to the latest research from Strategy Analytics, fourth quarter 2013 global tablet shipments reached 76.8 million units. New products from Apple late in the year contributed to the company growing market share in the fourth quarter by almost 7%, therefore reversing a trend of two successive quarters of share loss. Samsung ended the year strongly where its fourth quarter shipments were almost double the volume it shipped in one year previously in Q4 2012.

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