Week In Review: Manufacturing, Design, Test

Potato chips vs. Tea Party; node predictions; 450mm blues; job cuts; big chip spenders.


Look for a nasty political campaign in Idaho, according to Bloomberg. Business leaders from Micron Technology and others in Idaho are endorsing the incumbent Republican candidate over a Tea Party challenger. The challenger, Bryan Smith, is a conservative Republican running for Idaho’s second congressional district. He is running against 16-year incumbent Mike Simpson. Simpson is supposedly pro-business. Smith says Simpson’s policies are off base.

At SEMI’s recent Industry Strategy Symposium (ISS), Handel Jones, chief executive at International Business Strategies, made the following predictions, and the likely probabilities, regarding the process nodes. “28nm will have (a) long lifetime,” he said. “20nm parametric yields will improve, and 20nm will be (the) high volume technology node in 2015 and 2016.” The probability of this occurring is 50%, he said.

“16/14nm will provide low cost gates and support high bandwidth interfaces in SoC environments,” Jones said. There is a 20% probability that 16/14nm finFET will go into production in 2016 and a 50% chance in 2017. “10nm will likely be postponed. Cost per gate will be prohibitive and unclear as to demand other than high speed processors and FPGAs,” he said, adding the probability of that occurring is 90%.

At ISS, Jones also said the industry is trying to adopt three technologies in three years. As a result, IC scaling will likely slow. 28nm high-k/metal-gate moved into production in Q2 2013. 20nm high-k/metal-gate is expected to move into production Q2 2015. And 16nm/14nm finFETs are slated for Q2 2016. “Design implementation cycle time is 12 to 24 months, and even if fabs are ready, it is unlikely that (the) design ecosystem can support (this),” he said.

In 2005, the ITRS put 450mm fabs on track for production in 2012. That, of course, never happened. Many believe that 450mm fabs will move into production in the 2018 to 2020 timeframe. But based on the costs and delays, G. Dan Hutcheson, chief executive of VLSI Research, doesn’t see 450mm fabs moving into production until 2020 to 2025. “We are still on track for pilot lines in 2019,” he said at ISS.

For 450mm, the big challenge is improving the throughput on lithography. ASML claims that there will be little benefit in litho throughput in 450mm. Rival Nikon has a different opinion, saying it can boost litho productivity at 450mm. “We have to change the wafer size in order to keep Moore’s Law going,” said Kazuo Ushida, senior executive vice president and president of the Precision Equipment Co. at Nikon. “When we migrated from 200mm to 300mm, we quadrupled the productivity of optical lithography over the years. I believe we have to do the same thing when we migrate from 300mm to 450mm. A good starting point for 450mm is more than 100 wafers per hour.”

North America-based manufacturers of semiconductor equipment posted $1.38 billion in orders worldwide in December 2013 and a book-to-bill ratio of 1.02, according to SEMI. A book-to-bill of 1.02 means that $102 worth of orders were received for every $100 of product billed for the month.

Applied Ventures, the venture capital arm of Applied Materials, has completed strategic investments in two advanced imaging detection companies. One company, Oncoscope, is a medical optical imaging technology company. And Passport Systems is a provider of advanced cargo scanning systems to identify dangerous and contraband materials.

GlobalFoundries is backing off on plans to build a second fab in New York, according to the Times Union. GlobalFoundries is still hiring, however. The company is looking to complete its fab in New York, according to the Times Union.

ASML posted mixed results and recognized its first revenue for the company’s initial production-worthy EUV tool–the NXE:3300. ASML also claims that its EUV source power is at about 70 Watts, which equates to a throughput of 50 wafers per hour. The target is 70 wafers per hour in 2014 and 125 in 2015.

On the Seeking Alpha Web site, Mark Jagiela, president of Teradyne, presented an outlook for ATE in 2014: “In SOC test, the 2013 market fell to $1.9 billion, lower than the general market forecast of $2.3 billion at the beginning of the year. This was primarily due to a significant drop in CapEx for digital processor test. While 2013 illustrates the difficulty of predicting the market size this early in the year, we do believe that there will be a rebound in the digital segment and the market will likely be in the $2.1 billion to $2.4 billion range. Looking forward, we see the memory test market in 2014 to be about flat.”

Texas Instruments plans to cut 1,100 jobs worldwide, about 3% of its workforce, amid lackluster results in the quarter.

Renesas is talking with unions to cut about 20% of its workforce through voluntary buyouts, according to Bloomberg.

Total IC foundry revenue grew to $42.8 billion in 2013, a 14% increase from $37.6 billion in 2012 and eight points more than the 6% increase displayed by the total IC market, according to IC Insights.

Samsung Electronics and Apple remained the top semiconductor buyers in 2013, increasing their combined semiconductor demand by 17%, according to Gartner. Samsung Electronics and Apple together consumed $53.7 billion of semiconductors in 2013, an increase of $7.7 billion from 2012.

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