Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

Fast Arm-based supercomputer; TI awards; visas; trade war.


Fast Arm-based supercomputer
Japan has taken the lead in the supercomputer race, jumping ahead of the U.S. But China continues to make its presence felt in the arena.

Fugaku, an ARM-based supercomputer jointly developed by Japan’s Riken and Fujitsu, is now ranked the world’s fastest supercomputer in the 55th TOP500 list. Fugaku turned in a high performance Linpack (HPL) result of 415.5 petaflops, beating the IBM-built Summit supercomputer by a factor of 2.8x. Fugaku is powered by Fujitsu’s 48-core A64FX SoC, becoming the first number one system on the list to be powered by ARM processors. The new system is installed at the Riken Center for Computational Science (R-CCS) in Kobe, Japan.

The rankings were released this week. The U.S.-based Summit is now ranked in second place. Last year, Summit was ranked in first place. In total, Chinese manufacturers dominate the supercomputer list, accounting for 312 of the 500 systems. HPE claims 37 systems, while Cray/HPE has 35 systems. Fujitsu is represented by 13 systems.

In total, the majority of supercomputers on the list are equipped with accelerator/coprocessors (135) using NVIDIA GPUs. “The x86 continues to be the dominant processor architecture, being present in 481 of the 500 systems,” according to officials. “Intel claims 469 of these, with AMD installed in 11 and Hygon in the remaining one. ARM processors are present in just four TOP500 systems.”


As expected, Apple this week confirmed that it is moving from Intel-based processors to ARM-based chips for the Mac. “Our field work suggests Apple has ARM-based processor designs in progress and are slated to be manufactured on TSMC’s 6nm and 5nm process nodes,” said Krish Sankar, an analyst at Cowen, in a research note. This in turn represents a potential 2% to 5% revenue hit for Intel, according to the firm.

Texas Instruments has recognized 17 companies as winners of its 2019 Supplier Excellence Award (SEA). ASE, Cadence, TSMC, TEL and UMC were among the recipients.

Toshiba plans to sell its 40.2% stake in its former flash memory chip unit, dubbed Kioxia, according to various reports. Not long ago, Toshiba spun out the group into a separate company. Kioxia has other shareholders.

GlobalFoundries has secured a purchase option agreement for approximately 66 acres of undeveloped land adjacent to its most advanced manufacturing facility, Fab 8, in Malta, N.Y., near the Luther Forest Technology Campus (LFTC). “Amid growing consensus in our nation’s capital for investment in semiconductor manufacturing, it’s more important than ever that we are ready to fast track our growth plans at GlobalFoundries’ most advanced manufacturing facility in the U.S.,” said Ron Sampson, senior vice president and general manager of U.S. Fab Operations at GF. “With this agreement option, we now have additional flexibility to expand our footprint and position Fab 8 for future growth in Saratoga County and New York State, while strengthening U.S. leadership in semiconductor manufacturing.”

Nano-Bio Materials Consortium, a SEMI Strategic Association Partner, has launched a project with GE Research to develop a medical-grade wireless patch that monitors the vital signs of medical patients during emergency air transport. The device promises to advance the state-of-the-art in medical care coordination, records management and patient outcomes in aeromedical evacuation but will also help drive advances in consumer-based telehealth.

In the U.S. Department of Defense, Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Michael D. Griffin, and Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Lisa Porter, have tendered their resignations effective July 10. Griffin became under secretary in 2018, and Porter began her role in 2018. Here’s some analysis.

Fab tools
At Semicon China, CyberOptics will demonstrate its In-Line Particle Sensor (IPS) and Auto Resistance Sensor (ARS) for semiconductor tool set-up and equipment diagnostics.

TEL has announced several personnel changes. The personnel changes for executive officers of TEL are effective June 23.

Test and analytics
Data analytics supplier proteanTecs has become a member of Global Semiconductor Alliance (GSA). “Joining the GSA was a natural decision for us,” said Raanan Gewirtzman, CBO of proteanTecs. “proteanTecs has a unique value to offer the entire semiconductor industry and partnering with the GSA provides invaluable room for collaboration and knowledge sharing. It enables a platform where the industry’s intellectual capital can come together and accelerate semiconductor innovation.”

Keysight Technologies has completed the acquisition of Eggplant from The Carlyle Group. Eggplant is a software test automation platform provider that uses artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics to automate test creation and test execution.

Trade/government policy
The Trump Administration is taking action to reform its H-1B immigration program. “President Trump is building on this measure with an additional pause on several job-related non-immigrant visas—H-1Bs, H-2Bs without a nexus to the food-supply chain, certain H-4s, as well as Ls and certain Js—preserving jobs for American citizens,” according to the administration.

Regarding the United States’ recent move to restrict non-immigrant visas, Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), said: “The president’s latest actions to restrict American access to global talent will hurt our country’s competitiveness and will result in other countries gaining what we have lost. On the heels of the president’s action in April to limit immigration by suspending green card applications, this executive order puts even more strain on our nation’s innovators during this unprecedented time.

“While the United States and the world are fighting this pandemic, American technology companies are providing solutions. Now more than ever, the White House should consider policies to unleash the power of American innovation, not set policies that hinder the world’s best and brightest from working in America. We implore the White House to rescind this executive order and pursue policies that ensure our country continues to lead the world in tech innovation.”


Strategy Analytics said that the U.S. government’s recent actions against Huawei threatens U.S. semiconductor industry exports, innovation and global leadership. “The new trade policy aimed against Huawei seems to be motivated by U.S. domestic politics rather than a clear understanding of international trade in the technology sector. The U.S. has legitimate differences with China, but the damage to the U.S. semiconductors industry from this new policy would start at $7 billion in lost sales, and put the industry’s future competitiveness at risk through reduced R&D spending, far outweighing any benefits to the U.S,” said Christopher Taylor, an analyst at Strategy Analytics.

Stephen Entwistle, vice president of strategic technologies at Strategy Analytics, added “Semiconductor suppliers Broadcom, Intel, Micron, Skyworks, and Qualcomm and many others will be affected. The U.S. semiconductor industry employs about 250,000, and a loss of U.S. semiconductor leadership would put these jobs at risk, with a multiplier effect extending to three or four times as many U.S. jobs. Foreign semiconductor firms in the supply chain using U.S. technology including MediaTek and the foundry TSMC are also barred from selling to Huawei under the policy, which will affect the entire electronics industry.”


Congress is proposing yet another bill to help fund the U.S. semiconductor industry. “The American Foundries Act includes a range of federal investments to advance U.S. semiconductor manufacturing, including a $15 billion federal grant program that would incentivize new domestic semiconductor manufacturing and R&D facilities. The bill also authorizes $5 billion for public-private collaboration on the construction or modernization of fabs for national security, intelligence, and critical infrastructure,” according to the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA). Here are various other proposed bills in the arena.

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