Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

Updated: Arm-Nvidia deal; direct-write litho; photonics test.


Top story
NVIDIA and SoftBank Group Corp. (SBG) have announced a definitive agreement under which NVIDIA will acquire Arm from SBG and the SoftBank Vision Fund in a transaction valued at $40 billion.

Market research
Here’s the latest fab equipment forecast from VLSI Research: “The semiconductor equipment market has been very resilient in 2020 despite a very challenging macroeconomic environment and supply chain disruptions related to the Covid-19 shutdowns,” according to the research firm. “Chipmakers have continued to invest in capacity and technology roadmaps to prepare for the 5G ramp, growing demand from datacenters, and the rapid transformation to a data economy. Equipment sales are on track to increase 10% in 2020. Wafer fab will be the fastest growing segment with sales jumping 11%. Test will follow closely with sales increasing by double digits while assembly is expected to increase in mid-single digit range.”

Soaring pandemic-inspired demand for chips will drive an 8% increase in global fab equipment spending in 2020 and a 13% increase in 2021, according to SEMI’s World Fab Forecast report. Second quarter 2020 global billings for semiconductor manufacturing equipment jumped 26% year-over-year and 8% on a quarterly basis to $16.8 billion from the first quarter of the year, according to SEMI.

It’s been a mixed picture for display equipment makers. “Due to Covid-19, travel restrictions and quarantines, it was a tough quarter. But display equipment companies managed to grow. On a Y/Y basis, revenues were down 20% and were down for the 6th straight quarter. However, we are expecting to see Q/Q AND Y/Y growth in Q3’20 and Q4’20 as tools not fully installed in 1H’20 are recognized in 2H’20 along with an already expected to be strong 2H’20,” said Ross Young, CEO of DSCC, in a blog.

Fab tools
Multibeam has embarked on a project to apply its Multicolumn E-Beam Lithography (MEBL) technology to pattern wafers at 45nm and larger nodes. The idea is to pattern wafers for backend-of-line (BEOL) processing. Funded by the Department of Defense (DoD) and program-managed by the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL), Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, a $38 million contract award includes an option for the U.S. Government to purchase another MEBL production system from Multibeam.

“This contract award along with the Secure Chip ID application we have been developing under an earlier DoD contract highlights the versatility of our innovative MEBL platform,” said David Lam, chairman and CEO of Multibeam. “Both applications are designed to run on our MEBL production systems.”


TEL’s plant in Kumamoto, Japan was temporarily closed on Sept. 7th due to the approach of Typhoon Haishen in the Kyushu region. None of the employees at TEL’s plant in Kumamoto was injured, and its buildings and facilities sustained no damage. TEL resumed operations on Sept. 8.

Test and analytics
FormFactor and Physik Instrumente (PI) have joined in a MeasureOne partnership to accelerate development of silicon photonics test and measurement applications. MeasureOne is a commitment between FormFactor and a select group of partners to deliver solutions to address customers’ test and measurement applications.

proteanTecs will be participating in a virtual panel discussion at the AI Hardware Summit 2020. The live panel discussion is entitled: “Assuring Datacenter Uptime Via Hardware Reliability.” It will be held on Sept. 15 at 10am PDT. Register for free here.

The Trump administration is considering whether to add China’s SMIC to a trade blacklist, according to reports. SMIC, China’s largest foundry, says the move is unjust.

Chinese startup foundry HSMC has been developing 14nm and 7nm in R&D. Apparently, HCMC is in trouble and running out of cash, according to several reports. Other reports say the company has gone under.

MaxLinear has completed the acquisition of NanoSemi, a provider of intellectual property that utilizes machine learning techniques.

Silvaco has completed the acquisition of the assets of Coupling Wave Solutions (CWS), including IP, patents, and analysis technologies. CWS is a provider of tools for system-level interference analysis of complex SoCs.

The European Commission has announced actions to make Europe’s raw materials supply more secure and sustainable. “The EU has released an updated list of critical raw materials, adding bauxite, titanium, lithium, and strontium, while removing helium,” according to Suzanne Shaw, an analyst at Roskill, in a blog. “Natural graphite remains on the list, which identifies materials with a high risk of supply shortage whose impacts on the economy are higher compared with most other raw materials. The supply of many of these commodities is dominated by just one country, in the case of natural graphite, that country is China. However, China’s dominance in natural graphite is under threat.”

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