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Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

5nm EUV iPads; More Arm-Nvidia; cryogenic probes; CMP.

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Chipmakers and OEMs
Apple has launched a new Apple Watch and iPad. Missing from the announcement was the iPhone 12, which may appear next month, according to Krish Sankar, an analyst at Cowen. What was interesting about this week’s announcement? Apple unveiled the iPad Air with the A14 Bionic, Apple’s most advanced chip. “Apple revealed the new 8th gen iPad (starting at $329) powered by the A12 Bionic chip, while the updated iPad Air (starting at $599) features Apple’s latest 5nm A14 chip (using EUV technology from TSMC) that we expect will also be featured in the upcoming iPhone 12. Performance wise, Apple expects the new iPads will be at least 2x faster than alternative products such as Windows notebooks, Chromebooks, and Android tablets,” Sankar said in a research note.

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

Since the deal was announced, there has been no shortage of analysis. Assuming the deal wins regulatory approval, the combination of these two companies will create a powerhouse in the AI/ML world, according to an analysis from Semiconductor Engineering. In addition, IC Insights and Semico have also provided analysts. Click here for IC Insights and here for Semico.

“We believe a tie-up between Arm and NVIDIA could create an opening for competitors including SNPS (already #2 in semiconductor design IP mkt), CDNS, and SiFive, as well as CEVA & RMBS, to a lesser extent. Companies like MRVL may be left questioning future investments for Thunder X,” said Gary Mobley, senior analyst at Wells Fargo Securities, in a research note. “If Arm, the leading developer of licensable RISC processor IP, were to be acquired by one of hundreds of Arm’s existing licensees, this may cause some existing Arm licensees to re-evaluate long-term processor roadmaps. In particular, we believe the free and open RISC-V ISA would gain more wide-spread industry support. We could see more software (e.g. OS) support for RISC-V, and we could see hardware developers expand usage of RISC-V above and beyond current use cases (e.g. embedded control functions). Any company like SiFive, which specializes in developing specialized, licensable cores based on the RISC-V ISA, could benefit from a ground-swell of RISC-V industry support.”

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Antaios, a developer of SOT-MRAM (spin-orbit torque magnetic random-access memory), has secured $11 million in funding to accelerate the development of its technology.

Amazon has announced the first recipients of investments from The Climate Pledge Fund: CarbonCure Technologies, Pachama, Redwood Materials, Rivian, and Turntide Technologies. The Climate Pledge Fund is a dedicated $2 billion venture investment program backing sustainable technologies and services that will help Amazon and other companies to meet The Climate Pledge—a commitment to be net-zero carbon by 2040.

The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) has announced that Lisa Su, president and CEO of AMD, has been named the 2020 recipient of SIA’s highest honor, the Robert N. Noyce Award.

SiFive has announced the appointment of Patrick Little as president and CEO.

Packaging, test and analytics
FormFactor has developed a family of engineering probes optimized for operation at cryogenic temperatures. The probes can be used to test the performance of devices operating at temperatures as low as 4 kelvin, such as those in development for use in supercomputers and quantum computing applications.

FormFactor’s cryogenic probe collection enables on-wafer testing for DC, high frequency RF, and optical applications. “The challenges of probing at these extreme low temperatures are significant,” said Matt Losey, senior vice president and general manager of the Probes Business Unit at FormFactor. “FormFactor’s cryogenic probes are engineered with materials and architectures which thrive under cryogenic conditions to deliver superior performance for the high data rates required to test emerging computing ICs.”

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Data analytics specialist proteanTecs has announced that the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has issued U.S. Patent No. 10,740,262, for Integrated Circuit I/O Integrity and Degradation Monitoring. The new patent relates to the company’s HBM agent for signal connectivity integrity. HBM or high bandwidth memory is a JEDEC industry standard.

Teradyne has announced two senior management changes. Gregory Smith has been appointed to the newly created position of president of Teradyne’s Industrial Automation Group, while Richard Burns has been appointed president of Teradyne’s Semiconductor Test Division, replacing Smith. Both appointments are effective Oct. 1.

Kulicke & Soffa Industries (K&S) has announced the planned retirement of Garrett Pierce from the board and as chairman on Sept. 30, having reached the company’s mandatory retirement age. Peter Kong who has served as a director for K&S since 2014 will be appointed chairman, effective Oct. 1.

Fab tools
Lam Research has announced the retirement of Youssef A. El-Mansy from its board of directors, effective Nov. 1. El-Mansy served as a member of the Lam and Novellus boards for 16 years. In addition, the National GEM Consortium (GEM), one of the premier organizations for the best and brightest underrepresented minority STEM talent in the country, announced the appointment of Tim Archer as chairman of its board. Archer is the president and CEO of Lam Research.

Market research
TECHCET—an electronic materials advisory firm—said that the global market for chemical-mechanical planarization (CMP) consumable materials in semiconductor manufacturing is expected to total over $2.5 billion this year.

Economic uncertainties have increased the downward pressure on smartphone prices globally with 73% of shipments in 2020 expected to be priced below $400, according to IDC. Worldwide smartphone value is expected to decline 7.9% in 2020 to $422.4 billion, down from $458.5 billion in 2019, according to IDC. “The downward trend is intensified by consumers turning to devices priced in the low-to-mid range as they prioritize spending on essentials,” according to IDC.



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