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Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

SMIC; CIA; mask survey; KLA’s inspection tools; Lam’s gapfill; FDSOI.

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Top stories
Here’s the latest from Reuters: ”The United States has imposed restrictions on exports to China’s biggest chip maker SMIC after concluding there is an ‘unacceptable risk’ equipment supplied to it could be used for military purposes.” What does this all mean? “The press has reported that on Friday, the U.S. Department of Commerce placed restrictions on China’s largest semiconductor foundry, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC), which could limit semiconductor equipment and materials sales to the foundry,” said Weston Twigg, an analyst at KeyBanc, in a research note. “SMIC has been tracking around 7% of global semiconductor capex this year, and it is the sixth largest buyer of semiconductor equipment in 2020, by our estimate. Domestic Chinese companies account for 14-15% of total semiconductor capex, suggesting additional risk to semiconductor equipment companies and materials providers if trade war policies continue to escalate. However, we don’t anticipate any negative impact to global demand for chips, and competing foundries outside of China will likely expand capacity to accommodate for any shortfall at SMIC, a mid-term neutral-to-positive

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has launched CIA Labs, a federal laboratory and in-house research and development arm for the CIA to drive science and technology breakthroughs for tomorrow’s intelligence challenges. The lab establishes CIA as a research partner for other labs, academia, and industry in several disciplines, such as artificial intelligence, biotechnology, quantum computing, and advanced materials and manufacturing. Organizations interested in partnership opportunities can contact CIA Labs here.

Fab tools
The eBeam Initiative has disclosed the findings of its ninth annual eBeam Initiative perceptions survey, now called the Luminaries survey. The eBeam Initiative also completed its sixth annual Mask Makers survey with feedback from 10 captive and merchant photomask manufacturers.

Some 89% of respondents in the Luminaries survey predict that mask revenues in 2020 will stay the same or increase compared to 2019 despite COVID-19. In addition, 66% believe that extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography will drive business growth for photomasks, according to the survey. “The semiconductor industry has been one of the lucky ones to escape the negative effects of COVID-19. Industry luminaries are expecting the overall mask market to continue to grow with increased need for multi-beam writers at the leading edge, as well as enablement of curvilinear mask shapes, and additional investments for EUV masks including for inspection and pellicles,” said Aki Fujimura, CEO of D2S, the managing company sponsor of the eBeam Initiative. The surveys can be found here.

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KLA has launched the Kronos 1190 wafer-level packaging inspection system, the ICOS F160XP die sorting and inspection system and the next- generation of the ICOS T3/T7 series of packaged IC component inspection and metrology systems.

The new tools are designed for package inspection applications. “Process control across all stages of packaging manufacturing, from wafer- to component-level process steps, becomes more critical as innovations continue to advance packaging technology,” said Oreste Donzella, executive vice president of the Electronics, Packaging and Components (EPC) group at KLA.

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Lam Research has rolled out Striker FE, a new platform for manufacturing high-aspect-ratio chip architectures.

Striker FE makes use of Lam’s ICEFill technology for filling structures in 3D NAND, DRAM, and logic devices at advanced nodes. Lam’s Striker ICEFill harnesses a surface modification technique to achieve bottom-up and void-free gapfill, while retaining the film quality inherent in atomic layer deposition (ALD). “This technology combines the ability to produce high-quality oxide films with gapfill performance, in a single processing system,” said Sesha Varadarajan, senior vice president and general manager of the Deposition product group at Lam Research.

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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lam Research has created a virtual intern program. The goal is to prioritize the health and safety of Lam’s interns while also offering an opportunity to gain real-world experience.

The SEMI Nano-Bio Materials Consortium (NBMC) has released a request for proposals (RFP) for innovations in ambulatory monitoring, wearable technologies for cognitive assessment, and power sources for wearable monitors. Projects will be awarded with cash budgets ranging from $500,000 to $2 million. The RFP is funded by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).

OEMs and chipmakers
To date, GlobalFoundries says its 22nm FD-SOI platform has realized $4.5 billion in design wins with more than 350 million chips shipped to customers.

At its Global Technology Conference, GlobalFoundries has rolled out its next-generation 22nm FD-SOI platform. The company continues to develop a 12nm version of FD-SOI, although that technology won’t be in production until 2023/2024.

The new 22nm FD-SOI technology, called 22FDX+, is designed for high-performance and ultra-low power applications. The first solution to be available on GF’s new 22FDX+ platform will be 22FDX RF+. With digital and RF enhancements, the new 22FDX RF+ solution is optimized to boost the performance of front-end-module (FEM) designs. 22FDX RF+ will be available in the first quarter of 2021.

Dialog is one of many customers for the technology. Jalal Bagherli, CEO of Dialog Semiconductor, said: “GlobalFoundries’ 22FDX+ platform, with its advanced RF performance, low power capabilities, and comprehensive platform features, is a key enabling technology that allows us to stay at the forefront of our industry for the next generation of these IoT products.”

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As reported, cyberattacks are on the rise. In response, the industry is developing new fab tool security standards. Taking another approach, GlobalFoundries has announced the deployment of GF SHIELD, a comprehensive, company-wide platform to safeguard and protect its customers’ intellectual property and products. GF SHIELD integrates information security, product security, operational security, and cyber security into a comprehensive program that covers every aspect of the customer experience. From the initial meeting, through development, design, fabrication, delivery, and even disposal of scrap – and every step between – GF SHIELD is in place to ensure a customer’s products and sensitive information remain secure.

SigmaSense, a touch screen technology developer, has announced the closing of $22 million in Series A funding led by Foxconn Technology Group with participation from others.

California Governor Gavin Newsom will move the state further away from its reliance on climate change-causing fossil fuels. He issued an executive order requiring sales of all new passenger vehicles to be zero-emission by 2035 and additional measures to eliminate harmful emissions from the transportation sector.

Packaging and test
Quik-Pak, a provider of microelectronic packages, assembly and wafer-processing solutions, recently relocated all operations to a new facility in Escondido, a city in San Diego County’s North County region. With the move from its former leased location in San Diego to the new, owned facility, Quik-Pak can offer customers enhanced capabilities.

Nidec’s Small Precision Motor and Solutions Business unit is using the OptimalPlus big data analytics platform to help accelerate new product introduction ramps and to improve its manufacturing efficiency. OptimalPlus is now part of National Instruments (NI). Separately, Digi-Key Electronics has expanded its product portfolio to include certain NI software-connected test and measurement products. This initiative expands Digi-Key’s overall offerings in automated test.

Market research
Here’s the latest from IC Insights: “Driven by growing demand for application processors and other telecom device sales into 5G smartphones, the pure-play foundry market is on pace to expand by a strong 19% this year, after declining 1% in 2019.”

Americans are spending more time on their PCs at home after COVID-19. Customer satisfaction with their PCs is steady at a rating of 78 out of 100, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) Household Appliance and Electronics Report 2019-2020. Desktop computer users remain more satisfied with an ACSI score of 80. Satisfaction with laptops is the lowest at 77, while tablets fall in between with a score of 78, according to the index. Customer satisfaction with major household appliances – including washers, dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators, ranges/ovens, and over-the-oven microwaves – recedes 2.5% to an all-time ACSI low of 79, falling below 80 for the first time.

AlixPartners has released its forecast for retail holiday sales in the U.S. For the first time, the firm included October in its definition of the holiday-shopping season, “arguing that the ‘official’ November-December definition is ‘meaningless’ this year—and perhaps forever—due to the coronavirus pandemic’s dramatic effects on shopping behaviors and long-bubbling retail trends now accelerated by the pandemic.” AlixPartners’ forecast for this October-through-December holiday season is an increase in sales of 1.0-2.6% over the same three-month period last year, when sales totaled $1.132 trillion. Meanwhile, an annual poll of more than 1,000 consumers showed that 49% of consumers plan to start holiday shopping by Halloween or earlier, an increase of 7 percentage points from last year’s AlixPartners survey.

Events
SEMI’s SMC event is packed with experts from Alibaba Group, IBM, Micron, Merck and others. View the Event Guide here to hear the latest market trends and developments in advanced materials.

The Electronic Specialty Gas Conference 2020, hosted by Linx Consulting, will spotlight issues pertaining to the manufacture, storage, delivery, use and abatement of specialty gases and materials that are essential to the microelectronics industry. This year’s conference will be held in a virtual format from Oct. 13-15.

Click here to find more events.



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