Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

GaN fab; Kioxia delays IPO; virtual mask survey; smart cities.


Chipmakers and OEMs
NXP has announced the grand opening of its 150mm (6-inch) RF gallium nitride (GaN) fab in Chandler, Ariz. This is said to be the most advanced fab dedicated to 5G RF power amplifiers in the United States. NXP’s new Chandler-based GaN fab is qualified now, with initial products ramping in the market and expected to reach full capacity by the end of 2020. GaN, a III-V technology, is ideal for the high-frequency requirements for 5G.

Kioxia, the NAND flash memory spinoff of Toshiba, has decided to postpone its previously announced initial public offering (IPO). Kioxia will continue to evaluate the appropriate timing for its offering. Reports surfaced that the IPO garnered lackluster interest in the market.

Micron posted its results. “MU posted a big F4Q beat and offered mixed F1Q guidance. Demand trends appear relatively healthy in F1Q (though enterprise is softening), and are likely to improve in CY21; however, MU is still working on shifting former Huawei capacity (banned September 15) to other customers, impacting its F1Q and F2Q outlook,” said Weston Twigg, an analyst at KeyBanc, in a research note. “Micron posted strong 4Q results, led by DRAM sales to cloud, gaming, and PC customers, a ramp in QLC NAND, and strong demand from Huawei ahead of the September 15 ban. The near-term outlook is relatively soft, though the F1Q revenue guidance of $5.2B +/- $200M is likely better than feared by some. In the near term, softening enterprise demand and the Huawei ban are headwinds, while MU also noted that some markets that had been soft during the pandemic, such as auto, smartphone, and consumer, have started to improve. It also highlighted growing demand for graphics DRAM as well as reasonably good demand from cloud and PC customers, and it suggested that overall demand should improve through CY21.”

Arm announced the spin-out of Cerfe Labs to develop and license new types of non-volatile memories based on correlated electron materials (CeRAM) and ferroelectric transistors (FeFETs). Arm CeRAM researchers will join Cerfe Labs and assume ownership of the Arm joint development project with Symetrix.

Vishay has announced the acquisition of substantially all of the U.S. assets of Applied Thin-Film Products, a California-based manufacturer of custom, build-to-print thin film substrates for the microwave, fiber optic, and life science industries

Canada’s ventureLAB has announced a new partnership with TSMC as a means to expand its Hardware Catalyst Initiative. The Hardware Catalyst Initiative is Canada’s first hardware, silicon lab and incubator.

Imec has announced elPrep5, the latest version of its software platform for DNA analysis. elPrep5 is eight to 16 times faster than the genome analysis toolkit (GATK). The Imec platform encompasses the full analysis pipeline from data preparation to variant calling on a similar hardware infrastructure. “Finally, we can run the entire DNA analysis pipeline with a single software platform solution, and faster than ever,” said Imec researcher Charlotte Herzeel. “Because variant calling is the most complex step, gathering results up to 16 times faster than the previous method has resulted in a four- to nine-fold reduction in time, all while retaining GATK4-identical results. For the medical sector, this allows massive efficiency gains because the time between sampling and diagnosis dramatically decreases and doctors can run analyses overnight. Moreover, since many hospitals run their analyses via rented cloud solutions, the reduced throughput times can immediately result in a cost reduction per analysis.”

Fab tools
The eBeam Initiative’s 11th annual meeting during the 2020 Photomask Technology Conference recently went virtual. In a video, the organization presented the results of the ninth annual Perceptions survey (now called the Luminaries survey), followed by a panel discussion with industry luminaries.

In a blog, Lam Research talks about smart cities. “Cities around the globe are experiencing software updates – swapping out antiquated data collection techniques for new technological initiatives to promote efficiency, transparency, and sustainability,” according to the blog.

TEL has released the presentation material of its 2020 fiscal year annual general meeting of shareholders. Click here for the presentations.

Packaging, data analytics and test
The U.S. Department of Defense has awarded Intel Federal LLC the second phase of its State-of-the-Art Heterogeneous Integration Prototype (SHIP) program. The SHIP program enables the U.S. government to access Intel’s state-of-the-art semiconductor packaging capabilities in Arizona and Oregon. The project is executed by the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division, and administered by the National Security Technology Accelerator. Separately, Intel also announced a three-year agreement with Sandia National Laboratories to explore the value of neuromorphic computing for scaled-up computational problems.

In a blog, yield management specialist yieldHUB discusses an interesting topic: “18 things Fabless start-ups should look for in a Yield Management System.” Separately, the company also talks about a case study with Ambiq Micro, a developer of energy-efficient microcontrollers (MCUs).

Hprobe has announced the first industry turnkey testing equipment dedicated to 3D magnetic sensors used in both automotive and industrial applications. The equipment is based on Hprobe’ s 3D magnetic field generator technology for single- and multi-site testing at wafer-level and a under magnetic field.

Market research
Two huge purchase agreements mean that 2020 will become at least the second-largest year in history for semiconductor merger and acquisition announcements, according to IC Insights.

Mergers are also taking place in the flat-panel display market in China. “The sale of CEC Panda has finally materialized, as BOE formally announced on September 23 its plan to acquire an 80.831% share in CEC Panda’s Nanjing-based Gen 8.5 fab and 51% share in CEC Panda’s Chengdu-based Gen 8.6+ fab,” according to a report to TrendForce. DSCC also had a blog on the subject.

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