Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

AMD-Xilinx merger talks; Huawei fab; TEL R&D deal; QFN packages; H1-Bs.


Chipmakers and OEMs
AMD is in talks to acquire Xilinx in a deal that could be worth more than $30 billion, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. If the deal transpires, AMD will enter the FPGA business, putting it further in competition with Intel. No deal has been struck, though.


Multiple sources believe that China’s Huawei is mulling the idea of building its own semiconductor fab. Right now, though, the proposed fab is not set in stone, according to multiple sources.

The U.S. government recently hit Huawei with trade restrictions, cutting the company off from a supply of chips. So Huawei is looking to build its own fab, but it appears that the company will need find another partner to build a plant for them. If Huawei moves forward with the plan, it will need to stock the fab with non-U.S. fab equipment. The proposed fab will not be a leading-edge plant. Instead, it may produce chips at 28nm and above, sources said.


The U.S. has recently imposed restrictions on exports to SMIC, China’s largest foundry vendor. What’s the impact? “Our supply chain work suggests that the US DoC’s potential requirement for licenses to ship semicap tools to SMIC is prompting various global semi IC companies to seek alternative supply agreements as a hedge on SMIC 200mm capacity,” said Krish Sankar, an analyst at Cowen, in a research note. “Our industry checks suggest that UMC’s 200mm wafer capacity is already tight and has seen increased demand as a result of SMIC potentially added to an Entity list. We believe 200mm wafer prices for 4Q20 could be up as much as 50% due to increased demand, and we believe capacity at other 200mm foundries such as Vanguard is also tight into year-end. From a foundry WFE perspective, any continued recovery in end demand could be a modest positive for 200mm WFE spending in 2021.”

IBM is breaking up the company into two parts. IBM itself will focus on the cloud. Building on IBM’s hybrid cloud foundation, the company acquired Red Hat. Then, IBM will separate its Managed Infrastructure Services unit of its Global Technology Services division into a new public company.

Boom Supersonic has unveiled the XB-1, the industry’s first independently developed supersonic jet. XB-1 is slated to fly for the first time in 2021. It includes three J85-15 engines designed by General Electric. The engines provide more than 12,000 pounds of thrust, allowing XB-1 to fly at supersonic speeds. VELO3D announced that the XB-1 aircraft includes 21 hardware components that were manufactured by its 3D metal printer.

Fab tools, materials
SUNY Polytechnic Institute (SUNY Poly) has announced its College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) has been awarded $2.3 million by TEL to develop advanced research technologies through the creation of a new program to aid the semiconductor industry. The research will focus on the study of sub-10nm transistor production in the field of plasma science. This long-term collaboration will now allow for the expansion of the scope of SUNY Poly’s current research program in the area of plasma science for both etch and deposition through new areas such as selective deposition.

IQE, a manufacturer of advanced semiconductor wafer products, has announced the acquisition of third-party shareholdings of IQE Taiwan. IQE’s ownership of the Taiwan unit has increased from 90.18% to 100%.

Packaging, data analytics
Quik-Pak, together with Agile Microwave Technology and OMMIC, has announced a line of JEDEC-compliant air-cavity QFN packages.

The Quik-Pak open-molded plastic packages (OmPP) are RF-capable to data rates of 43GHz. Each company contributed technology to the project. Quik-Pak developed the OmPP QFN packages. Agile provided interconnect design and test capabilities. And OMMIC provided millimeter-wave monolithic microwave IC (MMIC) gallium nitride (GaN)-based design and manufacturing processes.

Applications include 5G and millimeter-wave (mmWave) applications. Unlike the sub-5GHz frequencies, mmWave technology allows transmission on higher frequencies previously used primarily by radio systems and satellites. Moreover, using GaN die allows devices to reach high power densities (up to 4W/mm) and output power in a smaller space with greater power efficiency and low energy consumption. “For 5G devices, stringent interconnect design, materials and assembly techniques are paramount to ensuring these chips can achieve 26- to 43GHz data rates, which are the sweet spot for 5G millimeter-wave frequencies,” said Quik-Pak Chief Operating Officer Ken Molitor.


Data analytics specialist proteanTecs is expanding its business. Amid the recent announcement of a growth equity round, the company is further developing its automotive business. It is also opening a new office in Asia-Pacific to meet market demand.

HB-1 status
The U.S. Department of Labor has issued an Interim Final Rule (IFR) for H-1B, H-1B1, and E-3 Visa programs. “The department has determined that the existing wage methodology leads to potential abuses of these programs that in some cases undermine the wages and job opportunities of U.S. workers,” according to the agency. “When seeking to employ an H-1B, H-1B1, or E-3 visa, U.S. employers must attest that they will pay nonimmigrant workers, during the period of authorized employment, the higher of the prevailing wage or the actual wage paid to other employees with similar experience and qualifications.”

In response, Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, said: “In an increasingly competitive world, America’s innovators desperately need immigration reform. However, the administration’s latest proposals fall short of the mark, making it harder to attract the best and brightest and failing to consider the input of innovators who use the H-1B visa program. Despite the unprecedented challenges of the global pandemic and current economic climate, American innovators of all sizes have stepped up to provide solutions from video conferencing and telemedicine to contactless delivery of groceries and household supplies.

“To ensure America continues to lead in innovation, especially during these challenging times, the administration should pursue immigration policies that empower American innovators to hire the best and brightest, not make it more difficult. CTA has long advocated for Congress and the administration to work together to pursue bipartisan and commonsense immigration reform. We urge the administration to rethink their proposals, and work with policymakers on both sides of the aisle to pass immigration reform that ensures America remains competitive,” he said.

Market research
It’s been a topsy-turvy year for memory. Here’s the latest from TrendForce: “The memory market (including DRAM and NAND Flash) is still in a state of oversupply in 4Q20. In light of recent U.S. sanctions against Huawei, other smartphone brands have been actively stocking up on memory products in an effort to capture Huawei’s lost market shares, but this procurement momentum is insufficient to improve the lethargic state of the memory market. In addition, as memory demand from the server industry has yet to make a noticeable recovery, overall memory ASP is expected to remain weak in 4Q20 and decrease by about 10% QoQ.”


Yad Dhami says:

AMD was a pioneer in PALS PLDs back in the late 80s and early 90s. It spun off VANTIS in late 90s as a PLD company.
Vantis was subsequently acquired by Lattice Semiconductor after the dot-com bust. Kinda full circle . So AMD pursuing Xilinx is a surprise given that as little as 4 years ago Xilinx had the market Cap to acquire AMD. Maybe AMD could pursue Lattice and resurrect / modify the MACH architecture.

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