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Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

Intel exits NAND biz; China foundry rankings; TSMC’s outlook; EUV slips; Lam’s tool.

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Chipmakers and OEMs
Intel is exiting the NAND flash market. SK Hynix and Intel announced that they have signed an agreement on Oct. 20, under which SK Hynix would acquire Intel’s NAND memory and storage business for $9 billion.The transaction includes the NAND SSD business, the NAND component and wafer business, and the Dalian NAND memory manufacturing facility in China. Intel will retain its 3D XPoint business. The move has been expected. Intel, a minor player in the NAND market, is focusing more on its 3D XPoint line, a next-generation memory technology. For years, Intel has suffered losses in the NAND business.

IC Insights has released its projected foundry rankings in terms of sales in China for 2020. TSMC remains in first place, followed by SMIC, Huahong and UMC. “In total, pure-play foundry sales in China increased by 10% in 2019 to $11.8 billion, much better than the 1% decline in the total pure-play foundry market last year,” according to IC Insights. “Moreover, in 2020, pure-play foundry sales to China are forecast to jump by 26%, seven points better than the 19% increase expected to be registered by the total pure-play foundry market this year.”

TSMC increased its outlook amid a strong quarter. “TSMC raised its 2020 industry outlook (excluding memory) to up 4-6% year-over-year versus prior 2Q20 guidance of flat to slightly up, driven by the continued strength in HPC demand and 5G smartphones. 2020 capex is expected to be $17B, at the high end of prior guidance of $16B-$17B, to support strong demand from 5G and HPC customers,” said Weston Twigg, an analyst at KeyBanc, in a research note. “TSMC noted that demand for 7nm/7nm+ remains high, representing 35% of revenue in 3Q (compared to 36% in 2Q), driven by the 5G ramp and strength in HPC applications. TSMC noted that its 5nm ramp is progressing well, accounting for 8% of revenue in 3Q (and still expected to represent 8% of wafer revenue in 2020).”

SkyWater Technology recently announced that its facility expansion, supported by the previously announced Department of Defense (DOD) investment of up to $170 million, is progressing ahead of schedule and tool installation has already started. Less than a year ago, SkyWater announced a multi-phase project to enhance microelectronics capabilities for the DOD and the rad-hard market. In addition, SkyWater Technology has entered into an exclusive, non-binding memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Osceola County, Florida to explore taking over the lease of the Center for Neovation. The potential partnership would provide SkyWater tooling capabilities and technologies to enable advanced packaging and heterogeneous integration technology in that 200mm facility.

STMicroelectronics has acquired SOMOS Semiconductor, a fabless semiconductor company that specializes in silicon-based power amplifiers and in RF front-end modules.

Fab tools
ASML posted mixed results for the quarter. “ASML reported strong September quarter results, in-line December quarter guidance and a modest reduction in CY21 relative to consensus. EUV should still grow next year, albeit at a lower rate. DUV demand from memory (DRAM) customers is still robust,” said Krish Sankar, an analyst with Cowen, in a research note.

KeyBanc’s Twigg added: “ASML noted that customer fab readiness issues and node delays (likely Intel’s 7nm planning) will impact EUV shipment schedules. It will likely miss its 35 unit shipment target by four units (our estimate) this year, and we project just 40 shipments in 2021 despite ASML’s planned 45-50 unit capacity.”

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Lam Research has introduced new photoresist strip capabilities for its 200mm system. Lam is bringing its GAMMA dry photoresist strip technology for 200mm as well as 300mm.

KLA has announced the appointment of MaryBeth Wilkinson as its new executive vice president, chief legal officer and corporate secretary.

SDI-Fabsurplus, a Web-based re-seller of fab equipment, and Hilco are hosting an on-line auction sale of a complete GaN-on-sapphire compound semiconductor LED manufacturing line.

Materials
Shin-Etsu Chemical will invest ¥30 billion to expand its photoresist manufacturing bases in Japan and Taiwan.

Tesla recently hosted its Battery Day Event, making several announcements about the company’s future ambitions in battery material technology. Suzanne Shaw, an analyst from Roskill, provides some analysis here.

Hitachi has announced its intention to sell its Hitachi Metals business unit, including the company’s magnetic materials segment. David Merriman, an analyst at Roskill, provides some analysis here.

Market research
Three in four technology companies face difficulty finding candidates with the right skills and abilities today, according to a report from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). “As it becomes more difficult to find candidates with the right skills and competition for qualified candidates heats up, companies will need to expand their recruitment pipelines and offer more training for employees to help close the skills gap,” said Jacqueline Black, director of strategic alliances at the CTA. “Companies may also look to apprenticeship programs as a proven way to fill vacant positions and prepare workers with in-demand technical skills.”

Global silicon wafer shipments are set to increase 2.4% year-over-year in 2020, with growth continuing in 2021 and shipments reaching a record high in 2022, according to SEMI. “Silicon wafer shipments are recovering this year despite pressure from geopolitical tensions, the shifting global semiconductor supply chain and the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Clark Tseng, director of Industry Research and Statistics at SEMI.

Here’s the latest photomask or reticle forecast from VLSI Research: “Reticles sales are expected to increase 6% in 2020 on the back of an improving semiconductor market. Reticle units are projected to grow by low single digits, driven by higher activity for the 65nm and below nodes. EUV reticles will surge more than 4x this year, but they will account less than 1% of total reticle units. The number of design completions is expected to be flat in 2020 following a 3% decline the previous year.”



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