Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

Tariffs; Intel-Micron saga; mask/litho survey.


The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has released a list of $200 billion worth of Chinese imports that will be subject to tariffs. These actions are on top of another set of tariffs, which were put in place. The additional tariffs will be effective starting Sept. 24, and initially will be in the amount of 10%. Starting Jan. 1, 2019, the level of the additional tariffs will increase to 25%.

The list contains 5,745 full or partial lines of the original 6,031 tariff lines that were on a proposed list of Chinese imports announced on July 10. Included among the products removed from the proposed list are certain consumer electronics products, such as smart watches and Bluetooth devices; certain chemical inputs for manufactured goods, textiles and agriculture; certain health and safety products such as bicycle helmets, and child safety furniture such as car seats and playpens.


In response, Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the U.S.-based Consumer Technology Association (CTA), said: “We appreciate the Trump Administration removing consumer connected devices, the largest tariff code CTA identified in our USTR comments. Retaliatory tariffs, whether 10% or 25%, are bad policy. We are especially concerned about retaliatory tariffs on printed circuit assemblies, routers and networking equipment. They will stifle our global leadership in 5G, create an internet tax on businesses and cause uncertainty for companies.”

Last week, meanwhile, more than a dozen semiconductor executives traveled to Washington, D.C. “In the meetings, the executives expressed deep concern that the tariffs would inflict deep damage to the U.S. economy, including to SEMI members. Estimates suggest that the Sec. 301 tariffs (and the Chinese retaliatory tariffs) will cost semiconductor companies more than $700 million annually, dramatically increasing the cost of doing business. These tariffs also threaten U.S. technological leadership. The United States has led innovation for decades. However, by pursuing policies that limit market access opportunities, company-led R&D and innovation will slow, which, in turn, will curb further export potential,” said Jay Chittooran of SEMI in a blog.

Here’s a bright spot: The U.S. did not include rare earth elements on the list, according to Reuters. China controls roughly 80% of the world’s rare earths. Rare earths are a group of critical materials used in various electronic products.

In July, Micron and Intel announced that they were going their separate ways in the development of 3D XPoint. The companies have agreed to complete joint development for the second-generation of 3D XPoint technology, which is expected to occur in the first half of 2019. Technology development beyond the second generation of 3D XPoint will be pursued independently by the two companies.

3D XPoint is made at Intel-Micron Flash Technologies (IMFT), a joint venture fab in Lehi, Utah. Right now, Intel and Micron are partners in the fab.

According to equipment sources, Micron will take ownership of IMFT when the companies separate next year. Intel is moving to start a 3D XPoint line, probably at F68 in China, according to sources.

In response, a spokesman for Intel said: “We don’t comment on rumor or speculation.”

Fab/mask tools and test
The confidence level remains high for extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography, although the timing of the insertion remains a moving target, according to a new survey released by the eBeam Initiative.

Lam Research has announced the recipients of its 2018 Supplier Excellence Awards. Selected from Lam’s extensive list of preferred global suppliers, the companies were recognized for their outstanding performance. The following six companies were presented with an award for Overall Supplier Excellence–Fujikin, HORIBA, Texon, TOTO, Watlow Electric Manufacturing and Wonik QnC.

Ultra Clean Holdings, a supplier of subsystems for the semiconductor and display capital equipment industries, has announced that a fire occurred at a plant operated in its joint venture, Cinos, in Balan, Republic of Korea on Sept. 19. UCT is currently in the process of assessing the impact, although damage to the plant appears extensive. No additional details are available at this time.

Precision Motion Industries, a supplier of components for fab tools, is exploring a sale of the company, according to a report from Bloomberg.

Astronics has rolled out its new ATS-6100 WFT (Wire Fault Tester). By detecting both existing and potential wire faults, this tester will help extend the life of aging military or civil aircraft, ships, ground vehicles, and other high vibration equipment where operational failure would be catastrophic.

Market research
Global fab equipment spending will increase 14% this year to $62.8 billion and is expected to rise 7.5%, to $67.5 billion in 2019, marking the fourth consecutive year of spending growth and the highest investment year for fab equipment in the history of the industry, according to the latest World Fab Forecast Report published by SEMI.

Separately, North America-based manufacturers of semiconductor equipment posted $2.24 billion in billings worldwide in August 2018, according to SEMI. The billings figure is 5.9% lower than the final July 2018 level of $2.38 billion, and is 2.5% higher than the August 2017 billings level of $2.18 billion.

TECHCET—the advisory services firm providing electronic materials information—said that the sputtering target market for semiconductor applications is now estimated to reach $650 million in 2018, an increase 5.4% year-over-year. Volumes are growing in excess of 6% year over year, with higher growth in the interconnect metals tungsten, tantalum, and copper.

Strategy Analytics predicts that global demand for smart speakers will reach 71.6 million units in 2018, an annual increase of 115%. Some 82% of homes with smart speakers use at least one Amazon device, while 29% use a Google product. JBL (7%) and Apple (6%) come next, according to the firm. In addition, Amazon Echo and Google Home have already had a strong influence on the lives of people who use them, according to Strategy Analytics. According to a survey from the firm, some 49% of users said that they could not imagine living without a smart speaker, and 65% said that they had greatly improved the way they use technology at home. And 70% thought that smart speakers were much more useful than they had expected, but at the same time, 63% remain concerned that voice-controlled devices might record sounds and conversations without consent.

SEMI’s Strategic Materials Conference—SMC 2018-is an event that involves the latest developments in advanced materials. SMC is from Sept. 24-26 in San Jose, Calif.

The 2018 IEEE S3S Conference will take place on Oct. 15-18 in Burlingame, Calif. The topics include 3D integration, low-power circuits, and SOI technology.

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