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Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

SMIC shakeup; auto IC shortages; 3D NAND metrology; wafer cleaning.

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Chipmakers
SMIC’s shares fell following the resignation of the company co-CEO, according to a report from Bloomberg. Liang Mong Song, co-CEO of the Chinese foundry company, has proposed to resign and the company has become aware of Liang’s intention of conditional resignation, according to a filing. A former technologist at TSMC and Samsung, Liang has opposed the appointment of a new board member at SMIC. Liang is leading SMIC’s charge in the 14nm and 7nm markets.

Recently, the U.S. imposed restrictions on SMIC. On top of that, the U.S. Department of Defense added SMIC to its blacklist for its alleged cooperation with the Chinese military. U.S. investors are asked not to invest in SMIC, among 35 other companies based in China on the list.

And on Dec. 18, the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) in the Department of Commerce officially added SMIC to the Entity List. BIS is taking this action to protect U.S. national security, according to BIS. This action stems from China’s military-civil fusion (MCF) doctrine and evidence of activities between SMIC and entities of concern in the Chinese military industrial complex. “The Entity List designation limits SMIC’s ability to acquire certain U.S. technology by requiring U.S. exporters to apply for a license to sell to the company. Items uniquely required to produce semiconductors at advanced technology nodes—10 nanometers or below—will be subject to a presumption of denial to prevent such key enabling technology from supporting China’s military-civil fusion efforts,” according to agency.

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Both 200mm and 300mm foundry capacity are tight. Now, a rapid recovery in the car market is causing a shortage of semiconductors, at least for VW. “Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting decline in sales in the automotive industry, leading semiconductor manufacturers had switched production to other customer sectors, such as consumer electronics,” according to VW. “In the meantime, however, the car markets have recovered significantly, especially in China. This exacerbates the current situation and so the industry – and also the Volkswagen Group – lacks corresponding electronic components.”

Taiwan’s eMemory and its subsidiary, PUFsecurity, and UMC have announced the joint development of a PUF (Physical Unclonable Function)-based secure embedded flash solution. PUFsecurity’s PUFflash integrates eMemory’s NeoPUF into UMC’s 55nm embedded flash technology platforms to deliver a secure embedded flash technology. PUFflash enhances the security of embedded flash applications with its built-in, PUF-based Root of Trust (PUFrt), while maintaining the access speed of the embedded flash.

Kevin Conley has resigned as president and CEO of Everspin, effective Jan. 30, 2021. Darin Billerbeck, currently non-executive chairman, will become interim CEO as well as executive chairman, effective Dec. 9.

Yaskawa will make investments in Transphorm totaling $4 million. Yaskawa intends to use Transphorm’s GaN power device products for a variety of industrial power conversion applications.

Indie Semiconductor, an automotive semiconductor and software supplier, and Thunder Bridge Acquisition, a special purpose acquisition company, have entered into a definitive agreement for a business combination that would result in the combined entity continuing as a publicly listed company.

Fab tools
Onto Innovation has announced the first customer acceptance and purchase of its new product–the Aspect System. Targeted for 3D NAND, the Aspect System is an in-line solution for metrology of high-aspect ratio features. When combined with Onto Innovation’s AI-Diffract Software, the Aspect System provides high fidelity profile measurements, enabling critical process control with speeds approximately 10 times faster than X-ray diffraction systems typically used in R&D lab applications. The Aspect System provides sensitivity across 3D NAND manufacturing processes for control of key etch, deposition, and cleaning steps that are critical to next- generation 3D NAND devices.

TEL has launched the CELLESTA SCD single wafer cleaning system. Scheduled for release in January 2021, TEL’s CELLESTA series of products are used for cleaning silicon wafers in the semiconductor manufacturing process. The SCD integrates a dedicated drying chamber on the mass production-proven CELLESTA platform. In addition, TEL has announced a revision to its medium-term environmental goals.

Ultra Clean Holdings has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Ham-Let for approximately $348 million. Ham-Let makes ultra-high purity and industrial flow control systems.

Packaging and test
OptimalPlus, part of NI, has joined the Open Manufacturing Platform (OMP), a consortium led by BMW, Microsoft, ZF, Bosch and ABInBev. The group helps manufacturers leverage advanced technologies to gain greater operational efficiencies and factory output. The OMP brings together business leaders, technologists, systems integrators, software providers and others.

FormFactor and T.I.P.S. Messtechnik have joined in a partnership to provide test and measurement solutions for high-power devices. “FormFactor has developed specialized application layers for our 200mm and 300mm high-power probe systems to support the test requirements of high power semiconductor devices utilizing T.I.P.S. high-voltage anti-arcing probe cards,” said Claus Dietrich, vice president and general manager of the Systems Business Unit at FormFactor.

ASE has officially unveiled a smart factory powered by a private 5G mmWave network located at ASE’s Kaohsiung factory in Taiwan. ASE’s 5G smart factory is powered by a 5G mmWave network service provided by Chunghwa Telecom, and supported by Qualcomm’s platform.

Market research
VLSI Research has published a list its new “All Stars” and inductees to its “Semiconductor Industry Hall of Fame.” This is a compilation of executives have made the industry what it is today. The group is selected by VLSI’s analyst each December.

Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) continue to grow. TrendForce indicates that combined yearly sales of BEV and PHEV in 2020 reached about 2.4 million units, a 19.8% increase. In market share, Tesla leads by a wide margin.

IC Insights has released its chip forecast for 2021. Click here to find the forecast.

Global sales of semiconductor manufacturing equipment are projected to increase 16% compared to $59.6 billion in 2019 and register a new industry record of $68.9 billion in 2020, according to SEMI. The growth is expected to continue with the global semiconductor manufacturing equipment market reaching $71.9 billion in 2021 and $76.1 billion in 2022.

North America-based manufacturers of semiconductor equipment posted $2.61 billion in billings worldwide in November 2020. The billings figure is 1.4% lower than the final October 2020 level of $2.65 billion, and is 23.1% higher than the November 2019 billings level of $2.1 billion. “Billings of North America-based semiconductor equipment manufacturers remain robust, though November shows some expected tapering after billings registered record highs early this fall,” said Ajit Manocha, SEMI president and CEO.



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