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Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

China’s IC plans fall short; notebook boom; Onto buys firm.

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Market research
For some time, China has faced an enormous trade gap in semiconductors. In response, China has been developing its semiconductor industry with plans to make more of its chips.

But China is expected to fall far short of its “Made in China 2025” goals for IC production, according to IC Insights. “IC Insights forecasts China-produced ICs will represent only 19.4% of its IC market in 2025, a fraction of the Made in China 2025 goal of 70%,” according to the firm.

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The stay-at-home economy brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic has revitalized the demand for notebook computers. Notebook shipments surpassed 200 million units for the first time ever in 2020, according to TrendForce. The market registered a 22.5% growth rate, which was also the highest on record, according to TrendForce.

Global smartphone production reached 1.25 billion units in 2020, a 11% decrease over 2019, according to TrendForce. “The top six smartphone brands ranked by production volume for 2020, in order, are Samsung, Apple, Huawei, Xiaomi, OPPO, and Vivo,” according to the firm. “The most glaring change from the previous year is Huawei’s market share.”

Fab tools
Onto Innovation has acquired Inspectrology, a supplier of overlay metrology for controlling lithography and etch processes in the compound semiconductor market. Inspectrology has supplied optical metrology overlay technology to customers since 1983. The purchase price represents 1.4x Inspectrology’s 2020 revenue of $20 million. “This is a nice strategic fit for Onto Innovation’s portfolio of solutions for the high growth specialty and advanced packaging segment. We see revenue synergies by leveraging our broader access to global markets, especially in Asia,” said Mike Plisinski, Onto Innovation’s chief executive.

Applied Materials has raised its offer for KKR & Co.-owned Kokusai Electric by 59%, according to a report from Bloomberg. Last year, Applied Materials signed a definitive agreement to acquire Kokusai for $2.2 billion in cash.

The Carlyle Group has agreed to acquire all outstanding shares of Rigaku, a supplier of X-ray analysis, measurement and testing instruments. The Carlyle Group and Hikaru Shimura, president and CEO of Rigaku, will form a holding company for the new entity. Carlyle is expected to own approximately 80%, and Shimura will own 20% of the new entity. Financial details of the transaction have not been disclosed.

CyberOptics has received orders valued at $4.2 million for its 3D MX3000 memory module inspection systems for multiple subcontractors of a large memory manufacturer. These systems are expected to be recognized as revenue in the second and third quarters of 2021.

Soitec has launched a job creation program called ELEVATE. In the first phase, Soitec seeks to recruit 100 new engineering, technology, and operations talent at its headquarters and production facilities in Bernin (Grenoble), France. A second phase of ELEVATE will be rolled out in Singapore where Soitec currently employs more than 160 people and where it also ramps up its production and operations.

Chipmakers and OEMs
Teledyne will acquire FLIR in a cash and stock transaction valued at approximately $8.0 billion. Founded in 1978, FLIR is a technology company focused on intelligent sensing solutions for defense and industrial applications.

Achronix and ACE Convergence have entered into a definitive agreement for a business combination that would result in the combined entity continuing as a publicly listed company. The combined operating entity will be named Achronix Semiconductor and will be listed under the ticker symbol “ACHX.”

Tower Semiconductor is participating in the LUMOS program, with partial support from DARPA, to create a semiconductor foundry integrated-laser-on-silicon photonics process. This process will combine high-performance III-V laser diodes with Tower’s PH18 production silicon photonics platform. Multi-project wafer runs will be coordinated with the new process. The initial versions of the PDKs are expected in 2021 and will include laser and amplifier blocks.

Qualcomm has selected Cristiano Amon to succeed Steve Mollenkopf as CEO, effective June 30, 2021. Mollenkopf informed the board of his decision to retire as CEO following 26 years with the company. Amon, who has worked at Qualcomm since 1995, is currently president of the company. Mollenkopf will continue his employment with the company as a strategic advisor for a period of time.

Government
The U.S. Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) has applauded Congress for enacting the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The legislation authorizes federal incentives to promote semiconductor manufacturing and federal investments in semiconductor research. The provisions authorized by the NDAA must still be funded through appropriations made by Congress. “Enactment of the NDAA will help propel U.S. economic growth and cement America’s position at the forefront of semiconductor innovation, which is critical to the game-changing technologies of today and the future,” said Bob Bruggeworth, president and CEO of Qorvo and SIA Chair. “The next step is for leaders in Washington to fully fund the NDAA’s domestic chip manufacturing incentives and research initiatives. Doing so will make America one of the world’s most attractive places to produce this foundational technology.”



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