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Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

Intel’s packaging investment; D2S platform; etch; Advantest, Lam, TEL, UMC results.

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Packaging and test
Intel has invested an additional $475 million in its chip assembly and test manufacturing facility in the Saigon Hi-Tech Park (SHTP) in Vietnam. This takes Intel’s total investment in the Vietnam facility to $1.5 billion. The site assembles and tests Intel’s 5G products and processors.

TSMC recently announced a huge increase in capital spending for 2021. A large percentage of the spending is directed towards its advanced process development. So what happened to TSMC’s SoIC technology? As reported, SoIC is based on copper hybrid bonding, a technology that could pave the way toward next-generation 2.5D and 3D packages.”TSMC’s SoIC will begin production in small quantities before the end of 2021, and volume production is scheduled for 2022, as per our CEO’s comments at the January 14 Investor Conference. Progress for SoIC technology is proceeding on track,” according to officials from TSMC.

SkyWater Technology has announced a public-private partnership with Osceola County, Florida and BRIDG. The plan is to provide U.S.-based manufacturing services for advanced packaging.

Advantest has posted its results for the quarter. Logic test demand was strong, while memory test is in the recovery mode.

Chipmakers
The Semiconductor Research Corp. (SRC) and the U.S. Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) have released a 10-year plan called the “Decadal Plan for Semiconductors.” It’s a report that outlines chip research and funding priorities for the next decade. Here’s more what the SRC is doing.

UMC has reported its results for the fourth quarter of 2020. Compared to the previous year, UMC’s revenues were up by 8.2%. “Our business traction in Q3 carried over into Q4, lifting utilization rate to 99% and raising wafer shipments to 2.3 million 8-inch equivalents. The stable capacity utilization was driven by robust end market demand from consumer and computing related applications such as WiFi, digital TV, micro-controllers, and power management IC. For full year 2020, UMC’s revenue grew 26% in USD while operating income surged to NT$22.01 billion, reflecting solid utilization rates across both 8-inch and 12-inch facilities and optimization of our blended product mix. In particular, our enhanced 12-inch product mix primarily resulted from the substantial pick-up in 28nm wafer business as well as our successful integration of USJC’s 12-inch operations,” said Jason Wang, co-president of UMC. In 2021, UMC has set its capital spending budget at $1.5 billion.

Samsung is mulling plans to expand its fab presence in the U.S., according to multiple reports. Samsung also posted its results for the fourth quarter with a mixed outlook.

Micron Technology has announced what is believed to be the industry’s first 1α (1-alpha) node DRAM. Micron’s 1α DRAM supports the LPDDR5 interface, enabling the industry’s lowest-power mobile DRAM with a 15% improvement in power savings. Micron’s DRAM supports densities from 8Gb to 16Gb.

Fab tools
D2S has introduced the seventh-generation of its computational design platform (CDP), a solution for simulation-based semiconductor design and manufacturing applications. Powered by Nvidia’s Ampere architecture-based A40 GPUs, the D2S seventh-generation CDP achieves more than 1,800,000,000,000,000 floating point operations per second (1.8 PFLOPS) of single precision (SP) processing speed per rack. The system is designed for various applications, including inverse lithography technology (ILT). ILT is used to produce curvilinear shapes on photomasks. The system is also designed for mask process correction (MPC), curvilinear mask and wafer simulation and verification, and deep learning for photomask and semiconductor manufacturing.

“For more than a decade, the semiconductor industry has recognized that curvilinear shapes on photomasks computed by ILT produce the best wafer quality, but adoption has been hindered by long mask write times using conventional variable-shaped beam (VSB) writing, as well as long ILT runtimes on CPU-based computing platforms,” said Aki Fujimura, CEO of D2S. “With our latest-generation computational design platform, which utilizes the NVIDIA A40 GPU, implementing and verifying curvilinear ILT is now practical in semiconductor manufacturing. Unlike other approaches that are principally designed for CPU-based computing, our algorithms are redesigned from the ground up to be single-instruction-multiple-data (SIMD), and our CDPs are co-designed with the software that take full advantage of GPU acceleration.”

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Lam Research has posted its financial results for the quarter ended Dec. 27. For the December 2020 quarter, revenue was $3.46 billion with a net income of $869 million, or $5.96 per diluted share on a U.S. GAAP basis. This compares to revenue of $3.18 billion with a net income of $823 million, or $5.59 per diluted share, for the quarter ended Sept. 27, 2020. “With strong secular demand for semiconductors driving increased wafer fabrication equipment spending, Lam enters 2021 with solid momentum for continued growth and expanded leadership across our markets,” said Tim Archer, Lam’s president and chief executive.

Lam Research has rolled out Vantex, a new chamber for the company’s recently-announced Sense.i etch platform. The chamber enables advanced dielectric etch technology for NAND and DRAM. Vantex’s new chamber design makes use of new radio frequency (RF) power levels, enabling the system to etch high-aspect ratio features at high throughputs.

TEL has posted its results for the quarter and gave a positive outlook for the wafer fab equipment market (WFE). “Currently, the CY2021 market growth rate is approaching 20% YoY, driven by strong investment in logic/foundry as well as a recovery in investment in memory for data centers and the spread of 5G mobile,” said Toshiki Kawai, president and CEO from TEL, in a presentation.

Atotech, a supplier of advanced electroplating solutions, has commenced an initial public offering of its common shares.

Denton Vacuum has acquired 4Wave’s ion beam portfolio. As part of the plan, Denton Vacuum has entered into an exclusive licensing agreement with 4Wave covering ion beam deposition and etch technologies.

Materials
GlobalWafers has increased its bid to acquire Siltronic for 145 euros per share. GlobalWafers hopes to expand its share in the silicon wafer market.

Market research
In the second quarter of 2020, China’s Huawei became the world’s largest smartphone vendor in terms of share, according to IDC. At the time, Samsung was in second place, followed by Apple, according to IDC.

Times have changed. Apple reported strong results in the fourth quarter of 2020. As a result, Apple returned to the number 1 position in the worldwide smartphone market with 90.1 million devices shipped in the quarter, driven by the success of the iPhone 12 series, according to IDC. Samsung was second in the smartphone market in terms of share, followed by Xiaomi and OPPO, according to IDC. Huawei fell to fifth amid U.S. sanctions on the company.

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The automotive market is set to rebound in 2021 after a slump in 2020. In fact, several automotive makers are experiencing renewed demand. The problem is that they are unable to obtain enough chips from their suppliers, forcing automotive companies to shut down some of their production lines. Daimler and others are impacted.

“Global light vehicle sales in 2020 ended at 77.7 million units—down 14%—as improvement in the second half of the year drove the recovery,” said Jeff Schuster, president of the Americas operations and global vehicle forecasts at LMC Automotive. “Our forecast for 2021 is for a continued recovery, with volume projected to increase to 86.4 million units, an 11% increase from 2020. However, while 2021 starts with some uncertainties now in our rearview mirror, there are new risks emerging, such as the global semiconductor shortage and the potential for additional disruptions. Our initial assessment suggests there could be weakness in the first quarter due to vehicle production losses related to the lack of chips, but we don’t expect a lasting negative effect on the year.”

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North America-based manufacturers of semiconductor equipment posted $2.68 billion in billings worldwide in December 2020, according to SEMI. The billings figure is 2.6% higher than the final November 2020 billings of $2.61 billion and is 7.6% higher than the December 2019 billings level of $2.5 billion. “December billings of North America-based semiconductor equipment manufacturers grew to finish this challenging year with annual billings that surpassed the previous industry high set in 2018,” said Ajit Manocha, SEMI president and CEO.

In case you missed it, Semiconductor Engineering recently talked to several analysts about the outlook of the semiconductor industry.



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