Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

Texas fabs slowed by power outages; IC supply chain boost; masks; packaging 4.0.


Chipmakers and OEMs
Several chipmakers have not resumed production in their fabs in Texas for the second consecutive week. This follows power outages due to a major winter storm.

As reported, a severe winter storm hit many parts of the United States, including Texas. Last week, utility providers began to prioritize service to residential areas in Austin, Texas. As a result, electricity and natural gas providers have temporarily suspended service to Austin’s semiconductor manufacturers, including Infineon, NXP, and Samsung. X-FAB is also impacted in other parts of Texas.

The fabs in Austin include “Samsung’s 300mm S-2 Line (14nm-65nm, some flash, RF, mobile, auto); NXP’s 200mm Oak Hill Fab and ATMC Fabs (auto); Infineon’s Fab25 flash/logic; and Intelligent Epitaxy Technology’s epi-wafer plant,” according to Krish Sankar, an analyst at Cowen.

This week, Samsung has not yet resumed full operations at its Austin fab, according to a report from the Austin American-Statesman. The same is true with NXP. “We are diligently working through equipment, system and product assessments to resume our operations as soon as possible,” according to a spokeswoman from NXP.

Here is the update from Infineon: “Infineon was informed by local authorities early last week that power for our Austin plant would be turned off, giving us a few hours to prepare for the disruption. We were able to put the factory into a safe state and protect our employees and production inventory. We used emergency generators for critical safely systems and set-up a task force to monitor the situation and execute mitigation measures. Unfortunately, we were required to temporarily shut-down production but have since initiated the restart of operations. The safety of our employees is our top priority, and we are focused on a safe and fast resumption of volume production.”

X-FAB, meanwhile, has a fab in Lubbock, Texas. “As the weather conditions also effected the Lubbock area, we have been forced to hold manufacturing as facilities have been impacted there too. Meanwhile, we are on the path to re-start the operations and have informed our customers accordingly. We anticipate that the line will be back in full operation during the next days,” said Thomas Hartung, vice president of sales and corporate marketing at X-Fab.


Kioxia held a groundbreaking ceremony for its new semiconductor fab (Fab7) at Yokkaichi Plant in Mie Prefecture, Japan. The facility will produce 3D NAND. The first phase of construction is scheduled to be completed by the spring of 2022. Separately, Kioxia and Western Digital have developed their sixth-generation, 162-layer 3D NAND flash memory technology. This enables a 40% reduction in die size compared to the previous 112-layer device.

Government policy
As reported, there is a push to build more fabs in the United States. In a major step to build more plants, Congress recently enacted the CHIPS for America Act as part of the FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). “The new law calls for incentives for domestic semiconductor manufacturing and investments in chip research, but funding for these provisions must come through congressional appropriations,” according to the U.S. Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA). Recently, SIA and a broad coalition of other business leaders called on President Biden to work with Congress to fund the provisions in the CHIPS act.

In a related move, President Biden has signed an executive order to help create more resilient and secure supply chains in the United States. The order directs a 100-day review across federal agencies to address vulnerabilities in the supply chains of four key products–pharmaceutical products; critical minerals; semiconductors and advanced packaging; and large capacity batteries. “As part of this effort, we urge the president and Congress to invest ambitiously in domestic chip manufacturing and research. Doing so will ensure more of the chips our country needs are produced on U.S. shores, while also promoting sustained U.S. leadership in the technology at the heart of America’s economic strength and job creation, national security, and critical infrastructure,” according to Bob Bruggeworth, president, CEO and director of Qorvo and 2021 SIA board chair.


This comes from the US-Taiwan Business Council: “During the Senate Finance Committee hearing on Katherine Tai’s nomination to become U.S. Trade Representative, Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow stated: ‘Right now, for example, our manufactures of automobiles, home appliances, other products, are being forced to shut down a line or a plant temporarily because of a single company in Taiwan, which has reduced its shipments of semiconductor chips to our manufacturers. It’s only a slight change, but we’ve seen profound losses, billions of dollars in losses in key U.S. manufacturers, because of that decision.”’

In response, Rupert J. Hammond-Chambers, president of the US-Taiwan Business Council, said: “Senator Stabenow suggests that the chip supply challenges currently confronting American manufacturers are a function of a ‘decision’ made by a Taiwan company to ‘reduce shipments’ of semiconductor chips to U.S. companies. This statement is both incorrect and misleading. The American automobile industry is currently facing a chip supply issue, but it is primarily a function of the industry itself miscalculating its production needs.”

Fab tools, photomasks
At this week’s SPIE Advanced Lithography conference, Aki Fujimura, CEO of D2S, met with industry luminaries Ezequiel Russell of Micron, Noriaki Nakayamada of NuFlare Technology, and Danping Peng of TSMC to discuss the challenges and opportunities of manufacturing with curvilinear masks. Here’s a video replay.

In a blog, Lam Research discussed how it collaborates with universities and academic research consortia. “In addition, ongoing relationships with professors and students fuel the industry’s talent pipeline,” said Nerissa Draeger, director of university engagements at Lam.

Packaging and test
Amkor Technology has unveiled several new Industry 4.0 initiatives within its chip-packaging operations.

Leveraging machine learning and other technologies, Industry 4.0 enables factory automation and intelligence. The goal of factory intelligence is to improve product and service quality, make faster decisions and utilize high-value assets. This in turn reduces cycle times for its advanced packaging processing. It’s also a way to achieve zero-defect quality for automotive and other applications.

Amkor has implemented the technology within its K5 plant in Incheon, South Korea. K5 in turn has increased the efficiency on the factory floor. Amkor is now able to apply lessons learned from K5 and apply them to other facilities as they are upgraded.

“Amkor’s most advanced factories exemplify Industry 4.0. “K5 in Incheon is an example of a factory that is truly interconnected, automated and enriched with artificial intelligence and real-time big data analytics,” said Umesh Manathkar, Amkor’s corporate vice president and CIO.

Market research
TSMC, Samsung, and UMC rank as the top three foundries in terms of market share in the first quarter of 2021, according to TrendForce. “Demand in the global foundry market remains strong in 1Q21,” according to TrendForce. “As various end-products continue to generate high demand for chips, clients of foundries in turn stepped up their procurement activities, which subsequently led to a persistent shortage of production capacities across the foundry industry.”

IC Insights recently released its new capacity report. As part of the report, IC Insights ranks the leaders by wafer size, including 300mm, 200mm, and 150mm and smaller. Click here to see the leaders.

North America-based manufacturers of semiconductor equipment posted $3.04 billion in billings worldwide in January of 2021, the first time monthly billings have reached $3 billion, according to SEMI. The billings figure is 13.4% higher than the final December 2020 billings of $2.68 billion and is 29.9% higher than the January 2020 billings level of $2.34 billion. “January billings of North America-based semiconductor equipment manufacturers marked a historic monthly high for the industry and a great start to the year,” said Ajit Manocha, SEMI president and CEO. “The acceleration of digital transformation is fueling strong, durable demand for semiconductor equipment.”

The test equipment market grew 14% in 2020, according to VLSI Research. “SOC was driven by 5G retooling and HPC, growing 10%, while memory test recovered back to $1B levels,” according to the firm. “Strong business fundamentals in semiconductors will drive test demand in 2021, which is expected to grow 10% to $6.9B.”

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