Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

Micron’s PCM exit; DARPA ASICs; secure supply chain; 6G myths.


Chipmakers and OEMs
Micron will cease development of 3D XPoint, a next-generation memory technology. Micron also plans to sell a fab that produces 3D XPoint chips.

For some time, Intel and Micron have co-developed 3D XPoint, which is based on phase-change memory technology. Intel sells solid-state storage drives (SSDs) using 3D XPoint. In a fab located in Utah, Micron is producing this memory technology for both Micron and Intel. Now, Micron plans to exited the 3D XPoint market and sell the Utah fab, due to lackluster sales with the technology. Micron will shift its resources towards CXL-enabled memory products.

Mark Webb, a principal at MKW Ventures Consulting, made the following comments about the announcement:
1) “Intel needs to find a new production fab. Intel has a few back up plans, including Rio Rancho. None are very cost effective. Intel can’t put more cash into this.”
2) “3D Xpoint is by far the leading high-density persistent memory. MRAM is a different market. Micron is abandoning development and the fab. Clearly, this is not a good indicator of confidence in the technology’s revenue growth.”
3) “Optane Persistent Memory (DIMMS) is the main market for Intel. Intel’s customers report that Optane Persistent memory has uses and is effective in certain application. The question is how many applications and how many servers are needed with Optane Persistent Memory (DIMMS). Right now, the numbers are that far less than 10% of servers need Optane Persistent Memory.”
4) “Optane SSDs are a niche for datacenters. This is true for Z-NAND as well. Persistent memory is the market that matters for growth.”
5) “CXL is the future of memory/storage. It is not clear why Micron thinks 3D Xpoint is not applicable for CXL memory.”


Automakers continue to announce plant shutdowns and production cuts due to chip shortages, according to Seeking Alpha. Honda, Toyota, VW, Ford and others are impacted.

Infineon continues ramping up its manufacturing facility in Austin, Texas. “Infrastructure had been recovered within one week after the forced shutdown on 15 February 2021,” according to the company. “Tools are operational, production has been resumed and will ramp up over time to pre-outage levels. The shutdown was required after a severe winter storm and its resulting long-lasting regional power outage.”

SMIC plans to jointly invest in a $2.35 billion project with the government of Shenzhen, China, to build a new 300mm fab, according to a report from Reuters. Slated for 2022, the fab will focus on more mature processes.

Intel and DARPA have announced a three-year partnership to advance the development of domestically manufactured structured ASICs. The so-called Structured Array Hardware for Automatically Realized Applications (SAHARA) partnership enables the design of custom chips that include security countermeasures. A reliable, secure, and domestic source of leading-edge semiconductors remains critical to the U.S. Separately, Stefanie Tompkins has taken the reins as the 23rd director of DARPA.

Semiconductors are essential for the U.S. defense industry. And so is advanced semiconductor supply chain. With that premise in mind, an IBM-led ecosystem – which includes Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon Intelligence & Space, Nimbis Services Inc., Marvell Government Solutions, Intrinsix, Cadence, Colvin Run Networks and PDF Solutions – has built a Marketplace for Advanced, Rapid, Quantifiably-assured, Trusted Semiconductors (MARQTS).

Fab, lab tools
Frontline, a division of Orbotech, has launched InFlow, an automated, all-in-one engineering software solution for PCB manufacturers. Offering full coverage of the entire engineering process, InFlow reduces planning time by up to 60%. Orbotech is a KLA company

Acuity Spatial Genomics announced the completion of a majority investment by Bruker. Acuity is a new venture focused on opening a new frontier in spatial 3D genomics and multiomic analyses for discovery. Separately, Bruker, a supplier of X-ray diffraction (XRD) instrumentation, and DECTRIS, a supplier of Hybrid Photon Counting (HPC) detectors for laboratory instrumentation and synchrotron beam lines, introduce the EIGER2 R 250K X-ray detector, the latest member in the EIGER2 R series of HPC pixel detectors.

CyberOptics has received a 2021 EM Innovation Award in the category of PCBA-SMT-Inspection for the SQ3000 Multi-Function system for inspection. The award was presented to the company at Semicon China.

Deca has introduced its Adaptive Patterning Design Kit (APDK) methodology for advanced packaging. Each APDK bundles a full set of automation, design rules, DRC decks, and templates into a single package, offering a turn-key design flow. The solution is the result of Deca’s collaboration with ASE and Siemens Digital Industries Software.

Market research
The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) has released a statement from president and CEO John Neuffer in support of introduction of the American Innovation and Jobs Act (S.749), bipartisan legislation that would promote semiconductor research and innovation in the United States by repealing a harmful R&D tax provision.

Worldwide sales of smartphones to end users will total 1.5 billion units in 2021, a 11.4% growth year over year, according to Gartner. In 2020, PC shipments grew 12.9%, according to IDC. This momentum is expected to carry forward into 2021 as IDC forecasts 18.2% growth for the traditional PC market with shipments reaching 357.4 million this year.

Fueled by demand for electronic devices, fab equipment spending is expected to increase by 16% in 2020, followed by forecast gains of 15.5% this year and 12% in 2022, according to SEMI.

6G, which is in the works, is expected to succeed today’s 5G networks around 2030. Even at this early stage, some myths are emerging about 6G. IDTechEx listed them here.

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