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Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

Intel’s foundry plans; Taiwan water shortage; 2nm R&D; TEL expands.

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Chipmakers
Intel has re-entered the foundry business after a failed attempt several years ago. In its new efforts, Intel is establishing a new standalone business unit called Intel Foundry Services. As part of those efforts, Intel has announced plans to build two new fabs in Arizona. This build-out represents an investment of approximately $20 billion.

“INTC hosted a strategy update with new CEO Pat Gelsinger, where it announced that 7nm is on track with initial tape-in this year, it will continue to expand its use of external foundry partnerships, and it plans to become a major foundry provider itself, leveraging its advanced packing technologies and IP blocks,” said Weston Twigg, an analyst at KeyBanc, in a research note. “It also announced a significant capex raise this year as it expands capacity and prepares for 7nm and foundry services. INTC expects to beat its prior 1Q guidance, though it offered very weak full-year 2021 guidance.”

Intel provided few details about its foundry efforts, meaning it’s still unclear how the chip giant will get a foothold in the market against the likes of Samsung, TSMC and others. Intel didn’t provide any foundry process details, although it did indicate it has an older 22nm finFET technology. Nonetheless, Intel may need to leapfrog its rivals and leverage its internal technology, such as packaging and photonics, to prevent another ill-fated effort in the arena. “Key for Intel is to jump ahead with gate-all-around technology, because conventional finFETs are reaching saturation at 3nm,” said Handel Jones, CEO of IBS. “3D packaging is also very important. Longer term, photonics will be important.”

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A recent fire occurred at a 300mm fab owned by Renesas in Japan. The fab is located in the N3 Building, based in the Hitachinaka, Ibaraki Prefecture. The fire was extinguished on the same day on March 19. “While we confirmed no casualties to the employees and no damages to the building, we confirmed damages to some of the utility equipment such as the pure water supply and the air conditioning as well as to some of the manufacturing equipment,” according to Renesas.

Taiwan is in the midst of a drought, causing water shortages on the island. “Taiwan will from next month ration water for more than one million households in the center of the island because of a drought, but the technology hub of Hsinchu will not be affected,” according to a report from Reuters. In a press event, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen vowed to solve the problem for consumers, electronics companies and chipmakers.

Taiwan’s Powerchip, a foundry vendor, held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new $9.72 billion fab, according to a report in the Taipei Times.

SkyWater Technology has filed a registration statement on Form S-1 with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) relating to a proposed initial public offering of shares of its common stock.

South Korea’s Magnachip has agreed to be acquired by Wise Road Capital, a private equity firm, for $1.4 billion. Magnachip will go private as part of the deal. Last year, Magnachip exited the foundry business, thereby focusing on various chip products. Last year, Key Foundry was officially launched as a pure-play semiconductor foundry after taking over the foundry business of Magnachip.

Following the recent reopening of NXP’s fab facility in Austin – after the weather-related shutdown – NXP’s vice president of front-end operations, Steve Frezon, looks at the challenges of shutting down and restarting a semiconductor facility.

Samsung has expanded its DDR5 DRAM memory portfolio with the industry’s first 512GB DDR5 module based on high-k/metal-gate process technology. Delivering more than twice the performance of DDR4 at up to 7,200 megabits per second (Mbps), the new DDR5 is geared for high-bandwidth workloads in supercomputing, AI and machine learning, as well as data analytics applications.

Fab tools
Three Japanese equipment makers–Canon, Screen and TEL—are involved in a project to develop 2nm processes and beyond, according to a report from Nikkei. Funded by the Japanese government, a prototype production line will be created to help develop etching, cleaning and other equipment, according to the report. The National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, along with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) will provide $386 million in funding for the project.

TEL continues to expand amid growth in the fab tool sector. TEL plans to construct a new manufacturing facility at the Hosaka Branch Office at Yamanashi Prefecture. The operation will develop semiconductor manufacturing equipment, including deposition and gas chemical etch systems. It will also develop patterning and process integration technologies. In addition, TEL also announced some personnel changes.

In a video, Aki Fujimura, CEO of D2S, interviews Harry Levinson of HJL Lithography on his takeaways from the SPIE Advanced Lithography Conference, including confidence in EUV, advances in high NA, deep learning and curvilinear mask features.

II-VI is entering into a definitive agreement to acquire Coherent, a provider of lasers, laser-based technologies and laser-based system solutions. Things could change, however. MKS and Lumentum have also been trying to acquire Coherent.

Materials
Mitsubishi Chemical Corp. (MCC) has announced the addition of Scott Jewler to its MC Chemical Solutions for Semiconductor (MCSS) team. MCSS provides materials and services to the semiconductor industry. Jewler will lead the MCSS Solution Department in the U.S., while heading the precision cleaning, surface coating and treatment, and wafer reclaim services business globally. Previously, Jewler was president and CEO of SVXR, an X-ray metrology startup. Sudhakar Raman, chief operating officer of SVXR, is operating and managing the company.

Market research
North America-based manufacturers of semiconductor equipment posted $3.14 billion in billings worldwide in February 2021, according to SEMI. The billings figure is 3.2% higher than the final January 2021 billings of $3.04 billion and is 32% higher than the February 2020 billings level of $2.37 billion. “February billings of North America-based semiconductor equipment manufacturers once again exceeded $3 billion, powered by robust secular semiconductor demand across diverse end-use markets,” said Ajit Manocha, SEMI president and CEO.

The global semiconductor materials market grew 4.9% in 2020 to $55.3 billion in revenue, surpassing the previous market high of $52.9 billion set in 2018, according to SEMI.

TECHCET’s prediction of a wet chemical supply fallout is materializing. “Several semiconductor process materials in the petroleum supply-chain are running short because of lower overall oil refinery further impacted by the Texas snowstorm,” according to the firm. “Materials including acetone, PGMEA, NMP, and IPA, a few of several solvents, rely on the petrochemical refinery supply-chain. Specialty polymers used to make photoresist, and CMP pads are also part of this chain, although used in lower volumes than solvents. And last but not least, plastics production, required by high purity chemical providers for packaging and wet processing equipment, is experiencing raw material price increases due to availability issues.”

The LCD business is strong. “With LCD panel prices at multi-year highs and spot shortages in some display applications, display industry fab utilization is continuing at high levels in the first half of 2021,” according to the latest release of DSCC.

It’s National Sleep Awareness Month. A new survey finds 92% of respondents deem sleep quality to be extremely/very important to their overall holistic wellness. But only 18% achieve 8+ hours of sleep, according to Life Time and Beautyrest.



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