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Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

$50B U.S. semi funding; Kioxia bid; printed foundries; interposers.

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Government policy
President Biden has rolled out a proposal to boost the infrastructure in the U.S. As part of the plan, the president is calling on Congress to invest $50 billion in U.S. semiconductor manufacturing and research. The proposal must pass Congress, which isn’t going to be easy. “The President’s plan would invest ambitiously in U.S. semiconductor workers, manufacturing, and innovation – three cornerstones of America’s strength and its future. Semiconductors are foundational to America’s economy and job creation, national security, and critical infrastructure. We applaud the President’s leadership on this issue and look forward to working with the Administration and Congress to promote America’s global competitiveness in semiconductors and the many essential technologies they enable, while also ensuring a globally competitive corporate tax system,” according to John Neuffer, president and chief executive of the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA).

In addition to calling on Congress to invest $50 billion in semiconductor manufacturing and research, the plan lists semiconductors as a field of focus in its call for an investment of another $50 billion in the National Science Foundation (NSF). “Reversing the 50% decline in the U.S. share of semiconductor manufacturing capacity over the past 20 years requires bold action, and the Biden administration’s support for significant funding to bolster the industry in its American Jobs Plan is an important step forward,” said Ajit Manocha, SEMI’s president and CEO. “Funding the authorized CHIPS For America Act provisions and enacting an investment tax credit to support investment in the U.S. semiconductor supply chain will make the United States a globally competitive location for new semiconductor facilities. The plan’s focus on addressing workforce development in the industry is encouraging as well, as the competition for talent is intensifying to support projected growth.”

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A coalition of seven trade associations have sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, outlining concerns regarding India’s mounting tariffs on information communications technology (ICT) products and services. “These most recent tariffs are indicative of a broader effort by the Indian government to pressure companies to localize more of their supply chain in India without regard for the country’s WTO commitments,” according to the letter. “We are concerned that, if left unchallenged, this trend will undermine the integrity of tariff bindings made at the WTO by all of its participants as countries seek new tools to force local production of goods, to the detriment of U.S. companies operating in and exporting to India and around the world.”

Chipmakers and OEMs
Micron and Western Digital are separately exploring the idea of acquiring Kioxia, the NAND flash spin-off of Toshiba, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. In its most recent quarter, Kioxia posted sales of 287.2 billion yen, down 41% from the previous quarter. It posted a loss of 13.2 billion yen. Kioxia also recently scrapped a plan for an initial public offering. In comparison, Micron reported its results for its second quarter of fiscal 2021, which ended March 4. Revenues were $6.24 billion versus $5.77 billion for the prior quarter and $4.80 billion for the same period last year.

Renesas is in a crisis mode. The company has provided an update about a fire that hit its 300mm fab located in Hitachinaka, Ibaraki Prefecture. “In addition to the initially announced 11 units of burned equipment, there were additional 12 units of equipment that was affected by the fire. Within the total of 23 units, 11 units (approximately half of the total number of units) are to be procured within April. On the other hand, some equipment may not be procured until after June,” according to the company. “We aim to complete recovery of the clean room of the N3 Building by around mid-April and resume production in one month as initially announced.”

TSMC plans to invest about $100 billion to expand capacity and fund research and development, according to a report from the Taipei Times.

As reported, Taiwan is suffering through a drought. Wang Mei-hua, Taiwan’s Minister of Economic Affairs and Chiu Chih-wei, Economic Commissioner of the Legislative Yuan, recently visited UMC to gain insight into the heightened strategic importance of semiconductors worldwide as well as the effect of the island’s current water shortage. “To cope with more severe water restrictions in the future, UMC has deployed various water-saving measures in advance, and has planned and signed contracts with water trucks and sources to supplement water demand if the government were to apply 3rd stage water rationing (>20% water restrictions),” according to the foundry vendor.

Apple says over 110 of its manufacturing partners around the world are moving to 100% renewable energy for their production, with nearly 8 gigawatts of planned clean energy set to come online. Once completed, these commitments will avoid over 15 million metric tons of CO2 annually — the equivalent of taking more than 3.4 million cars off the road each year. Additionally, Apple is investing in renewable energy projects to cover a portion of upstream emissions, as well as a major energy storage project in California to pilot new solutions for renewable infrastructure.

Plus (formerly Plus.ai), a provider of self-driving trucks, has added $220 million in new financing.

Fab tools
Intel has announced the award winners of its fab tool and material suppliers as well as related vendors. The chip giant calls this the 2020 Intel Supplier Continuous Quality Improvement (SCQI) Program Award. Click here for the winners. Lam Research, TEL, Brewer Science, KLA, and TSMC are among the winners.

Applied Materials has terminated its planned acquisition of Kokusai Electric. In 2019, Applied Materials signed a definitive agreement to acquire Kokusai for $2.2 billion in cash from investment firm KKR. Kokusai sells epitaxial, thermal processing and other equipment. The deal was terminated as Applied did not receive confirmation of timely approval from the regulator in China. Applied is paying KKR a termination fee of $154 million in cash.

TEL has announced a plan to reduce its use of wooden packaging materials by 50% by fiscal year ending March 2024. TEL wants to move towards the use of more recyclable/reusable materials. The company will gradually replace its wooden crates used for shipping products with those made of reinforced cardboard.

Brewer Science has announced that its division, formerly known as Printed Electronics, has expanded and is now its Smart Devices & Printed Electronics Foundry unit. The expanded unit now offers a range of electronics platforms, including sensors and systems, that are integrated into existing processes and products, such as foundry services, printed temperature sensors, water quality sensors, and condition-monitoring sensors. “By expanding into smart devices and printed electronics, we are leveraging our knowledge and experience in microelectronics to deliver smart sensor systems and real-time data to our customers,” said Adam Scotch, director of R&D, Smart Devices and PE Foundry.

PDF Solutions has announced that Lavorro, a provider of integrated software solutions for semiconductor processing equipment, has selected the Cimetrix Sapience platform to support the collection of manufacturing equipment data from the factory floor at a key customer. The data will be used to drive Lavorro’s Smart-Bot Lucy, a NLP-driven machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) product family.

Bruker has entered into a partnership with Cambridge Isotope Laboratories (CIL), formalizing a long-term relationship between the two companies. This further extends Bruker’s capabilities to deliver end-to end service solutions to its installed customer base in nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy.

Edwards has made an investment in a new building in Haverhill, Mass. All functions currently within Chelmsford, Mass.-based operations related to new product design, and manufacturing operations will be relocated to the new facility. The move is expected to be completed during the second quarter of 2022. The site involves Edwards’ acquisition of the cryogenic product lines from Brooks Automation in 2019. The acquisition expanded Edward’s technology offerings to customers in the semiconductor and vacuum industries.

Packaging
QP Technologies, formerly Quik-Pak, has expanded its capabilities related to interposer designs for flip-chip and large-cavity packaging technologies. This is an extension of the company’s substrate design services announced last year.

“A common scenario is that a customer with a validated test platform seeks to make newer die fit into the same package for which its test hardware is already set up,” according to QP. “QP Technologies can develop an interposer-based prototype that enables the customer to avoid the time and expense of recreating the test hardware. This allows the reuse of legacy platforms without having to create new, at just 10% to 15% the cost and 20% the time of a custom package solution – which the company also creates for those who need them.”

“Customers that come to us with a flip-chip die often can’t, or don’t want to, expend dollars on creating a redistribution layer [RDL] or a custom package,” said Ken Molitor, QP Technologies’ chief operating officer. “They need a solution that will allow them to package the flip-chip quickly and cost-effectively utilizing existing technology. Our team can help them select the right package and substrate materials – or adapt what they already have and need to continue using – to resolve their packaging challenges.”

Materials
Microsoft, Dell, Cisco, Google, Vodafone, KPMG International and others have joined a new initiative to tackle the growing problem of end-of life electronic waste. Roskill, a research firm, provides some analysis.

Market research
Here’s some flat-panel display news: “The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in turn generated a high demand for notebook computers. While demand began ramping up in 2Q20, subsequently resulting in a shortage in 3Q20 and 4Q20, the shortage in the notebook market has yet to be resolved even now,” according to a report from TrendForce. “The high demand for notebooks is estimated to propel the quarterly shipment of notebook panels to a historical high of 65.3 million units in 1Q21, which is a 3.5% increase QoQ and a 46.5% increase YoY.”

“Pulled by strong demand for large-screen LCD panels, display glass shipments are expected to increase by 4% in the second quarter of 2021 to an all-time high of 165M square meters,” according to a report from DSCC. “Shipments in the first quarter of 2021 have been flat Q/Q compared with Q4 2020, despite the reduced number of working days and the supply constraints stemming from a power outage at NEG’s Takatsuki plant. Considering the strong demand and constraints on glass supply by its two Japanese competitors, Corning announced an increase in glass prices for Q2 2021. With Corning’s announcement on March 26th that glass prices in Q2 2021 will increase, we expect that revenues will increase by 7% Q/Q and 18% Y/Y in Q2 2021 to ¥186B.”



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