Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

Supercomputer trade war; fabless ranking; trillion chips; mask sales.


Government policy
At one point, there was a school of thought that the Biden administration would relax the current tariffs and export controls in regards to China. So far, the Biden administration hasn’t changed any of the previous policies and is doubling down on those efforts.

The Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) this week added seven Chinese supercomputing entities to the “Entity List” for conducting activities that are contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the U.S. The final rule adds the following entities to the Entity List: Tianjin Phytium Information Technology, Shanghai High-Performance Integrated Circuit Design Center, Sunway Microelectronics, the National Supercomputing Center Jinan, the National Supercomputing Center Shenzhen, the National Supercomputing Center Wuxi, and the National Supercomputing Center Zhengzhou.

These entities are involved with building supercomputers used by China’s military actors. The “Entity List” is a tool utilized by BIS to restrict the export, re-export, and in-country transfer of items to persons involved in activities contrary to the national security of the United States. Additional license requirements apply to exports, re-exports, and in-country transfers of items subject to the EAR of the listed entities.

China has made major inroads in supercomputers. In total, Chinese manufacturers dominate the supercomputer list, accounting for 312 of the world’s 500 systems, according to the rankings. Fugaku, an ARM-based supercomputer jointly developed by Japan’s Riken and Fujitsu, is now ranked the world’s fastest supercomputer in the 55th TOP500 list. U.S.-based Summit is ranked in second place, followed by U.S.-based Sierra, and China’s Sunway TaihuLight.


On Biden’s China policy, Paul Gallant, an analyst at Cowen, said in a research note: “We expect the White House to take control of tech policy because of its central role–especially in artificial intelligence and semiconductors – in emerging geopolitical competition with China. We anticipate the White House will develop a whole-of-government policy and announce it in the Fall.

“For the next six months… Between now and the Fall, we expect Biden’s Commerce Department to roughly follow the policies adopted by President Trump just before he left office. What that means — Huawei: Despite company appeals, we anticipate few/no licenses for any 5G equipment — although cautious optimism that Honor will remain an eligible buyer of US chips. SMIC: Fluid situation at Commerce, but cautious optimism that some semicap tools companies will obtain licenses,” Gallant said.

“This Fall, we expect a major White House speech laying out a new China/tech policy,” he added. “We expect it to have two parts: 1) Playing offense on chips and AI – Funding for AI along with U.S. chip manufacturing; improved US patent laws for US firms, especially around AI and semiconductors; faster 5G deployment; and 2) Playing defense — Expanding the scope of U.S. export control from ‘keeping military-related items from China’ to include ‘keeping China behind the US in semiconductors.’ It would include a more explicit protectionist element, especially around semiconductors and semicap equipment. And it may be followed by a late 2021 Commerce Dept proposal to restrict certain US semicap tool sales to China while moving more slowly on tools that are obtainable from non-US vendors.”

Chipmakers and OEMs
The shakeout in the smartphone business continues. LG Electronics is exiting the smartphone business and closing its mobile business unit. LG’s decision to exit the competitive mobile phone sector will enable the company to focus resources in other growth areas. Here’s what TrendForce says about the move: “TrendForce’s investigations finds that LG manufactured merely 30.6 million smartphones last year, which represented a 2.4% market share. The Korean company took ninth place in the global ranking of smartphone brands by production volume in 2020,” according to the research firm.

Samsung posted mixed results for the quarter, according to reports. The company was impacted by a fab shutdown in Austin, Texas. A severe winter storm recently hit many parts of the United States, including Texas. In Austin, utility providers are prioritizing service to residential areas. As a result, electricity and natural gas providers have temporarily suspended service to Austin’s semiconductor manufacturers, including Samsung.

Fab tools
Data analytics specialist proteanTecs has joined the Open Compute Project (OCP) as a Community Member. The OCP Foundation, launched by Facebook in 2011, is a collaborative community whose mission is to develop hardware technology for the datacenter IT infrastructure.

CyberOptics recently received an order valued at $1.2 million for its MX3000 memory module inspection systems. These systems are expected to be recognized as revenue in the second half of 2021.

TEL has been ranked as number one among Japanese companies in the second ROESG Rankings (2020 edition) implemented by Nikkei and QUICK. ROESG is an index that integrates return-on-equity, which is an indicator of capital efficiency, and environmental, social, and governance.

The KLA Foundation has announced the first round recipients of the American Heart Association – KLA Social Equity Fund. This fund is created to help reduce the social and economic barriers to health equity in the Metro Detroit and South Bay/Silicon Valley areas over the next three years.

Every year, Lam Research makes use of interns, who gain valuable experience in the semiconductor industry. Here’s some insights in doing an internship.

Packaging and test
Advantest has announced that from April 2021, all power used at its primary production plant, the Gunma Factory in Gunma Prefecture, Japan, will be sourced from renewables. The renewable energy used at the plant is a net-zero source of carbon emissions. It is produced for local consumption at a hydroelectric power plant owned by the Gunma prefectural government.

ASE has received the 3D InCites 2021 Sustainability Award. This award honors vendors that reduced greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, water use, and waste to landfill.

Market research
TrendForce has released its rankings for the top-10 IC design (fabless) companies for 2020. According to TrendForce, Qualcomm was able to overtake Broadcom for the leading position in the top 10 list.

Total semiconductor unit shipments, which include integrated circuits as well as optoelectronics, sensor/actuator, and discrete (O-S-D) devices, are forecasted to rise 13% in 2021 to 1.1353 trillion units to set a new all-time annual record, according to IC Insights. This would mark the third time that semiconductor units have surpassed one trillion units in a calendar year—the first time being in 2018.

Expect another big year for the photomask industry. “Reticle sales are expected to surge 13% in 2021 on the back of a soaring semiconductor market,” according to VLSI Research. “Reticle units are projected to grow 3%, driven by strong activity for the 75nm and below nodes. EUV reticles will jump more than 70% this year but will still account for 1% of total reticle units.”

Leave a Reply

(Note: This name will be displayed publicly)