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Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

IBM’s 2nm chip; Intel’s 3D-IC expansion; 5nm masks; wafers.

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Chipmakers and OEMs
IBM has unveiled what the company says is the world’s first 2nm chip. The device is based on a next-generation transistor architecture called a nanosheet FET. The nanosheet FET is an evolutionary step from finFETs, which is today’s state-of-the-art transistor technology.

Targeted for 2024, IBM’s 2nm chip features a novel multi-Vt scheme, a 12nm gate length, and a new inner spacer. The company used extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography to pattern the sheets.

The 2nm chip can fit up to 50 billion transistors on a device. It is projected to achieve 45% higher performance, or 75% lower energy use, as compared to today’s most advanced 7nm chips. IBM won’t manufacture the chip. Instead, the company will outsource the production to a foundry. As reported, IBM several years ago sold its semiconductor unit to GlobalFoundries. IBM still design its own chips and still conducts semiconductor R&D at the Albany Nanotech Complex in Albany, N.Y.

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Intel will invest $3.5 billion to equip its New Mexico operations for use in manufacturing its advanced semiconductor packaging technologies. This includes Foveros, Intel’s 3D packaging technology. The investment is expected to create at least 700 high-tech jobs and 1,000 construction jobs and support an additional 3,500 jobs in the state. Construction is expected to start in late 2021.

Taiwan foundry vendor Vanguard International Semiconductor (VIS) has expanded its 200mm wafer capacity. VIS announced plans to acquire the buildings and facilities of AU Optronics’ L3B fab located in Hsinchu Science Park, Taiwan. “Both parties have signed the contract on April 28, according to which the transaction amounts to $905 million NTD and the transfer of ownership is set to be completed on January 1, 2022,” according to a spokesperson from VIS. “Fab L3B is going to be the fifth fab for VIS worldwide. The capacity of this building is expected to be 40,000 8-inch wafers per month and prepared for customers’ mid-term and long-term demand.”

PsiQuantum, a startup that is developing a quantum computer, has signed a foundry deal with GlobalFoundries. Under the terms, GF is manufacturing the silicon photonic and electronic chips that form the foundation of the Q1 system, the first system milestone in PsiQuantum’s roadmap to deliver a commercially viable quantum computer.

Infineon has concluded a supply contract with Japanese wafer manufacturer Showa Denko for an extensive range of silicon carbide material (SiC), including epitaxy. The German semiconductor manufacturer has thus secured more base material for the growing demand for SiC-based products. SiC devices are used in the field of photovoltaic, industrial power supply, and charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.

Yageo and Hon Hai Technology Group, also known as Foxconn, have signed a joint venture agreement to form XSemi. The goal of this joint venture is to extend the businesses into the semiconductor industry, including product development and sales. The goal is to make small-scale chips.

Qorvo has acquired NextInput, a developer of force-sensing solutions for human-machine interfaces. NextInput has shipped millions of MEMS-based sensors to manufacturers of smartphones, wearables, automobiles and other applications. The acquisition of NextInput expands Qorvo’s technology portfolio and enables Qorvo to accelerate the deployment of force-sensing solutions utilizing MEMS-based sensors.

General Motors has reported its first-quarter results. The company is confident in its full-year 2021 guidance outlined earlier this year as it works to manage through a semiconductor shortage. Meanwhile, VW also posted mixed results in the quarter and is still wresting with chip shortages.

Not long ago, Peugeot and Fiat Chrysler merged. The combined company is called Stellantis, which just posted its results. “In our first quarter since the merger, Stellantis posted strong Q1 2021 revenues with the diverse brand portfolio driving increased volumes, positive pricing and improved product mix, despite the headwinds from the global semiconductor crisis,” said Richard Palmer, Stellantis’ CFO.

Fab tool and analytics
DNP has developed a 5nm mask-writing process for leading-edge photomask customers. This is namely for customers manufacturing chips using extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography. DNP has developed a 5nm process using IMS’ multi-beam mask writer. DNP has production capability for advanced masks, including EUV masks for 5nm logic.

Linton Crystal Technologies, a supplier of ingots for the semiconductor and solar industries, is expanding in China. Dalian Linton NC Machine has opened a more than 70,000 square meter research and design center and manufacturing base in Xishan, Wuxi.

Bruker has announced its financial results for its first quarter ended March 31. Bruker’s revenues for the first quarter of 2021 were $554.7 million, an increase of 30.8% compared to $424.0 million in the first quarter of 2020. “Bruker had an excellent start to 2021, with strong year-over-year revenue growth and remarkable operating performance improvements. During the quarter, we experienced strong revenue growth for our ‘Project Accelerate’ products and solutions, particularly for proteomics and biopharma solutions, as well as for our core scientific instruments from strengthening academic, applied, industrial and semiconductor markets,” said Frank Laukien, president and CEO of Bruker. “With robust Scientific Instruments order trends in the first quarter, we are raising our full year 2021 revenue growth, operating margin and earnings outlook.”

PDF Solutions has reported its financial results for its first quarter ended March 31. Total revenues for the first quarter of 2021 were $24.2 million, compared to $22.4 million for the fourth quarter of 2020 and $21.2 million for the first quarter of 2020. Analytics revenue for the first quarter of 2021 was $19.4 million, compared to $14.5 million for the fourth quarter of 2020 and $13.3 million for the first quarter of 2020.

Lam Research has committed $1 million to battle against COVID-19 in India. Meanwhile, the KLA Foundation is expanding its COVID-19 relief efforts in India with a donation of $550,000 to help combat the second wave of coronavirus infections currently taxing the country’s healthcare system amid a national vaccine shortage.

Packaging and test
JCET has completed a capital raising of approximately RMB 5 billion. The fund will enhance JCET’s capabilities in SiP, QFN, BGA, and IC manufacturing solutions.

Draper has been selected for two U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) contracts, totaling $14 million, to enhance the U.S.’s ability for volume production of advanced packaging solutions for chips embedded within defense systems. i3 Microsystems will be the major subcontractor for production.

Integra Technologies, a provider of semiconductor packaging, assembly, test, characterization and related services, has announced the addition of an advanced test system from Advantest at its Wichita facility. The company added Advantest’s V93000 SmartScale tester to the mix.

Government policy
A group of Canadian business leaders, chip manufacturers, and investors have announced Canada’s new Semiconductor Council. With a mandate to build and lead Canada’s national semiconductor strategy and action plan, the coalition will work towards advancing Canadian competitiveness, strengthening trade partnerships and bolstering its supply chain resilience.

Market research
Here’s the latest from IC Insights: “Driven by a resurgent memory market and relatively flat sales results from Intel, IC Insights believes that Samsung will again replace Intel as the leading semiconductor producer beginning in 2Q21. Moreover, Intel is guiding its full-year 2021 sales to be down 1% as compared with 2020. With the DRAM market on the rise and the NAND flash market forecast to gain momentum in the second half of the year, it appears likely that Samsung will once again position itself at the #1 semiconductor supplier for the full year as well.”

Worldwide silicon wafer area shipments increased 4% to 3,337 million square inches in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the fourth quarter of 2020, according to the SEMI Silicon Manufacturers Group (SMG). This tops the previous historical high set in the third quarter of 2018, according to the group. First-quarter 2021 silicon wafer shipments saw 14% growth from the 2,920 million square inches logged during the same quarter last year, they added.

IDC forecasts that the semiconductor market will reach $522 billion in 2021, a 12.5% year-over-year growth rate. “IDC anticipates continued robust growth in consumer, computing, 5G, and automotive semiconductors,” according to the firm. “Supply constraints will continue through 2021. While shortages initially occurred in automotive semiconductors, the impact is being felt across the board in semiconductors manufactured at older technology nodes.”



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