Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

U.S. chip coalition; materials group; power outage; EV share.


Government policy
Semiconductor companies as well hardware and software vendors have announced the formation of the Semiconductors in America Coalition (SIAC). The group called on congressional leaders to appropriate $50 billion for U.S. manufacturing incentives and research initiatives. SIAC’s mission is to advance federal policies that promote semiconductor manufacturing and research in the U.S., which is lagging behind.

The new coalition includes Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) member companies, including Intel, Qualcomm, AMD, Nvidia, GlobalFoundries, Texas Instruments, Broadcom, Micron and others. It also includes Amazon Web Services, Apple, AT&T, Cisco, General Electric, Google, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Microsoft, and Verizon.


The U.S. hopes to build more fabs and expand its R&D efforts. To help enable those efforts, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee has approved the Schumer-Young Endless Frontier Act, legislation that authorizes more than $100 billion for science and technology initiatives, including semiconductor research. This legislation authorizes these initiatives, but does not appropriate funding for them at this point. The SIA hopes that semiconductor manufacturing incentives and research funding in the CHIPS for America Act will be added to the Endless Frontier as it moves to the Senate floor for consideration.

Brewer Science has announced the establishment of the American Materials Technology Partnership. With the demand for high-quality semiconductor materials on the rise, this partnership will bring together voices from across the industry, government, and academia to lead the charge on the next era of growth.

The U.S. government has rolled out a new website portal that involves its activities in AI. The site, located at AI.gov, revolves around National AI Initiative.

The South Korean government has announced bigger tax breaks for its semiconductor industry, according to multiple reports. The government also plans to provide 1 trillion won in loans for the local chip industry.

Chipmakers and OEMs
Taiwan is already suffering from a water shortage. Then, on May 13, a power plant in Taiwan’s Kaohsiung City was shut down due to a malfunction. So far, Taiwan’s chipmakers have not been impacted. “The results indicate that most DRAM and NAND flash suppliers are provisioning power to their fabs normally; although some fabs experienced a reduction in voltage, this did not impact production,” according to TrendForce. “Regarding foundry, the Southern Taiwan Science Park located in Tainan sustained a relatively higher impact, with power outages occurring in some fabs, though the uninterruptible power supplies came into operation and ensured the power outage had only limited impact.”

Kioxia has announced a 20 billion yen investment to expand its Technology Development Building at its Yokohama Technology Campus and to establish its new Shin-Koyasu Advanced Research Center. The new facilities are expected to be operational by 2023.

Faraday Technology, an ASIC design service and IP provider, has announced its 16G programmable SerDes is now available in UMC’s 28nm HPC+ process. The new SerDes solution supports multiple protocols in various high-speed interfaces for consumer and networking applications.

UMC has announced that it was ranked in the top 5% of companies for the seventh consecutive year in the Corporate Governance Evaluation conducted by the Taiwan Stock Exchange and Taipei Exchange.

Memory supplier SK Hynix plans to expand its logic foundry business. Under the plan, SK Hynix will invest in its 200mm foundry business in order to support domestic fabless companies and others. The company mainly develops and provides specialty foundry processes. SK Hynix owns SK Hynix System IC, an affiliate that runs its foundry business in China. The company’s sales of non-memory semiconductors and foundry business represents only 2% of its total revenue.

SMIC has reported its results for the three months ended March 31. Revenue was $1.1 billion in the first quarter, an increase of 12.5% from the previous quarter and up 22% from last year. “Non-finFET capacity will continue to be fully loaded till the end of the year, and new capacity will mainly form in the second half of this year. In the first quarter, finFET revenue grew sequentially from a trough, and new tape-out projects are steadily engaging,” said Haijun Zhao and Liang Mong Song, co-CEOs of SMIC.

Fab tools
Brooks Automation has announced its intention to separate its business into two independent publicly-traded companies. Brooks’ CEO Steve Schwartz will lead a new standalone life sciences company. Following the separation, Dave Jarzynka, current president of the Semiconductor Solutions Group business at Brooks, will be named CEO of the new Brooks Automation company. This company will include Brooks’ semiconductor solutions business, robotics and automation products.

MKS Instruments has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Photon Control for CAD$3.60 per share in cash. The deal is valued at approximately CAD$387 million, with an estimated enterprise value of CAD$343 million. Photon Control is a manufacturer of fiber optic measurement solutions.

Reno Sub-Systems, a developer of high-performance radio frequency (RF) matching networks for fab equipment, has introduced its new GenMatch Series. Targeted for etch and deposition systems, the sub-system integrates the company’s solid-state Electronic Variable Capacitor (EVC) RF match and Precis generator technologies into a single unit. The system has a footprint similar to a match alone, which in turn saves space in the process tool.

Cohu has entered into a definitive agreement to sell its PCB test unit to Mycronic. Mycronic will acquire atg Luther & Maelzer and other affiliated entities and assets related to Cohu’s Printed Circuit Board Test Group. The deal is valued at $125 million.

Market research
VLSI Research has released its equipment customer survey rankings. Advantest has again topped the ratings chart of the 2021 VLSIresearch Customer Satisfaction Survey, capturing the No. 1 spot on this annual survey of global semiconductor companies for the second consecutive year. See who else is on the list. Here’s another list. The survey ratings are based on customer feedback representing 89% of the world’s chip producers.

The worldwide semiconductor shortage will persist through 2021, and is expected to recover to normal levels by the second quarter of 2022, according to a report from Gartner. “The semiconductor shortage will severely disrupt the supply chain and will constrain the production of many electronic equipment types in 2021. Foundries are increasing wafer prices, and in turn, chip companies are increasing device prices,” said Kanishka Chauhan, principal research analyst at Gartner.

Worldwide sales of new energy vehicles (NEVs), including battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs), reached 1.09 million units in the first quarter of 2021, according to TrendForce. In the rankings, Tesla remains the leader in BEVs, but Chinese BEV manufacturers moved up in the rankings.

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