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Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

Intel eyes SiFive; IBM vs. GF; AI tools; auto chip rankings.

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Chipmakers
SiFive has received a takeover offer from Intel, according to a report from Bloomberg. The asking price is more than $2 billion.

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IBM has filed suit against GlobalFoundries (GF), alleging fraud and breach of contract committed by GF. IBM’s suit, filed in the Supreme Court of the state of New York, seeks relief and punitive damages.

In 2015, GF completed a deal to acquire IBM’s loss-ridden semiconductor technology business. IBM paid GF $1.5 billion to take the chip unit. “In 2015, IBM and GlobalFoundries entered into a long-term strategic relationship for researching, developing and manufacturing advanced semiconductor chips for IBM’s mainframes and other IBM servers,” according to the suit, which was obtained by Semiconductor Engineering. “As part of a series of agreements by which IBM divested and GlobalFoundries acquired IBM’s semiconductor business, GlobalFoundries undertook to develop the next and successive generations of high performance chips and become IBM’s sole-source supplier of the chips at the heart of IBM’s servers for ten years.”

Then, in 2018, GF exited the leading-edge process market, halting the development of its 7nm process. “Having taken the $1.5 billion and extracted the benefits of the best-in-class technology, engineers, and intellectual property from IBM, GlobalFoundries revealed that its representations about being committed to high performance technology was false,” according to the suit. “GlobalFoundries misled IBM in order to acquire IBM’s semiconductor business and form an ostensibly mutually beneficial alliance, which GlobalFoundries then deliberately and dishonorably discarded when it suited GlobalFoundries’ purposes.”

IBM, according to the suit, is seeking to recover the $1.5 billion that IBM paid to GF. IBM also wants an “accounting of what GlobalFoundries actually did with that money–compensatory and damages for GlobalFoundries’ intentional violations of contract and fraud–and punitive damages for fraud.”

As stated, GF halted its 7nm program in 2018. It’s unclear why IBM waited so long to file the lawsuit. IBM has since turned to Samsung for foundry services. GF challenged the suit, and asked a judge to rule that it does not owe money to IBM, according to a report from Bloomberg.

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GF, a silicon foundry vendor, and GlobalWafers, a supplier of silicon wafers, have announced a long-term $800 million supply deal. Under the plan, GlobalWafers will add 300mm silicon-on-insulator (SOI) wafer manufacturing and expand existing 200mm SOI wafer production in its facility in Missouri.

Taiwan’s GlobalWafers will provide SOI wafers for GF’s manufacturing facilities in New York and Vermont. The silicon wafers produced by GlobalWafers are a key part of GF’s FD-SOI technology. The agreement includes nearly $210 million in capital expenditures to expand GWC’s MEMC facility in Missouri and will create more than 75 new jobs. The 300mm pilot line is on track to be completed in Q4 this year. The agreement is strengthened by $9.4 million in investments and support from the state of Missouri.

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Bosch this week held a grand opening for its new Dresden wafer fab, the single largest investment in the company’s 130-year history. Plans for the plant were first announced in 2017. Production in Dresden will start as early as July–six months earlier than planned and the first chips will be installed in Bosch’s power tools.

The scaling race is continuing in the CMOS image sensor market. Samsung has introduced the industry’s first 0.64μm-pixel image sensor. Samsung’s image sensor offers 50Mp options for both front- and rear-facing cameras.

Magnachip has confirmed a receipt of an unsolicited takeover proposal from Cornucopia Investment Partners. As previously announced, on March 25, Magnachip entered into an agreement and plan of merger with another group.

Packaging and test
ASE plans to invest $85.19 million to expand its chip testing and packaging capacity in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, according to a report from the Taipei Times.

Taiwan’s King Yuan Electronics, a provider of chip testing services, earlier this week shut down its factories for 48 hours amid a Covid-19 outbreak, according to a report from the Taipei Times. Taiwan has seen a major outbreak of Covid-19, causing a lockdown.

FormFactor has announced the appointment of Jorge Titinger to its board. Titinger is the founder and CEO of Titinger Consulting, a consulting firm. Titinger has held various executive positions for a number of companies.

Fab tools
In a blog, Lam Research discusses its efforts to bring more in intelligence to its fab tools. It outlines four foundational pillars in the arena, including digital twin/digital thread, virtual process development, smart tools, and digital services.

Government policy
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer has announced the senate passage of the U.S. Competition and Innovation Act. The $250 billion bill hopes to bolster U.S. competitiveness, but it’s still not a done deal. This combines Schumer’s Endless Frontier Act and other bipartisan competitiveness bills. It includes $52 billion in supplemental appropriations to implement semiconductor-related manufacturing and R&D programs. An additional $1.5 billion was included for implementation of the USA Telecommunications Act to foster U.S. innovation in the race for 5G.

The bill is not enacted-yet. “It needs to pass the House, possibly reconcile the Senate and House versions of the bill (if the House passes a different version), then off to the President to be signed into law,” according to officials from the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA).

In a related matter, the Biden Administration has released its report to secure America’s supply chains. The administration conducted a review on the state of the U.S. semiconductor manufacturing and advanced packaging supply chains. Joe Pasetti, vice president of global public policy and advocacy at SEMI, discusses the issues in a blog.

Market research
Infineon has displaced NXP from the number one spot as the leading supplier of automotive semiconductors, according to Strategy Analytics. Infineon, NXP, Renesas, Texas Instruments and STMicroelectronics are the top five vendors in the arena. They accounted for almost 49% of the global automotive semiconductor market in 2020. Strategy Analytics estimates that 2020 automotive semiconductor vendor revenues were down 6.0% year-on-year, dropping from $37.2 billion in 2019 to $35.0 billion.

Events
Advantest will host the Virtual VOICE 2021 Developer Conference from June 21-23. The conference will highlight latest solutions and best practices for testing semiconductor devices. This year’s event will include approximately 70 technical presentations and more.

The Electronics, Components and Technology Conference (ECTC) is the premier international packaging conference. ECTC 2021 will be held in virtual format. Special sessions and panels will have both a pre-recorded and a live component. The conference will include over 350 technical papers organized into 46 topical sessions, where each session will be available as an on-demand webcast for the duration of the conference, which will open on Tuesday, 1 June and close on Sunday, 4 July. To learn more about the conference, go to the ECTC site. Registration is open.



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