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Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

Foundry price hikes; WD-Kioxia merger?; data analytics; car sales.

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Chipmakers, OEMs
Reports have surfaced that TSMC has delayed its 3nm process. But TSMC says the technology remains on track. Volume production for TSMC’s 3nm is still scheduled for the second half of 2022. On the flip side, there is speculation that TSMC may increase its wafer prices by up to 20%, according to a report from the Taipei Times. Here’s another report. This is due to chip shortages and rising manufacturing costs. Officials from TSMC said: “TSMC does not comment on pricing questions nor the market rumors.” Other foundries are also looking at price hikes.

Not long ago, Micron and Western Digital (WD) were separately exploring the idea of acquiring Kioxia, the NAND flash spin-off of Toshiba, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal (WSJ). Now, WD is in talks to acquire Kioxia, according to a report from the WSJ. It’s a natural fit. Kioxia and WD are joint NAND flash manufacturing partners. Meanwhile, Samsung is the world’s largest NAND flash vendor, followed by Kioxia and WD, according to TrendForce.

The U.S. Department of Defense, through the NSTXL consortium-based S2MARTS OTA, has awarded Intel an agreement to provide commercial foundry services in the first phase of its Rapid Assured Microelectronics Prototypes – Commercial (RAMP-C) program. The RAMP-C program is created to facilitate the use of a U.S.-based commercial semiconductor foundry ecosystem to fabricate leading-edge custom and integrated circuits required for critical DOD systems. Intel Foundry Services, new Intel’s foundry business, will lead the work.

SkyWater Technology, a foundry vendor, and Rockley Photonics, a silicon photonics technology company, have formed an agreement. SkyWater will provide wafer back-end-of-line processing for Rockley’s spectrophotometer-on-a-chip health monitoring solutions. The expanded relationship with SkyWater, which is part of a multi-sourcing effort at Rockley, will enhance Rockley’s manufacturing network reliability and scalability.

On Semiconductor, now known as onsemi, has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire GT Advanced Technologies, a producer of silicon carbide (SiC) crystalline growth technologies and substrates. The deal is worth $415 million in cash. The transaction is expected to better position On Semi to secure a supply of SiC wafers to meet demand for SiC-based devices in various applications, namely electric vehicles.

Analog Devices and Maxim Integrated Products have announced that China’s State Administration for Market Regulation has given antitrust clearance for Analog Devices’ previously announced acquisition of Maxim. As a result, ADI has completed its previously announced acquisition of Maxim.

At the annual Hot Chips conference, IBM unveiled details of the new Telum Processor. The processor is designed to bring deep learning inference to enterprise workloads. Based on a 7nm process from Samsung, the chip contains 8 processor cores with a deep super-scalar out-of-order instruction pipeline, running with more than a 5GHz clock frequency. The dual-chip module design contains 22 billion transistors and 19 miles of wire on 17 metal layers.

Dell posted mixed results. Despite industry chip shortages, Dell shipped a record number of PCs and displays in the second quarter.

IonQ, a developer of quantum computing technology, unveiled the industry’s first Reconfigurable Multicore Quantum Architecture (RMQA). Starting with the demonstration of 4 chains of 16 ions each that can be dynamically configured into quantum computing cores, IonQ believes it has laid the foundation for increases to qubit count into the triple digits on a single chip, as well as future Parallel Multicore Quantum Processing Units.

Quantum Brilliance has announced the closing of a $9.7 million seed investment round. Quantum Brilliance harnesses synthetic diamonds to build quantum accelerators that do not require near absolute zero temperature or complex laser systems to operate like mainframe quantum computers.

Fab tools, data analytics
Uhnder, a developer of digital imaging radar sensors for ADAS and next-generation mobility applications, has selected proteanTecs’ Universal Chip Telemetry (UCT) monitoring solution. UCT will provide predictive data about the performance, quality, and reliability of Uhnder’s radar-on-chip, through all product development and usage cycles.

Holo, a metal additive manufacturing company, has added two new investors in its Series B investment round. Holo has attracted new investment from Lam Capital, Lam Research’s venture group, and Atreides Management. The round also included participation from existing investors. Holo recently launched its PureForm platform to drive widespread adoption of metal 3D printing. Holo is producing high-performance pure copper parts.

ACM Research has launched a plating tool for use in wafer-level packages (WLP). It supports compound semiconductors, such as silicon carbide, gallium nitride and gallium arsenide.

Nordson has signed a definitive agreement for the acquisition of the NDC Technologies business, a leading provider of precision measurement solutions for in-line manufacturing process control, from Spectris. The transaction is valued at $180 million.

CyberOptics has received new orders valued at $1.7 million from a recurring customer for its MX3000 memory module inspection systems. These final vision inspection systems are expected to be recognized as revenue in the first half of 2022.

Packaging, test
ASE has released its corporate sustainability report. ASE is committed to net zero carbon emission and climate change mitigation through meaningful actions and various programs.

MPI has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Celadon Systems, a supplier of semiconductor test probe cards.

Government policy
The Taiwan-USA Industrial Cooperation Promotion Office (TUSA) and the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on industrial cooperation with the aim to foster closer partnerships between Taiwan and Arizona. The two parties have established a platform to enable Taiwan chipmakers to invest in Arizona. TSMC is already building a fab in Arizona.

CMC Microsystems (CMC) has brought together 14 project founders from industry, academia and non-profit technology research organizations to support a five-year program to accelerate high-tech manufacturing in Canada.

Market research
North America-based semiconductor equipment manufacturers posted $3.86 billion in billings worldwide in July 2021, according to SEMI. The billings figure is 4.5% higher than final June 2021 billings of $3.69 billion and 49.8% higher than July 2020 billings of $2.57 billion. “The start of the second half of 2021 further extends a robust sales uptrend for North America-based semiconductor equipment manufacturers,” said Ajit Manocha, SEMI president and CEO. “Capacity demand across the semiconductor manufacturing supply chain continues its strong growth, reflecting the role of semiconductor equipment as a key engine of digital transformation globally.”

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Inventory constraints are keeping new cars sales down in August, according to a joint forecast from J.D. Power and LMC Automotive. Retail sales of new vehicles this month are expected to reach 987,100 units, a 14.3% decrease compared with August 2020, and a 21.6% decrease compared with August 2019 when adjusted for selling days, according to the firms.

For August 2021, average transaction prices are expected reach an all-time high of $41,378, and the first time above the $41,000 level, according to the firms. Average transaction prices are trending to be over 16% higher in August 2021 than they were in August 2020. This is partially due to the continued retraction in manufacturer incentives.

Thomas King, president of the data and analytics division at J.D. Power, said: “The month of August is historically a peak selling month as manufacturers launch promotional events to clear inventories of outgoing model-year vehicles and begin sales of the new model year. This year, however, the industry has insufficient inventory at dealerships to meet strong consumer demand. The consequence is that the retail sales pace is depressed, but transaction prices are elevated.”

“Global light vehicle demand remains under pressure from the severe inventory constraints caused by the semiconductor shortage, as well as disruption from the COVID-19 Delta variant,” said Jeff Schuster, president of the Americas operations and global vehicle forecasts at LMC Automotive. “The one-two punch of inventory shortages and the pandemic are holding back the pace of the global recovery and may lead to permanently lost recovery volume as the effect is expected to last into 2022. The lack of sufficient production volume is the major reason we forecast a 2-million-unit reduction to 83.8 million units in global light-vehicle sales for 2021. Volume is expected to increase just 8% from 2020. The year 2022 has been pulled down slightly, as well, but is still expected to recover to 91.7 million units—which is back to the pre-pandemic level—but further downside risk remains high.”



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