Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

More auto chip shortages; foundry challenges; SMIC fab; probers.


For some time, the automotive industry has suffered due to chip shortages in the market. And the chip shortages are spreading into other markets.

In the latest news, GM plans to idle key truck plants amid chip shortages, according to a report from Bloomberg. “GM said eight of its 14 North American assembly plants will experience shutdowns this month because of chip shortages, including production of the lucrative Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups,” according to Bloomberg.

Ford, meanwhile, will halt output of its F-150 truck at its Kansas City factory next week amid similar issues. Last week, Stellantis lowered its production of its Ram pickups at its Michigan plant, according to the report.

In response to the issues at GM, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) said: “The continuing impact of the chip shortage – epitomized most recently in the news that GM will be forced to idle plants across North America – speaks to the urgency of passing bipartisan legislation to fund new semiconductor production in the United States. While the impact of this funding will not solve the global semiconductor shortage overnight, the longer we wait, the worse this supply chain crunch will become. I would urge my House colleagues to pass the legislation funding my bill as soon as possible.”

In June, the U.S. Senate passed the United States Innovation and Competition Act, a bipartisan piece of legislation. The legislation would help invest in U.S. semiconductor manufacturing, packaging and advanced research and development. It would invest $52 billion to implement the CHIPS for America Act. But the House has not yet approved such funding, which means it hasn’t been enacted and is still stuck in Congress. At the same time, China has poured $150 billion into its own semiconductor industry.

The problems aren’t isolated to U.S. car makers. All car makers face chip shortages. This week, China’s NIO, a supplier of electric vehicles, said it delivered 5,880 vehicles in August 2021, representing 48.3% year-over-year growth. In light of the continued uncertainty and volatility of semiconductor supply, NIO says it has adjusted its vehicle production and expects to deliver approximately 22,500 to 23,500 vehicles in the third quarter of 2021, revised from the previous outlook of 23,000 to 25,000 vehicles.

Meanwhile, Maruti Suzuki India has posted total sales of 130,699 cars in August of 2021. Sales volume for the company was affected due to electronic component shortages. Citing the shortages, the company currently estimates that the total vehicle production volume could be around 40% of normal production in September. Part of Japan’s Suzuki, Maruti Suzuki has a large share of the car market in India.

TrendForce has released its foundry rankings in terms of sales for the second quarter of 2021. TSMC remains the world’s largest foundry, followed in order by Samsung, UMC, GlobalFoundries and SMIC.

It’s a difficult period for foundry vendors. Chip demand is exceeding foundry fab capacity, causing shortages in the market. Plus, several foundry vendors have raised their wafer prices, according to the Taipei Times. “The panic buying of chips persisted in 2Q21 owing to factors such as post-pandemic demand, industry-wide shift to 5G telecom technology, geopolitical tensions, and chronic chip shortages,” according to TrendForce. “Chip demand from ODMs/OEMs remained high, as they were unable to meet shipment targets for various end-products due to the shortage of foundry capacities.”


SMIC and Lin-Gang FTZ have announced plans to establish a joint foundry venture company in the Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Zone, according to a filing. The entities plan to set up a fab line with a production capacity of 100,000 300mm wafers per month. It will focus on the production of integrated circuit foundry and technology services on process nodes at 28nm and above. The investment for the project will be approximately $8.87 billion. (To see the filing, click here. Download PDF file.)

Tower Semiconductor and Quintessent are collaborating to create a silicon photonics process with integrated quantum dot lasers. The new foundry process will build upon Tower’s PH18 production silicon photonics platform and add Quintessent’s III-V quantum dot-based lasers and optical amplifiers. The resulting capability will demonstrate an integrated optical gain in a standard foundry silicon photonics process. This addresses optical connectivity in artificial intelligence/machine learning and data center computing. The initial process development kit (PDK) is planned in 2021, with multi-project wafer runs following in 2022.

Synaptics has signed a definitive agreement to acquire DSP Group, a provider of voice and wireless chipset solutions. Meanwhile, indie Semiconductor has signed a definitive agreement to purchase TeraXion, a supplier of photonic components. indie is a supplier of semiconductor and software solutions for LiDAR.

Taiwan memory maker Winbond Electronics plans to hire 400 engineers. The company is trying to meet growing chip demand in the market, according to the Taipei Times.

Fab tools, EDA
TEL has rolled out Prexa, a next-generation 300mm wafer prober. The prober incorporates a number of key technologies from its previous-generation wafer prober. The new Prexa wafer prober also adopts several new functions and features, including error/assist reduction, enhanced automation and higher productivity. It also supports thermal control during the device test and a high load control of the stage for memory devices.

Onto Innovation has announced that unit volumes of the company’s Dragonfly inspection system grew 50% in the first half of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020. Tier 1 customers, including major integrated device manufacturers (IDMs) and the top foundries, have adopted the Dragonfly G3 system, the newest model of the Dragonfly family. The inspection system is used in several applications, such as CMOS image sensors, MEMS and packaging.

Arxspan, a division of Bruker, has launched BioDrive, a cloud and desktop-based, integrated software solution that allows scientists to advance their molecular biology research. By enabling a seamless workflow across cross-functional teams, BioDrive enables efficient collaboration for researchers.

The SEMI Electronics System Design (ESD) Alliance has announced the completion of the anti-piracy SEMI Server Certification Protocol (SSCP) for software license management. This is a year-long joint development effort led by the ESD Alliance, a SEMI Technology Community. The SSCP, approved by development committee members Cadence, Siemens EDA and Synopsys, identifies each customer license server to assure that licenses are issued only by authorized servers to help protect against software piracy. The SCCP is now undergoing standardization and will be managed by the SEMI Standards group after its finalization as an industry standard. The committee members intend to implement the protocol in their respective license management software.

Silvaco, a supplier of TCAD, EDA software and design IP, has announced the resignation of Babak Taheri as CEO and member of the board after two years in the role. Silvaco is looking for a replacement.

R&D, education
The U.S. National Science Foundation has announced the establishment of 11 new National Artificial Intelligence Research Institutes, building on the first round of seven institutes funded in 2020. The combined investment of $220 million expands the reach of these institutes to include a total of 40 states and the District of Columbia. The institutes are focused on AI-based technologies that will bring about a range of advances.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $61 million in funding for infrastructure and research projects to advance quantum information science.

Market research
TECHCET—the electronic materials advisory firm—says 2021 semiconductor materials revenues will top $57 billion. The highest growth segments include wafers, equipment components, precursors, cleans, CMP, and photoresists. Wafers and chemical revenues are expected to get an extra boost as the supply-demand strain will likely push up ASPs.

“Given the huge upsurge in chip demand, materials supply-chains are running just at demand, and lead-times are lengthening,” stated TECHCET President/CEO Lita Shon-Roy. “The equipment components area is especially hard hit. Quartz, silicon carbide, and ceramics have been quoting lead times up to nine months or longer. Wafers is another area we expect to see availability challenges, especially as we move into the second half of 2022.”

Capacity expansions in several materials segments are starting to occur, which will help ease the demand strain and push up volumes and revenues in 2022, according to the firm.


According to IDC, shipments of smartphones are expected to grow 7.4% in 2021, reaching 1.37 billion units, followed by 3.4% growth in 2022 and 2023, respectively. 5G shipments continue to be a primary driver in 2021. But 2021 shipments have managed to display minimal growth compared to 2019 pre-pandemic volumes, giving IDC a more accurate view of the state of the market. The world’s largest markets – China, the United States, and Western Europe – will still be down from 2019, but growing markets such as India, Japan, the Middle East, and Africa are fueling the recovery.

“The smartphone market was better prepared from a supply chain perspective heading into 2020 given almost all regions were expecting to grow and vendors were preparing accordingly,” said Ryan Reith, group vice president at IDC. “2020 was a bust due to the pandemic but all of the top brands continued forward with their production plans with the main difference that the timeline was pushed out. Therefore, we are at a point where inventory levels are much healthier than PCs and some other adjacent markets and we are seeing the resilience of consumer demand in recent quarterly results.”


Paul travers says:

No body ever hear of points & condenser?
Chips in an automobile are not required!

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