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Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

Chip shortage forecast; Intel fabs; masks; MEMS; WiFi tester.

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Market research
For some time, the semiconductor industry has experienced acute shortages. The automotive industry has suffered the most. When will this all end?

“Shortages have become more acute for many products in the near term because the growth in demand is greater than the increase in wafer and packaging capacity that was anticipated by the foundry and semiconductor vendors. To date, there are no indications of a buildup in inventory, and it is important to track the growth of inventory very closely. Rising inventory tends to be an early indicator of supply catching up with demand,” said Handel Jones, CEO of IBS, a research firm.

“The semiconductor industry is in a very strong growth phase, and shortages will likely continue through H1/2022 or H2/2022 for many products. However, there is increasing probability of slowing demand and excess capacity for many products in 2023. The probability of a downturn in 2023 is increasing, and it is important to develop strategies to address the potential excess capacity in the semiconductor market in H2/2022 or 2023,” Jones indicated in a new report.

In the report, IBS also outlined the supply and demand for various chip types. Here’s some of those findings:
*“ The shortage of MPUs will continue through Q4/2021 and Q1/2022. The timing for overcapacity is projected to be Q4/2022 or Q1/2023, but it is important to monitor inventory levels closely.”
*“The shortage of MCUs will continue through Q4/2021 and Q1/2022. However, there will likely be overcapacity in Q3/2022 or Q4/2022.”
*“The expectation is an ongoing shortage of higher-priced DRAM through Q4/2021 and Q1/2022. Excess capacity is projected for the overall DRAM market in Q2/2022 or Q3/2022.”

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Retail sales of new cars are expected to reach 888,900 units in September of 2021, a 24.8% decrease compared with September 2020, and a 19.8% decrease compared with September 2019 when adjusted for selling days, according to a joint forecast from J.D. Power and LMC Automotive.

“September results show that there are simply not enough vehicles available to meet consumer demand. Similar to August, inventory levels have been depleted to the extent that new-vehicle sales are being dictated by how many vehicles are being delivered to dealerships each month. In September 2019, 1,020,000 retail sales occurred as buyers chose from 2.9 million vehicles in inventory. This month, retail customers will buy 888,900 vehicles, with just 920,000 in inventory,” said Thomas King, president of the data and analytics division at J.D. Power.

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Navitas is projected to obtain a 29% market share in the overall GaN power semiconductor market in 2021, and will overtake Power Integration for the top position this year, according to TrendForce.

Chipmakers
Intel has broken ground on two new leading-edge chip factories at the company’s Ocotillo campus in Chandler, Ariz. With the addition of the two new factories–to be named Fab 52 and Fab 62–Intel’s Ocotillo campus will house a total of six fabs. The two new fabs in Arizona will not only support growing demand for Intel’s products, but will also provide committed capacity for the recently announced Intel Foundry Services (IFS). When fully operational in 2024, the new fabs will manufacture Intel’s most advanced process technologies, including Intel 20A featuring the new RibbonFET technology.

Micron reported revenue of $8.27 billion for the quarter versus $7.42 billion for the prior quarter and $6.06 billion for the same period last year. “MU posted strong F4Q21 results but guided F1Q22 lower, due to lower bit shipments, as PC customers digest accumulated inventory due to a mismatch caused by component shortages. Despite lowered guidance, MU expects the downturn to be short-lived, expects bit growth to return in F2H22, and sees bit shipments for NAND and DRAM to be in line with LT growth rates in CY22,” said John Vinh, an analyst at Keybanc, in a research note.

Valens Semiconductor has merged with PTK Acquisition, a special-purpose acquisition company. The combined company will be called Valens and expects its common stock and public warrants to begin trading under the ticker symbols “VLN” and “VLNW”, respectively, on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Sept. 30.

Fab tools
The eBeam Initiative, a forum dedicated to the education and promotion of new semiconductor manufacturing approaches based on electron-beam (eBeam) technologies, announced the completion of its tenth annual eBeam Initiative Luminaries survey. Some 72% of survey respondents predict that mask revenues in 2021 will increase compared to 2020. On top of that, 74% believe that EUV will contribute to mask revenue growth. Here’s what else the survey reveals. Here’s the slides of the survey. And in case you missed it, here’s a replay of eBeam Initiative’s virtual event during the 2021 Photomask Technology Conference.

Coventor, a Lam Research Company, has announced its latest MEMS design software–CoventorMP 2.0! CoventorMP 2.0 includes scriptable transfer of fully preprocessed models from MEMS+ to CoventorWare for parametric analysis, enhanced device construction and modeling capabilities in MEMS+. It includes an improved user experience via updated GUI capabilities in both MEMS+ and CoventorWare.

Velo3D, a 3D printing company, has announced shares of its common stock have begun trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol “VLD.” This follows its merger with JAWS Spitfire Acquisition Corp. The combined company will now operate as Velo3D. Velo3D’s additive manufacturing solutions are utilized by SpaceX, Honeywell, Boom Supersonic, Chromalloy, and Lam Research.

Japan’s Sumco plans to build a new silicon wafer plant. Silicon wafer shipments have been on a torrid and record breaking pace in the first half of 2021, where demand continues to outstrip supply. Sumco is one of the world’s largest silicon wafer suppliers.

AlixLabs, which is developing a new method for manufacturing semiconductors, has received a round of funding. Almi Invest is one of the investors. Private investors, including NHL professionals Michael, Alexander and William Nylander, are also participating in the issue for a total of SEK 9 million (US$1 million). The funds will be used for product development and validation of AlixLabs’ Atomic Layer Etch Pitchsplitting (APS) technology.

IQE, a supplier of advanced compound semiconductor wafers, plans to close its Singapore site by mid-2022. The site makes epiwafers for photo detectors and radio frequency applications using molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) tools. IQE will transfer the assets to its Taiwan and North Carolina sites. This follows the announcement of the closure of the Pennsylvania site and consolidation into North Carolina by 2024.

Packaging, test
LitePoint, a subsidiary of Teradyne, has rolled out the IQxel-MXTM test system, which handles the high-performance requirements of the new WiFi 7, IEEE 802.11be standard. WiFi 7 operates at close to five times the maximum throughput of WiFi 6, and provides very low latency.

“The leap forward in data rates in WiFi 7 will enable a new generation of applications such as Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), eXtended Reality (XR), Cloud Gaming and Computing,” said Eve Danel, senior product marketing manager at LitePoint. “Our decades of experience testing WiFi has allowed us to build a test system that R&D teams can use to ensure the next generation of WiFi applications deliver on the promise of a high-speed, low-latency and highly-reliable experience.”

Meanwhile, Teradyne has announced the election of semiconductor veteran Ford Tamer to its board, effective November 8. Separately, LitePoint has announced that Anna Smith has joined the organization to lead worldwide sales at LitePoint. Smith comes to LitePoint from Marvell where she spent 13 years in senior sales roles.

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Advantest has announced a high-frequency resolution option for its TAS7400TS terahertz optical sampling analysis system. The new option provides a measurement method for high-frequency characteristic evaluation of radio wave absorbers and base materials for beyond 5G/6G next-generation communications technology. The option is also geared for the mmWave radar technology used in ADAS (advanced driver assistance systems).

QP Technologies, formerly Quik-Pak, has added multiple new positions amid strong demand for its chip packaging technology. As part of the moves, Darin Valley has been appointed director of quality assurance for QP, reporting to Ken Molitor, chief operating officer of QP. Valley has joined the company from Cohu’s Delta Design Philippines operation, where he served as general manager. Tom Bianchi has been named director of sales and marketing of QP, reporting to Rosie Medina, vice president of sales and marketing. Most recently, Bianchi served as vice president of sales and marketing for 3D Glass Solutions.

Mycronic’s Global Technologies division has divested its Automation Engineering Inc. (AEi) unit to ASM Pacific Technology. AEi sells camera module assembly and test systems used in electronic products.

OEMs
Ford Motor has announced two new campuses in Tennessee and Kentucky that will produce its electric F-Series trucks. The factories will also produce batteries to power future electric Ford and Lincoln vehicles.

Ford plans to make the largest ever U.S. investment in electric vehicles at one time by any automotive manufacturer and, together with its partner, SK Innovation, plans to invest $11.4 billion and create nearly 11,000 new jobs at the Tennessee and Kentucky sites.

Education
The Wireless Innovation Forum has named the University of Colorado at Boulder as a participating research organization in the National Science Foundation’s new $25 million National Center for Wireless Spectrum Research (SII-Center). Known as SpectrumX, the project will be led by the University of Notre Dame and will bring together experts from 29 organizations to transform the landscape of spectrum research, education, collaboration, and management.



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