Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

TSMC’s Japan fab; U.S. fan-out line; cobots; COVID test.


TSMC posted its results for the quarter and confirmed its long-awaited plans to build a fab in Japan. It’s not a leading-edge fab, but rather a plant for 28nm/22nm processes. “The company confirmed plans to build a new fab in Japan for 22nm + 28nm,” said Aaron Rakers, an analyst at Wells Fargo, in a research note. “An average 22/28nm fab costs ~$4-5B range per 45k wspm. Fab construction is planned to commence in 2022; production is targeted in 2024.”

According to a report from NHK, “TSMC and Sony Group will jointly build the factory in the southern prefecture of Kumamoto. Government subsidies would cover about half the total cost of the project.”

Meanwhile, “TSMC expects its own capacity to remain very tight in 2021 and throughout 2022,” Wells Fargo’s Rakers said. “TSMC reported that 3nm development remains on track, in which TSMC again noted that it is seeing a higher level of customer engagement and expects more first year tapeouts for N3 vs. N5. TSMC reiterated that 3nm risk production will start in 2021 with volume production in the 2H2022 with initial revenue ramping in 1Q23, differing from prior node ramp that saw revenue contributions in the 2Q & 3Q time frame (e.g., driven by Apple iPhone launches). The company also noted that it introduced an extension of 3nm (N3E) that features manufacturing process window improvements and is scheduled for 1 year after original 3nm. When asked about Intel’s roadmap aspirations through 2025, TSMC also stated that it is confident that its own 2nm technology density and performance will be the most competitive in 2025.”


U.S.-based foundry vendor SkyWater Technology has announced a deal with Deca. Under the plan, SkyWater will insert Deca’s Adaptive Patterning technology within its advanced packaging facility in Florida. The deal calls for Deca’s second-generation M-Series fan-out wafer-level packaging (FOWLP) technology. The companies hope to establish the first high-volume FOWLP capability in the U.S. Deca provides maskless patterning technology. Its second-generation FOWLP technology includes 2µm redistribution (RDL) features. Deca’s technology is also installed at ASE and Nepes.

Xperi has entered into a license agreement with China’s Yangtze Memory Technologies (YMTC), a supplier of 3D NAND. The agreement includes access to a foundational portfolio of semiconductor intellectual property related to Xperi’s DBI hybrid bonding technology.

Samsung has begun mass producing a 14nm DRAM based on extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography. Following the shipment of the industry-first EUV DRAM in 2020, Samsung has increased the number of EUV layers to five. The technology is geared for its DDR5 DRAM.

Transphorm has been awarded a $0.9 million contract with a $0.5 million option by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). This contract commissions Transphorm to explore the performance and cost boundaries for manufacturing an alternative nitrogen polar (N-polar) gallium-nitride (GaN) solution for defense and commercial RF mmWave applications. Transphorm will be responsible for delivering the epiwafer technology. The sub-contractor, University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB), will fabricate the mmWave transistors.

Packaging and test
Intel, Samsung and others hope to resume full operations of their respective factories in Vietnam by the end of November, according to a report from the Star and Bloomberg. Companies have been impacted by COVID-19 in Vietnam. Intel has a large IC packaging and assembly plant in Vietnam.

LitePoint, a subsidiary of Teradyne, has announced a collaboration with Microchip to deliver design validation and turnkey manufacturing test solutions for next-generation Internet of Things (IoT) systems, based on Microchip’s Bluetooth and Wi-Fi chipsets. As part of the collaboration, LitePoint has released a version of its IQfact+ test automation software tailored for Microchip’s new WFI32E01 series of Wi-Fi MCU modules.

In a video, John Hoffman, computer vision engineering manager of CyberOptics, talks about some of the growing challenges with wafer bump inspection and metrology.

Fab tools
Universal Robots, a unit of Teradyne, recently rolled out its longest-reach cobot, the UR10e, featuring a new total payload of 12.5kg (27.55lbs). The Covid-19 pandemic has made it clear that to overcome the challenges of rising delivery expectations, growing labor shortages and expanding order volumes, the industry will need to embrace automation at a rapid pace. Collaborative robots (cobots) are now increasingly a part of that solution.

In a video, Lam’s vice president of computational products, David Fried, discussed how DRAM is evolving, the challenges surrounding this critical memory technology and more.

Imec has signed a licensing agreement with miDiagnostics to commercialize its technology for fast and reliable COVID-19 diagnosis based on an exhaled breath technology. miDiagnostics is a spin-off of Imec that is working in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University on the technology. Imec’s technology takes aerosols and droplets from an exhaled breath, which are then captured for screening for viral RNA through miDiagnostics’ PCR technology. The agreement enables miDiagnostics to kickstart the commercialization of a COVID-19 breathalyzer, as opposed to classical COVID-19 testing methods based on blood, saliva or a sample from the nose/throat cavity.

Toyota plans to cut its global car output by 15% in November due to ongoing chip shortages.

Hyundai Mobis has developed foldable steering system technology that enables the folding and unfolding of a steering wheel. This foldable steering wheel technology can allow for more space in the driver’s seat.

Nanoramic has received an investment from Fortistar, an investment firm. Nanoramic has raised over $75 million to date, a sum that will enable the company to further develop and commercialize Neocarbonix, its nanocarbon electrode technology. Neocarbonix promises to transform energy storage for electric vehicles (EVs), increasing energy density by 30% relative to current best-in-class batteries.

DARPA, in partnership with the U.S. Air Force, completed a free flight test of its Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC). “The missile, built by Raytheon Technologies, was released from an aircraft seconds before its Northrop Grumman scramjet (supersonic combustion ramjet) engine kicked on. The engine compressed incoming air mixed with its hydrocarbon fuel and began igniting that fast-moving airflow mixture, propelling the cruiser at a speed greater than Mach 5 (five times the speed of sound),” according to DARPA. “The HAWC vehicle operates best in oxygen-rich atmosphere, where speed and maneuverability make it difficult to detect in a timely way. It could strike targets much more quickly than subsonic missiles and has significant kinetic energy even without high explosives.”

Market research
Fueled by pent-up demand for automotive electronics caused by semiconductor supply chain disruptions, worldwide installed capacity for power and compound semiconductor fabs is projected to top 10 million wafers per month (wph) for the first time in 2023, growing to 10.24 million wpm and climbing to 10.6 million wpm in 2024, according to SEMI’s Power & Compound Fab Report.

Global shipments of traditional PCs reached 86.7 million units during the third quarter of 2021, up 3.9% from the prior year, according to preliminary results from the IDC. “This marks the sixth consecutive quarter of growth for the PC market as the onset of the pandemic has led to a surge in demand while also contributing to component shortages and other supply challenges,” according to IDC.

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