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Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

Tsinghua bailout; TI fabs; GF-Ford; TEL outlook; JCET expands.

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Chipmakers
China’s Tsinghua Unigroup is in trouble. The group is the parent company of China’s YMTC, a 3D NAND supplier, and other chip ventures. It is close to moving into bankruptcy proceedings. Now, a consortium led by Alibaba has emerged as the frontrunner to take over Tsinghua Unigroup, according to a report from Bloomberg. That deal would keep the company afloat, the report said.

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TI has announced plans to begin construction next year on its new 300mm fabs in Sherman, Texas. In the works for some time, the site has the potential for up to four fabs to meet demand over time. Construction of the first and second fabs is set to begin in 2022. Production from the first new fab is expected as early as 2025. With the option to include up to four fabs, total investment potential at the site could reach approximately $30 billion and support 3,000 direct jobs over time.

The new fabs will complement TI’s existing 300mm fabs, which include DMOS6, RFAB1 and the soon-to-be-completed RFAB2. RFAB2 is expected to start production in the second half of 2022. Additionally, LFAB, which TI recently acquired from Micron, is expected to begin production in early 2023.

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GlobalFoundries and Ford have announced a strategic collaboration to advance semiconductor manufacturing and technology development, aiming to boost chip supplies for Ford and the U.S. automotive industry. The companies have signed a non-binding agreement on several fronts. These could include semiconductor solutions for ADAS, battery-management systems, and in-vehicle networking. GF and Ford also will explore expanded semiconductor manufacturing opportunities to support the automotive industry.

GM also aims to tackle the chip shortages. GM is working with several chip vendors, according to a report. The cost of shortages in MCUs and other semiconductors for the automotive industry is potentially $5.0 billion to $10.0 billion in 2021, according to IBS.

UMC has been selected for the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI)’s World Index, marking the company’s 14th consecutive year of inclusion. In addition, UMC has also been named a constituent of the Emerging Markets Index.

Renesas is entering the field-programmable gate array (FPGA) market. The ForgeFPGA family will address the need for small amounts of programmable logic that can be designed into cost-sensitive applications. It will serve applications that require less than 5,000 gates of logic, with initial device sizes of 1K and 2K look up tables. Standby power of less than 20 microamps is projected for the first devices, about half the power of competing devices. Users will be able to download the development software at no cost and with no license fees.

Lattice has acquired Mirametrix, a software company focused on advanced artificial intelligence (AI) for computer vision applications. Mirametrix software has been deployed in more than 20 million end-user systems worldwide.

Navitas, a supplier of GaN power integrated circuits, and Anker Innovations, a supplier of fast-charging technology, announced the signing of a new strategic partnership. The new agreement dedicates engineering teams from both Navitas and Anker to be co-located at Anker offices to develop and launch GaN-based fast chargers to accelerate time-to-market.

Rohm has been certified as a preferred supplier of silicon carbide (SiC) power solutions by United Automotive Electronic Systems (UAES), a Chinese Tier 1 automotive manufacturer. Rohm and UAES have been collaborating on the development of automotive applications utilizing SiC power devices since 2015.

OEMs
The quantum computer market is heating up. IBM has announced its new 127-quantum bit (qubit) Eagle processor. IBM also previewed plans for IBM Quantum System Two, the next generation of quantum systems. Eagle is IBM’s first quantum processor developed and deployed to contain more than 100 operational and connected qubits. It follows IBM’s 65-qubit Hummingbird processor unveiled in 2020 and the 27-qubit Falcon processor unveiled in 2019. To achieve this breakthrough, IBM built on innovations pioneered within its existing quantum processors, such as a qubit arrangement design to reduce errors and an architecture to reduce the number of necessary components.

Fugaku continues to hold the No. 1 position as the world’s fastest supercomputer. It is co-developed by Riken and Fujitsu and is based on Fujitsu’s custom ARM A64FX processor. Summit, an IBM-built system at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, remains the fastest system in the U.S. and at the No. 2 spot worldwide. Click here to see who else is on the list.

OmniVision and Diaspective Vision have announced their partnership in the development of a new type of endoscopic camera, the MALYNA system, which is based on proprietary multispectral imaging technology. The system augments a 4K live video stream with physiological information to provide surgeons with objective decision-making support. It is applicable in laparoscopy, robotic surgery, and diagnostic endoscopy.

Fab tools
TEL posted its results for the quarter. Sales were up 6% during the period. The company also raised its overall wafer fab equipment (WFE) forecast from 40% to 50% for 2021. But the LCD market is a mixed bag.

“CY2021 growth is expected to approach 50% YoY. Significant expansion in the WFE market is expected on the sharp rise in demand for a wide range of generations of logic from leading-edge to mature and memory driven by the ongoing digital shift of society, such as further acceleration in data center investment,” said Toshiki Kawai, president and CEO of TEL. “(There is a) YoY rise in OLED investment for mobile applications, but LCD investment in large panels is expected to weaken. Although market growth driven by OLED investment can be anticipated, a YoY decrease of around 20% is expected in CY2021 amid the transition from LCD to OLED in investment in large panels.”

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Applied Materials posted quarterly revenue of $6.12 billion, up 31% year-over-year. The figure was on at the low end of the guidance range due to supply chain challenges.

Nova has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire ancosys for $100 million, including a performance-based earnout of $10 million. German-based ancosys is a provider of chemical analysis and metrology solutions for semiconductor manufacturing.

Park Systems has introduced the NX-Hybrid WLI, a system that combines atomic force microscopy (AFM) with white light interferometer (WLI) profilometry. AFM uses a tiny tip to measure structures at the nanoscale. WLI is a non-contact optical measurement technique used to generate 2D and 3D models of surfaces.

Lam Research announced that Jyoti Mehra has joined its board of directors. She currently serves as executive vice president of human resources at Gilead Sciences.

Packaging
JCET has announced the official opening of the second phase of its IC packaging and testing facility in Suqian. With the completion of this new portion of the facility in Suqian Industrial Park, Jiangsu Province, the manufacturing capacity of JCET in Suqian will be further enhanced to better meet the growing needs of its global customer base.

ASE has achieved the best overall performance on the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) – Semiconductors and Semiconductor Equipment Industry Group for the sixth consecutive year. The DJSI achievement is a firm recognition of ASE’s performance in sustainability in tandem with growth in a competitive global industry.

Market research
The semiconductor market is forecast to increase 23% this year, according to IC Insights. A majority of semiconductor companies have seen strong growth. IC Insights has released its projected ranking of the top 25 semiconductor suppliers ranked by sales growth rate. AMD is expected to top the list with sales growth of 65% this year, according to IC Insights. Click here to see which companies are growing the fastest and slowest.

Choon Lee, chief technology officer of JCET, gives an outlook for the IC and packaging industries. Meanwhile, Jim Handy, an analyst from Objective Analysis, gives an outlook for the memory market.

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There is a report in the field that Intel is evaluating its position with 3D XPoint, a next-generation memory based on phase-change technology. Developed by Intel and Micron, 3D XPoint was announced in 2015. Intel sells it under the brand name Optane.

While Intel has seen some success with Optane, Micron recently dropped the technology. Micron also sold its 3D XPoint fab in Utah. Now, Intel, which is making Optane in a fab in New Mexico, is reviewing the technology, according to one source. Intel has froze all capital and hiring, the source said, who added that Intel will make a final decision by year’s end. All of this is still in the speculation stage.

“We don’t have anything new to share,” according to a spokesman from Intel. “We do not comment on rumors or speculation. We continue to work closely with customers and partners on memory and storage technologies, including Optane and ecosystem enabling technologies such as CXL.”

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