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Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

More 4nm; PCM in trouble?; TSMC supplier awards; IC rankings.

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Chipmakers
TSMC has introduced another version of its 4nm process technology. The process, called N4X, is tailored for high-performance computing products. Recently, TSMC introduced another 4nm process, called N4P, which is an enhanced version of its 5nm technology. N4X is also an enhanced version of its 5nm technology. N4X, however, offers a performance boost of up to 15% over TSMC’s N5 process, or up to 4% over the even faster N4P at 1.2 volt. TSMC expects N4X to enter risk production by the first half of 2023. Intel and Samsung are also working on 4nm.

Tower Semiconductor and Juniper Networks have jointly announced a silicon photonics foundry-ready process with integrated III-V lasers, amplifier modulators and detectors. The platform co-integrates III-V lasers, semiconductor optical amplifiers, electro-absorption modulators and photodetectors with silicon photonics devices, all monolithically on a single chip. This integrated laser process addresses optical connectivity in datacenters and telecom networks, as well as AI, LiDAR and other applications. First samples of full 400Gb/s and 800Gb/s reference designs with integrated lasers are expected to be available in the second quarter of 2022.

Micron posted its quarterly results. Revenues were $7.69 billion for the quarter versus $8.27 billion for the prior quarter and $5.77 billion for the same period last year. “MU posted solid F1Q22 (November) results and guided F2Q22 (February) higher. Results were driven by normalizing inventories at PC customers and strong data center demand, which grew over 70% year-over-year. MU is maintaining its CY22 outlook for DRAM bit demand growth of mid-to-high teens and NAND bit demand growth of 30% with MU supply expected to be in line with industry demand,” said John Vinh, an analyst at KeyBanc, in a research note.

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Rumors continue to swirl about the fate of Intel’s 3D XPoint, a next-generation memory technology based on phase-change memory. Intel refers to this technology as Optane. The company has halted capital spending on the technology, and is moving the equipment out of the 3D XPoint production line in New Mexico, according to multiple sources in the equipment industry. Right now, Intel is evaluating the technology, weighing whether to cease developing the technology or sell it, those sources report.

Intel has seen some success with Optane. However, Micron recently dropped the technology. Micron also sold its 3D XPoint fab in Utah. Recently, Intel commented here about the move. (See bottom item.)

Fab tools
TSMC has announced its equipment and material supplier awards. The 2021 Excellent Performance Awards were given to companies that collaborated with the foundry giant. The winners are: Applied Materials, ASM International, ASML, Canon, Chang Chun Petrochemical, Chun Yuan Steel Industry, Fu Tsu Construction, JSR, Lam Research, Merck, Shin-Etsu Handotai, SUMCO and TEL.

Bruker has released the JPK NanoWizard V BioAFM, an atomic force microscope (AFM) designed for use in life science applications. NanoWizard V is a fast, automated BioAFM. It enables rapid measurements of samples ranging in size from sub-molecular to cells and tissues.

Data analytics specialist proteanTecs has won the 2021 Frost & Sullivan Best Practices Award for Global Electronics Health Monitoring Technology Innovation Leadership.

SEMI has announced that Tom Tsuneishi, chairman of TEL, has received the 2021 SEMI Sales and Marketing Excellence Award, inspired by Bob Graham, for his contributions over his career.

Packaging and test
BE Semiconductor, sometimes known as Besi, has announced that record rainfall affecting its main production facility in Shah Alam, Malaysia caused flooding of the assembly floor for die attach systems. Production was temporarily halted. All Besi employees are safe. “Besi believes that delays resulting from this weather event could cause its anticipated revenue for the fourth quarter of 2021 to decline by approximately 15-20% versus Q3-21 as compared to prior guidance of a decrease of 5-15%,” according to Besi. “The impact of the flooding will have minimal effect on Besi’s planned ramping of hybrid bonding system production scheduled for the first half of 2022.”

Delta Electronics, a supplier of switching power supplies and thermal management products, has acquired Universal Instruments for $88.9 million. Universal Instruments supplies systems for the semiconductor, packaging and electronics manufacturing industry.

LitePoint, the wireless test subsidiary of Teradyne, is collaborating with MediaTek to deliver turnkey design validation test solutions for MediaTek’s Wi-Fi 6/6E chips. LitePoint is working with MediaTek to create a version of LitePoint’s IQfact+ test automation software that enables MediaTek customers to test their Wi-Fi 6/6E designs.

inTEST, a supplier of test and process solutions, has completed its acquisition of Acculogic for $9 million. Acculogic provides a broad range of electronic test solutions for electronic devices, circuit boards, and EV batteries.

OEMs
Rockley Photonics, a supplier of photonics-based health monitoring and communications solutions, has announced its intention not to proceed with its data-communications-related technical sale to China’s Hengtong Rockley Technology. In 2018, Rockley announced a joint venture with Hengtong to make optical transceiver modules. The U.S. Department of Commerce placed Hengtong and its affiliates on the “entity list.” This prohibits companies from providing products and technologies to organizations on the “entity list” without prior authorization.

Rigetti Computing has announced that its next-generation Aspen-M 80-qubit quantum computer has moved into the beta phase. The system is based on the Aspen-M multi-chip quantum processor. The Aspen-M processor leverages Rigetti’s multi-chip technology and is assembled from two 40-qubit chips.

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Princeton University and the University of Washington have developed a camera the size of a grain of salt. The new system can produce full-color images on par with a conventional compound camera. The system could enable minimally invasive endoscopy with medical robots to diagnose and treat diseases.

The new optical system relies on a technology called a metasurface, which can be produced much like a computer chip. Just half a millimeter wide, the metasurface is studded with 1.6 million cylindrical posts. Each post has a unique geometry, and functions like an optical antenna. Varying the design of each post is necessary to correctly shape the entire optical wavefront.

“Although the approach to optical design is not new, this is the first system that uses a surface optical technology in the front end and neural-based processing in the back,” said Joseph Mait, a consultant at Mait-Optik, who was not involved in the study. “The significance of the published work is completing the Herculean task to jointly design the size, shape and location of the metasurface’s million features and the parameters of the post-detection processing to achieve the desired imaging performance.”

Market research
Some 17 companies are forecasted to have worldwide semiconductor sales of more than $10.0 billion in 2021, according to IC Insights. “Samsung’s semiconductor sales are forecast to be nearly $83.1 billion in 2021, making it the largest semiconductor supplier this year. Driven by a resurgent memory market and relatively flat sales results from Intel, Samsung once again replaced Intel as the leading semiconductor producer beginning in 2Q21,” according to IC Insights. “Three semiconductor companies—AMD, NXP, and Analog Devices—are expected to join the noteworthy ‘megasuppliers’ list in 2021.” Click here for the projected 2021 chip rankings.

North America-based semiconductor equipment manufacturers posted $3.93 billion in billings worldwide in November 2021, according to SEMI. The billings figure is 5.0% higher than final October 2021 billings of $3.74 billion and 50.6% higher than November 2020 billings of $2.61 billion. “Billings of North America-based semiconductor equipment manufacturers extended a robust uptrend to reach another new record in November,” said Ajit Manocha, president and CEO of SEMI. “Industry performance remains unprecedented despite persistent supply chain challenges.”



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