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Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

TSMC CapEx; Intel outsources 3nm; MRAM; data analytics.

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Chipmakers, OEMs
TSMC reported sales of $15.736 billion for the fourth quarter of 2021, up 5.7% sequentially. Net income grew 6.4% quarter-over-quarter. In the fourth quarter, shipments of 5nm accounted for 23% of total wafer revenues, while 7nm accounted for 27%.

In the first quarter of 2022, TSMC’s sales are expected to be between $16.6 billion to $17.2 billion. TSMC also expects its 2022 capital budget to be between $40 billion to $44 billion, compared to $30 billion in 2021. “70%-80% of CY22 capex will be for 7nm/5nm/3nm/2nm processes, 10% for advanced packaging and mask costs, and 10%-20% for specialty technologies,” said Krish Sankar, an analyst at Cowen, in a research note.

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As reported, Intel has re-entered the foundry business. Plus, Intel is developing leading-edge processes like 7nm, 4nm, 3nm and beyond. Yet, the company continues to outsource some of its leading-edge production requirement to TSMC.

“TSMC reported that 3nm development remains on track—volume production in 2H2022. As a reminder, lead customers are expected to consist of Apple (iPad) and Intel,” said Aaron Rakers, an analyst at Wells Fargo, in a research note. “TSMC again noted that it is seeing a higher level of customer engagement and expects more first-year tapeouts for N3 vs. N5, while it is seeing high customer engagement for the follow on N3E, which is expected to reach volume production one year after N3. TSMC noted that its N4P, which offers 11% performance increase, 22% improved power, and 6% density gain is scheduled for 2H2022, while N4X with more circular performance boost will be released in 1H2023.”

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Samsung has demonstrated the world’s first in-memory computing technology based on MRAM. Samsung has a paper on the subject in Nature. This paper showcases Samsung’s effort to merge memory and system semiconductors for next-generation artificial intelligence (AI) chips.

Micron has begun volume shipments of the world’s first 176-layer QLC NAND solid-state drive (SSD). Micron’s 2400 SSD is the world’s first 2TB 22x30mm M.2 SSD. Micron’s 176-layer QLC NAND enables 33% higher I/O speed and 24% lower read latency than the prior generation solution.

SkyWater and Applied Novel Devices (AND) have announced a breakthrough with new power MOSFETs for use in fast switching power conversion applications. AND is sampling its new power MOSFETs and in the process of ramping production at SkyWater. AND’s power MOSFETs offer 2x lower output charge, near-zero reverse-recovery and good on-resistance. These characteristics can reduce parasitic losses incurred in power management systems. This will improve power management and conversion efficiency in numerous applications, including data centers, automotive, electric motor drives, and microinverters for renewable energy systems.

ZEVA, a pioneer in zero-emissions electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft transportation, has achieved its first flight test for its full-scale ZEVA ZERO flying wing airframe utilizing its eight zero-emissions electric motor-driven propellers. Here’s a video of the system.

M31 Technology has adopted XinDA’s EDA technology. XinDA’s technology is a next-generation memory and block characterization tool that produces nominal and process variation (LVF) libraries at a fraction of the runtime as existing tools.

Fab tools
Onto Innovation has a total order backlog of $500 million comprised of more than $100 million for its lithography and inspection products in support of the heterogeneous packaging sector. This covers technology designed for 2.5D/3D packages as well as those using hybrid bonding.

EMD Electronics, the North American Electronics business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, has announced plans to open a new factory in Chandler, Ariz. The plant will make equipment for its Delivery Systems & Services (DS&S) business. The $28 million investment will enable DS&S to grow its gas and chemical delivery systems business. The company expects to start operations in the new factory by the end of 2022. At full ramp-up, staffing levels will grow to greater than 100 total employees.

Infinitesima has launched the Metron3D, an in-line metrology platform designed for high-volume semiconductor manufacturing applications. The Metron3D combines atomic force microscopy (AFM) and other technologies, which will increase the throughput at least 100 times, and probe lifetimes by 10 times. The Metron3D platform enables critical metrology and inspection capabilities that are required to advance semiconductor process control for maximizing yield and lowering wafer costs.

TEL has won recognition as the “Grand Prize Company” in the Corporate Governance of the Year 2021 program sponsored by the Japan Association of Corporate Directors (JACD). TEL was chosen for this honor from 2,200 companies listed on the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

Data analytics
Data analytics specialist proteanTecs has announced a partnership with Alchip. As part of the plan, proteanTecs’ chip monitoring technology is being integrated in Alchip’s 5nm silicon. proteanTecs provides the Universal Chip Telemetry (UCT) line, a smart on-chip monitoring method using machine learning algorithms. “Through this partnership, we embed the solution into our most advanced, high-performance ASIC designs to enable predictive monitoring that detects problems ahead of time. The result is increased parametric yield, decreased test time and power/performance optimization,” said Johnny Shen, Alchip’s president and CEO.

Market research
Global fab equipment spending for front-end facilities is expected to rise 10% in 2022 to a new all-time high of over $98 billion, according to SEMI’s World Fab Forecast report. The fab equipment spending increase in 2022 would follow a 39% jump in 2021 and 17% in 2020.

Here’s the latest from DSCC: “LCD TV panel prices, which peaked in summer 2021, fell through the second half of the year and are continuing to fall in the new year. The pace of price decreases is slowing, and we expect that pattern to continue through the first quarter, but prices have already given up most of the gains that they made in the long upcycle of 2020-2021.”

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As reported, the United States is taking the first steps toward bringing larger-scale IC packaging production capabilities back to the U.S. as supply chain concerns and trade tensions grow. In a paper, IPC and TechSearch International provided 28 recommendations to rebuild the U.S. advanced packaging ecosystem and reinforce the effort to expand domestic semiconductor manufacturing. Those include:

1. Develop IC substrate capabilities. “The U.S. government needs to help establish a domestic commercial IC-substrate capability and capacity. The cost of standing up a high-volume IC substrate manufacturing facility with cutting edge capabilities is likely to cost $1 billion or more.”
2. Support Domestic OSAT Champions. “The U.S. government should identify EMS/ODM companies and existing North American OSAT companies that could potentially fulfill assembly requirements and increase capacity for North American advanced packaging needs. However, significant investment in infrastructure will be needed including Class 10K (or better) cleanrooms and advanced manufacturing technologies.”



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