Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

Selective etch; ASE’s CapEx; NAND fab snafu; EU Chips Act.


Fab tools
Lam Research has rolled out a new suite of selective etch products for use in developing next-generation technologies, such as gate-all-around (GAA) transistors.

In the fab, selective etch helps chipmakers with complex structures. These etch tools provide selective and precision etching without modifying or causing damage to other critical material layers.

Composed of three new products – Argos, Prevos and Selis – Lam’s selective etch portfolio is geared for advanced logic and memory applications. Argos, which is based on Lam’s MARS (Metastable Activated Radical Source) technology, selectively modifies and decontaminates wafer surfaces. Prevos enables atomic layer precision and ultra-high selectivity etching for oxide, silicon, and metal. Selis employs both radical and thermal etch capabilities to enable ultra-high selective etching.

“Lam Research is driving the wafer fabrication advancements needed to support the chip industry’s move to 3D architectures and make the next generation of digital technologies a reality,” said Tim Archer, president and chief executive officer at Lam Research.


TEL posted strong sales on growing profits for the quarter. Sales were up 5% quarter-over-quarter. “Continued expansion in the WFE (wafer fab equipment) market is expected on the 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. (For WFE), CY2022 growth potential of nearly 20% year-over-year is expected,” said Toshiki Kawai, president and CEO of TEL.

Onto Innovation’s sales for the fourth quarter were $225.6 million, an increase of 12% compared to $200.6 million for the third quarter of 2021. For the full year, revenue totaled $788.9 million compared to $556.5 million, up 42% from the prior year. “While we have been highlighting the growing importance of semiconductor technology across a broadening range of industries, from mobile devices to cloud computing and high-performance compute, we are also seeing increasing global emphasis on more advanced power devices for electric vehicles and smart power grids to help combat climate change,” said Michael Plisinski, chief executive of Onto.

Sumco, the world’s second largest silicon wafer maker, said that it has sold out its production capacity through 2026, according to a report in the Taipei Times. Meanwhile, according to another report, Taiwanese silicon wafer maker GlobalWafers unveiled a new capacity expansion plan worth $3.59 billion after it failed to acquire rival Siltronic.

Packaging and test
ASE posted its results for the fourth quarter of 2021. Sales were up by 16% year-over-year and up by 15% sequentially. In a conference call, Tien Wu, chief operating officer for ASE, said the company’s 2022 capital spending would hover around or exceed the $2 billion figure it spent last year. Here’s more on ASE.

Galaxy Semiconductor has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Ippon Innovation, a data analytics firm. Galaxy is a provider of data analytics solutions.

Kioxia has disclosed that in late January, contamination of the material used in its manufacturing processes is suspected to have occurred at its Yokkaichi fab in Mie prefecture and its Kitakami fab in Iwate prefecture. The contamination partially affected the production of its 3D NAND products at both plants. Kioxia is implementing the necessary measures to restore the facilities to a normal operational status. Kioxia’s partner in the fab, Western Digital, is also impacted. Western Digital’s current assessment of the impact is a reduction of its flash availability of at least 6.5 exabytes.

As expected, Nvidia’s move to buy Arm was scrapped due to regulatory issues. Now, Arm plans to file an initial public offering. Arm has also appointed Rene Haas as chief executive and board member. Haas succeeds Simon Segars, who has stepped down as chief executive and member of the board.

SMIC posted its results. Revenue was $1.58 billion in the fourth quarter of 2021, an increase of 11.6% quarter-over-quarter and 61.1% year-over-year. SMIC’s capital spending budget is expected to be about $5.0 billion.

GlobalFoundries posted its results. It had record revenue of $1.85 billion in the quarter, up 9% sequentially. The capital spending target is still $4.5 billion for 2022, according to Cowen.

As reported, Intel recently re-entered the foundry business. As part of the move, Intel this week announced a new $1 billion fund to support startups and established companies building new technologies for the foundry ecosystem. In a separate move, Intel Foundry Services (IFS) has launched the so-called Accelerator program, an ecosystem alliance designed to help foundry customers bring their chip products to market. The program includes third-party EDA and intellectual property (IP) providers as well as design service companies.

UMC has received the Gold Class Award in the S&P Global 2022 Sustainability Yearbook, recognizing the results of the company’s commitment to corporate sustainability.

Toshiba has announced its intention to separate the company into two standalone companies, instead of three, as previously announced. The two groups are Toshiba/Infrastructure Service Co. and Device Co. The products within Device Co. include power semiconductors, optical semiconductors, analog ICs, disk drives, and semiconductor equipment.

Wise-integration, a supplier of GaN-based power and supplies, has formed a partnership with EDOM Technology, a distributor and solutions provider in Asia. Under the plan, EDOM will help expand Wise-integration’s business in the Asian markets.

Traxens, a smart-container service provider, has received a new financing round of €23 million, and acquired NEXT4, a supplier of removable and reusable shipping-container trackers.

Government policy
The European Commission presented and published a new proposed European Chips Act. The act aims to support an increase in semiconductor R&D and production across Europe. ASML has published a position paper that presents the company’s views on what a European Chips Act could and should deliver. Here’s more on the topic.

Market research
China’s share of the world’s capacity for fabricating IC wafers continued to grow in 2021. The country ended the year having 16% of global capacity, based on normalized installed monthly capacity amounts, according to a new report from Knometa Research. “Roughly half of all IC wafer capacity in China is controlled by foreign companies. In fact, some of the largest fabs in the country are owned by SK Hynix, Samsung, TSMC, and UMC,” said Trevor Yancey, president of Knometa Research. “China’s share of global IC wafer capacity is expected to reach nearly 19% by 2024. While SK Hynix, TSMC, and UMC are expanding their existing fabs in China, most of the new fabs under construction in the country are owned by domestic entities.”

Worldwide silicon wafer area shipments in 2021 increased 14%, while wafer revenue rose 13% compared to 2020, topping $12 billion, to reach new all-time highs, according to the SEMI Silicon Manufacturers Group (SMG).

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