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Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

Intel buys Tower; Infineon fab; India fab; Amkor CapEx; analytics; earnings.

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Chipmakers
Intel has announced a definitive agreement to acquire Tower, a specialty foundry vendor, for approximately $5.4 billion. With the acquisition of Tower, Intel expands its efforts in the foundry business, and put its rivals on notice. With Tower, Intel gains access to mature processes as well as specialty technologies, such as analog, CMOS image sensor, MEMS, power management and RF. Tower offers various technologies, such as BCD, SiGe and RF SOI.

Before the move, Intel’s focus has been on the high end. At best, Intel is a minor player in the foundry business with little or no market share in the arena. With Tower, though, Intel expands its offerings, and now competes directly against GlobalFoundries, Samsung, SMIC, TSMC, UMC and others.

Intel also expands its fab footprint with the move. “Tower has four wholly owned and three majority owned fab sites around the world. Tower also has a partnership with STMicroelectronics to share the cleanroom space in a new 300mm fab,” said Trevor Yancey, president of Knometa Research. “Tower’s wholly owned fabs include 150mm and 200mm fabs in Israel, a 200mm fab in Newport Beach, California, originally known as Jazz Semiconductor, and a 200mm fab in San Antonio, Texas, acquired from Maxim Integrated in 2016.”

On the other hand, the deal does little to bolster Intel’s share in the foundry business. Tower was ranked 9th place in the global ranking of foundries by revenue. This in turn amounts to only 1.4% share of the foundry business, according to TrendForce, which analyzed the move.

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Denso will take a minority stake in Japan Advanced Semiconductor Manufacturing (JASM), TSMC’s majority-owned fab in Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan. This venture was recently announced. Denso will invest $350 million for a more than 10% equity stake in JASM. Construction of JASM’s fab in Japan is scheduled to begin in the 2022 calendar year with production targeted to begin by the end of 2024. TSMC will also enhance JASM’s capabilities with 12nm/16nm process technologies in addition to the previously announced 22nm/28nm technology.

Infineon is investing more than €2 billion to build a third module at its fab site in Kulim, Malaysia. Once fully equipped, the new module will generate €2 billion in additional annual revenue with products based on silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN). Once fully loaded, Kulim 3 will create 900 jobs. Construction will begin in June and the fab will be ready for equipment in summer 2024. The first wafers will leave the fab in the second half of 2024.

Foxconn continues to expand into the semiconductor industry. First, the company bought a fab in Taiwan. Now, India’s Vedanta and Taiwan’s Foxconn have signed a deal to form a joint venture company that will manufacture semiconductors in India. Separately, Stellantis and Foxconn recently announced the signing of a non-binding memorandum of understanding to create a partnership with the intent to design a family of semiconductors to support Stellantis.

UMC has announced that its 200mm wafer fab subsidiary, HeJian Technology (Suzhou), located in Suzhou, China, is temporarily halting its production after an employee was suspected of COVID-19 infection. A company-wide PCR test is being conducted. Once the PCR test is completed, HeJian Technology will resume its production with local authorities’ approval. HeJian contributes approximately 5% to UMC’s revenues.

The scaling race continues in the CMOS image sensor world. OmniVision has announced a major pixel technology breakthrough―the world’s smallest 0.56µm pixel. The first 0.56µm pixel die will be implemented in 200MP image sensors for smartphones in 2022, with samples targeted for the third quarter of this year.

SEMIFIVE, a design solution provider, has raised $109 million in its Series B funding round. This brings the total capital raised for SEMIFIVE to $147 million since its inception in 2019 with investments from BonAngels, Game Changer, Korea Investment Partners, LB Investment, Mirae Asset Venture Investment and Pavilion Capital.

In a blog, Atmosic talks about SensorHub technology, which reduces energy consumption in connected devices that primarily monitor sensor data. SensorHub is a hardware block within the Atmosic SoC, which allows data to be collected while the vast majority of the SoC, including the CPU, is powered down.

Packaging
Amkor posted record net sales of $1.72 billion for the fourth quarter of 2021, up 3% sequentially and up 26% year-on-year. Net income for the quarter was $217 million, or $0.88 per share. For 2021, Amkor reported net sales $6.14 billion, up 22% year-on-year.

For 2022, Amkor expects its capital expenditures to be around $950 million. “Our differentiated technology portfolio and deep customer and supplier relationships place us in a very strong market position, and we expect 2022 to be another year of growth,” said Giel Rutten, Amkor’s president and CEO.

Fab tools and materials
CMC Materials has affirmed a favorable final determination in its International Trade Commission (ITC) case against DuPont. As announced in December, the ITC found DuPont is unlawfully importing, selling, and marketing in the U.S. certain chemical mechanical planarization (CMP) slurries and components that infringe a patent owned by CMC.

GigaDevice, a supplier of memory and other chips, has selected Exensio Fabless from PDF Solutions for advanced analytics, production monitoring, and reporting across all of its semiconductor products. The Exensio analytics platform is an analytics environment that improves the yield, quality, and profitability of chips. PDF Solutions posted its result. Total revenues for the fourth quarter of 2021 were $29.9 million, compared to $29.6 million for the third quarter of 2021 and $22.4 million for the fourth quarter of 2020. Total revenues for the full year 2021 and 2020 were $111.1 million and $88.0 million, respectively.

CyberOptics reported sales of $22.1 million for the fourth quarter of 2021 ended Dec. 31, an increase of 31% from $16.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2020. Net income for the fourth quarter of 2021 came to $3.4 million or $0.45 per diluted share, an increase of 132% from earnings of $1.5 million or $0.20 per diluted share, in the year-earlier quarter. For the full-year, sales totaled $92.8 million, an increase of 32% from $70.1 million in 2020. “Our strong fourth quarter sales demonstrate that CyberOptics is continuing to penetrate and gain traction in our targeted surface mount technology (SMT) and semiconductor capital equipment markets,” said Subodh Kulkarni, president and CEO of the company.

Bruker’s revenues for the fourth quarter of 2021 were $683.5 million, an increase of 8.9% compared to $627.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2020. For fiscal year 2021, Bruker’s revenues were $2.417 billion, an increase of 21.7% over 2020.

AKHAN Semiconductor, a developer of diamond semiconductors, has raised $20 million of committed capital led by strategic financial partners. Craig Mitchell, formerly the president of Invensas and general manager of the Semiconductor IP Business at Xperi, has been name CEO of the company.

Market research
VLSI Research, part of TechInsights, has raised its 2022 semiconductor growth forecast from 10% to 14%.

DSCC released its final market share in the display equipment business. Applied Materials jumped from second place in 2020 to first place in 2021, according to DSCC. “Canon fell to #2 with a 10% share, down from 13%. It gained share in lithography with its revenue share rising from 48% to 58%. As a result, it rose from #3 to #2 in total TFT backplane equipment spending reaching an 11% share and overtaking Nikon,” according to the firm.

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This is an alarming issue: “Ukraine is a major supplier of raw material gases for semiconductors including neon, argon, krypton, and xenon,” according to TrendForce. “If the supply of materials is cut off, there will be an impact on the industry.”

These gases are used in lithography processes. “When the circuit feature size is reduced to below 220nm, it begins to enter the territory of DUV (deep ultraviolet) light source excimer lasers,” according to TrendForce. “The semiconductor lithography process that requires neon gas is primarily DUV exposure, and encompasses 8-inch wafer 180nm to 12-inch wafer 1Xnm nodes. TrendForce research shows, in terms of foundries, global production capacity at the 180~1Xnm nodes accounts for approximately 75% of total capacity.”



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