Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

More Intel fabs; earthquake; U.S. materials; foundry rankings.


Chipmakers, OEMs
Intel continues to build more fabs. First, the company announced fabs in Arizona and then Ohio. Now, Intel plans to invest up to €80 billion in the European Union over the next decade. As part of the effort, Intel plans to build two semiconductor fabs in Magdeburg, Germany. Construction is expected to begin in the first half of 2023 and production planned to come online in 2027.

The company also is continuing to invest in its Leixlip, Ireland-based fab expansion project. It plans to spend an additional €12 billion and double the fab manufacturing space. The goal is to bring up Intel’s 4nm process to Europe, offering the technology to European foundry customers.

In addition, Intel and Italy have entered into negotiations to enable a state-of-the-art back-end manufacturing facility. Potentially, the investment could reach €4.5 billion.


A large earthquake struck the coast of the Fukushima Prefecture in Japan and the surrounding areas on March 16. This in turn impacted production at Toyota and Nissan, according to a report from the Taipei Times and Bloomberg. Here’s more on the earthquake.

In addition, Renesas operates three factories close to the epicenter of the earthquake: Naka Factory (Hitachinaka, Ibaraki Prefecture), Takasaki Factory (Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture) and Yonezawa Factory (Yonezawa, Yamagata Prefecture). Production was temporarily halted in these fabs, but the company partially resumed production for some test lines in the Yonezawa Factory.


Siemens Digital Industries Software’s Analog FastSPICE platform was certified for UMC’s 28nm high-performance, low-power process technology (28HPCU+). The process aims to balance cost and performance, targeting applications including ICs for Wi-Fi, digital TV, and flash controllers.

SiFive, the founder and leader of RISC-V computing, has raised $175 million in a Series F financing round, valuing the company at over $2.5 billion. The Series F round was led by Coatue Management.

Alphawave IP Group, a supplier of high-speed connectivity IP, has acquired the OpenFive business unit from SiFive. Under the terms, Alphawave has agreed to acquire OpenFive’s high-speed connectivity system-on-chip (SoC) IP portfolio and a team based in India and Silicon Valley.

Mercedes-Benz has opened a new battery plant in Bibb County, Ala., a few months ahead of the start of production of all-electric Mercedes-EQ vehicles in the United States.

Fab tools, materials
At the annual the American Technology Partnership (AMTP) event, a prominent energy and minerals scholar urged the United States to address the risks and sustainability of its high-technology materials supply chain. “We are seeing semiconductor manufacturers that are trying to address a current chip shortage by announcing new domestic fabs (fabrication plants),” said Michelle Michot Foss, a fellow in energy, minerals and materials at Rice University’s Baker Institute, “but how can they secure their financing and funding commitments if they can’t also get materials support?”

AMTP was recently formed and headed by Dan Brewer, executive director of the group. Brewer is also the executive vice president at Brewer Science. “AMTP was established to serve as a public voice for the providers of technology materials, to collaborate with experts on the challenges facing our international and domestic supply chains, and to secure policies and funding necessary to ensure that the U.S. can successfully address these challenges and vulnerabilities,” Brewer said.

Separately, Brewer Science has rolled out a way to inexpensively monitor water quality in real-time. Brewer Science has developed a technology that enables a higher quantity of sensors to be deployed over a wider area. With increased sensor deployment, many points in reservoirs can detect water sample qualities.


Taiwan’s GlobalWafers, a supplier of silicon wafers, announced a capital expenditure plan with a total scale of NT$100 billion (US$3.6 billion). The company will build a 300mm line in Italy.

Soitec announced a new fabrication facility at its headquarters in Bernin, France. The facility will primarily manufacture new silicon carbide (SiC) wafers, based on Soitec’s SmartSiC technology.

ASM International acquired Reno Sub-Systems, a supplier of RF matching sub-systems for semiconductor manufacturing equipment. Reno’s RF matching networks and RF generators will enhance ASM’s equipment products.

In a blog, QingPeng Wang, a senior semiconductor process and integration engineer at Coventor, A Lam Research Company, talks about “Design of Experiments.” “DOEs are sets of experiments used to explore the sensitivity of experimental variables and their effect on final device performance,” Wang said.

Peter Kirlin, chief executive of Photronics, is retiring to pursue other interests. Deno Macricostas, chairman of the company, will perform the functions of the interim CEO. In addition, Photronics has announced that Frank Lee, who has led the growth of the business in Asia for more than 15 years, has been named president of the company.

In a blog, Prasad Dhond, vice president of Amkor’s wirebond BGA products, talks about the challenges with substrates in wirebonding. Wirebonded packages is a huge business for OSATs.

China’s SJ Semiconductor (SJSemi), a foundry that specializes in advanced bumping and 3D multi-die integration technology, has closed its Series C financing of $300 million. The funding will strengthen its position in advanced packaging.

Government policy
The U.S. Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) has applauded the introduction in the House of Representatives of the Facilitating American-Built Semiconductors (FABS) Act, bipartisan legislation that would establish an investment tax credit to incentivize semiconductor manufacturing, design, and research in the United States. FABS is different than the CHIPS for America Act. CHIPS calls for federal incentives to promote semiconductor manufacturing and increase investments in semiconductor research. Both FABS and CHIPS have not been enacted yet. They are still stuck in Congress.

The Australian government has announced over $243 million in support for four projects in the critical material and rare earths arena. The plan will expand Australia’s efforts in critical minerals, electric vehicles and batteries. As part of the plan, the nation will spend $30 million on a rare earth separation plant in Australia and only the second one outside China. China is the world’s largest supplier of rare earths with over 80% share. Australia is also a large producer.

Market research
TrendForce has released its top-10 rankings of foundry vendors in terms of sales in the fourth quarter of 2021. See which foundry grew the fastest in the quarter.

In recent times, several chipmakers have announced plans to build new fabs. “With fab construction activity at its highest level in many years, it is not surprising that there has been talk of a market crash coming from too much capacity being added,” said Trevor Yancey, president of Knometa Research. “While fab expansion plans are certainly aggressive and could lead to some downward pricing pressure in 2024, a significant market downturn caused by too many fabs sitting with idle capacity is not expected.”

The global semiconductor materials market grew 15.9% to $64.3 billion in revenue in 2021, surpassing the previous market high of $55.5 billion set in 2020, according to SEMI.

In a blog, Michelle Williams-Vaden, the deputy director of the SEMI Foundation, talks about an important subject: “The Great Resignation And The Microelectronics Industry: Retaining A Skilled Workforce.”

Mouser Electronics is adding more full-time employees at its headquarters and distribution center in Mansfield, Texas. The distributor recently launched a new careers site that makes the application process easier than ever. Mouser will also host an onsite “Drive-Thru Job Fair” on April 2.

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