Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

Broadcom to buy VMware for +$61B; chip shortage outlook; China chip production down; more investment in Spain, Netherlands, South Korea, new battery factory in Indiana.


Broadcom announced it will acquire cloud computing and virtualization company VMware for about $61 billion in cash and stock, and assume $8 billion in VMware net debt. If all goes as planned, the Broadcom Software Group will rebrand and operate as VMware. “The combined solutions will enable customers, including leaders in all industry verticals, greater choice and flexibility to build, run, manage, connect and protect applications at scale across diversified, distributed environments, regardless of where they run: from the data center, to any cloud and to edge-computing,” Broadcom said.

The acquisition is possibly the largest ever in the chip industry, and one of the biggest in the tech world. The deal’s success ultimately will hinge on the integration of both California-based companies.

The agreement also includes a “go-shop” provision, whereby VMware and its board of directors can actively “solicit, receive, evaluate and potentially enter negotiations with parties that offer alternative proposals” until July 5, 2022.

The deal still needs to pass regulatory roadblocks. The attempted $117 billion Broadcom acquisition of Qualcomm in 2018 was nixed for security reasons by U.S. regulators. Past Broadcom acquisitions include Symantec in 2019, CA Technologies in 2018, and Brocade in 2017.

Taking stock
Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger says we’re halfway through the chip shortage, which he believes will persist through 2024. The shortage is hampering fab equipment, driving fabs and equipment vendors to optimize components in ways previously unnecessary in order to improve efficiency and extend equipment lifetimes. Suppliers are investing in new 300mm capacity, but it’s probably not enough. And despite burgeoning 200mm demand, only Okmetic and new players in China are adding capacity.

Patience is wearing thin for funding the U.S. Chips for America Act. “It is a huge national security issue and we need to move to making chips in America, not friend-shoring,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo warned.

Around the world
U.S. President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Kishida Fumio of Japan (and their entourages) met this week to strengthen their technology cooperation with regard to semiconductor manufacturing capacity, critical minerals, clean energy, cybersecurity and 5G supplier diversification, and Open RAN.

ASML and other investors are participating in a €100 million Dutch Deep TechXL Fund, strengthening The Netherlands‘ deep-tech manufacturing industry.

China’s April chip production was down 12% year-over-year, the lowest since December 2020, due to COVID lockdowns.

Samsung plans to spend ~$350 billion on its core chipmaking business and biopharmaceuticals through 2026, a 30% increase from the previous five-year period. The bulk of that money will be spent in South Korea.

Spain plans to spend €12 billion to develop a semiconductor ecosystem, including “”the entire value chain from design to chip manufacturing,” according to one report.

Stellantis and Samsung SDI announced a new $2.5 billion lithium-ion battery production plant in Kokomo, Indiana.

Cerebras Systems and HPE are jointly developing a new AI supercomputer for the Leibniz Supercomputing Center (LRZ) in Munich. The new system will include the HPE Superdome Flex server and Cerebras’ CS-2 system, and will be used for applications such as “Natural Language Processing (NLP), medical image processing involving innovative algorithms to analyze medical images, or computer-aided capabilities to accelerate diagnoses and prognosis, and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) to advance understanding in areas such as aerospace engineering and manufacturing.”

Imec researchers are developing “high-speed electronic and photonic integrated circuits for 100 to 130 Gbaud transceivers, both for intensity-modulated direct-detect (IMDD) and for coherent optical transceivers.”

Argonne National Labs and the University of Chicago published a study using quantum computers to simulate quantum materials. The study performed quantum simulations of spin defects and corrected simulations for quantum hardware noise.

Tech and auto giants are putting even more pressure on the semiconductor labor market. Some say it could be just what the industry needs. Read more here.

The Midwest of the U.S. is continuing to invest in technology, with Michigan’s announcement this week for a $1.5 million new semiconductor technician apprenticeship program.

Microchip released its new Arm Cortex-M23 based MCU, including Microchip’s Trust Platform secure subsystem and Arm’s TrustZone technology in one package.

Applied Materials introduced its new Ioniq PVD system to reduce electrical resistance in tungsten contacts for the 3nm node. The system combines surface preparation, CVD and PVD in a single vacuum system.

Deep Learning in Inspection
This new SemiEngineering Tech Talk looks at how deep learning can be utilized with inspection to identify defects in chips that are not discernible by traditional computer vision algorithms, classifying multiple objects simultaneously from multiple angles and taking into account reflectivity, variation, and lighting that is not ideal to identify which anomalies will cause serious problems in the field.

Advantest, Teradyne, Lam Research, and TEL were among the top 2022 semiconductor equipment suppliers according to this survey. JCET was presented with the “Excellent Supplied Award” from Qualcomm’s RFFE Team.

There’s a huge lineup of chip industry conferences this summer, including the upcoming ISS Europe 2022 (May 30), ECTC (May 31-June 3) and SWTest (June 5-8) conferences.

SEMI is now calling for abstracts by for SEMICON Europa (held in Munich, Germany November 15-18). IEEE’s IEDM also is calling for papers by July 14 for its December conference.

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