Week in Review: Manufacturing, Test

New 300mm fab; TSMC Q2 results; $4B battery plant; 2022 record equipment sales; EUV dry resist deal; DRAM fab snag; U.S. CHIPS Act; acquisitions


Fab capacity

STMicroelectronics and GlobalFoundries inked a deal to build a new jointly-operated 300mm fab adjacent to ST’s existing 300mm facility in Crolles, France. This facility is targeted to ramp at full capacity by 2026, with up to 620,000 300mm wafer per year production at full build-out (~42% ST and ~58% GF). The new facility will support several technologies, with a special focus on on FD-SOI-based technologies.

Fab construction has become a matter of national and regional economic security, fueled by ongoing chip shortages and their impact on GDP and ongoing geopolitical disruptions. This is GF’s second 300mm site in Europe. The other is located in Dresden, Germany.

Whether all of the fab construction is sufficient remains to be seen. Global semiconductor equipment sales are on track to hit a record $117.5 billion in 2022, up 14.7% versus 2021, according to SEMI’s latest report (see chart below)

Fig. 1: Wafer fab equipment is dominating the equipment business as new fab construction and expansions continue. Source: The current SEMI forecast is based on collective input from top equipment suppliers, the SEMI Worldwide Semiconductor Equipment Market Statistics (WWSEMS) data collection program and the industry-recognized SEMI World Fab Forecast database

TSMC posted second quarter revenue of NT$534.1 billion (~U.S.$18.6 billion), up 43.5% year-over-year. Net income grew 76.4% during the same period.

The U.S. Department of Defense is funding a $27 million “Other Transactional Agreement Option” with SkyWater Technology to further develop intellectual property for its 90nm Strategic Rad-Hard by Process (RH90) FD-SOI technology platform. This is another step in SkyWater’s RH90 technology roadmap and is part of the previously announced up to $170M investment in SkyWater by the DOD to broaden onshore production capabilities for strategic rad-hard electronics. The DoD recently determined that SkyWater has successfully completed the base prototype project.

Panasonic Energy Co is building a $4 billion battery plant in Kansas. The Tesla supplier will receive $829 million in subsidies from the Kansas government as incentives. The new plant will not be limited to Tesla supplies.

A weather-related power disruption at Micron’s Hiroshima DRAM fab likely will lead to productivity and cost impacts through fiscal Q1 2023.

The Biden administration ratcheted up pressure on Congress to pass the CHIPS Act. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin released a joint letter stressing the bill’s value, both for economic competitiveness and national security. “Historically, investment in the industry happens in waves that surge and subside, with this pattern repeating every five toseven years,” they wrote. “If we miss this window, the United States will fall further behind in global semiconductor production and jeopardize our advantage in next generation design. Further, we will entrench our overdependency on other nations for our semiconductors – a vulnerability that requires immediate action. Funding the CHIPS Act is critical to our national defense.”

The Center for Strategic and International Studies examined opportunities and challenges for the U.S.-European Union joint efforts in shoring up the vulnerabilities in the semiconductor value ecosystem, which was announced earlier this year. Prior EU-U.S. collaboration efforts in other areas “floundered,” according to the article. The intricacies of the chip supply chain certainly will be a challenge, and Europe’s stringent data privacy laws may prevent sharing of sensitive supply chain information.

Onto Innovation uncorked its Echo system for thickness metrology and material characterization of leading-edge DRAM and high-stack NAND memory. The tool supports a wide range of film thicknesses, from 50Å films up to 35µm opaque films and metal layers. “By leveraging Onto’s tool-centric software, the Echo system offers a complete solution at HVM customer sites, where on-wafer metrology measurements are used in a closed loop feedback approach to enact run-to-run process control on key enabling film deposition steps,” said Danielle Baptiste, vice president and general manager of Onto Innovation’s enterprise software business.

Siemens Digital Industries Software introduced its Symphony Pro platform at SEMICON West. “Our customers are rapidly advancing the state-of-the-art in mixed-signal SoC design across a wide range of applications, and in the process they are driving the requirements for new innovations in the EDA tools required to design, verify, and validate these chips,” said Ravi Subramanian, senior vice president of IC Verification at Siemens Digital Industries Software. “We are excited to deliver Symphony Pro, which combines our proven AFS, Questa and Visualizer technologies, to our customers, enabling the potential for them to realize key competitive advantages with a unified mixed-signal verification solution.”

Lam Research, Entegris, Gelest joined forces to advance EUV dry resist technology. “Dry resist technology is a breakthrough that shatters the biggest barriers to scaling to future DRAM nodes and logic with EUV lithography,” said Rick Gottscho, Lam’s executive vice president and CTO. “This collaboration brings together Lam’s dry resist expertise and cutting-edge solutions with material science capabilities and trusted supply channels from two industry precursor chemical leaders. This important expansion of the dry resist ecosystem paves the way for exciting new levels of innovation and high-volume manufacturing with the technology.”

Norway’s Nordic Semiconductor plans to acquire Seattle-based Mobile Semiconductor, which specializes in optimized embedded memory technology for MCUs and SoCs.

Navitas Semiconductor, maker of GaN power ICs, acquired Belgium-based VDD Tech, maker of advanced digital-isolators for next-generation power conversion.

Design for manufacturing
Synopsys now offers an 8nm RF design reference flow that will enhance productivity and speed design closure on Samsung Foundry’s 8nm RF low-power FinFET process. It features tightly integrated solutions from Synopsys and Ansys to enhance time-to-results, quality-of-results and cost-of-results for next-generation RF design.

Siemens Digital Industries Software announced a range of expanded EDA early design verification functionalities for its Calibre platform for IC physical verification. These new capabilities can help IC designers Shift Left their physical and circuit verification tasks by moving the identification, analysis, and resolution of complex IC and SoC physical verification issues into earlier stages of the design and verification flow. “Extending technology leadership in the EDA space requires constant improvement driven by a deep understanding of the specific challenges customers face in their daily work,” said Michael Buehler-Garcia, vice president of Product Management for Calibre Design Solutions, Siemens EDA. “The introduction of these new early design verification capabilities underscores Siemens‘ ongoing commitment to providing customers with the very latest technologies they need to quickly deliver world-class silicon products to market regardless as to the stage of the design they are working in.”

Onto Innovation‘s Atlas V optical critical dimension metrology tool won Best of West award, in recognition of being a product that significantly advances a particular manufacturing capability. The Atlas V metrology system is designed to measure several key steps that include buried features not visible by CD-SEM and other techniques.

Brookings Institute asserts that the U.S. will need more than funding to develop a diverse and resilient semiconductor ecosystem. Thousands of skilled workers will be needed. Retraining U.S. workers who lost jobs and live in the same region as semiconductor facilities may be part of the answer, but it won’t be nearly enough. Skilled workers from other countries will be needed, and this will require Congressional intervention to loosen up immigration policies.

Anurag Mittal joined ProteanTecs as co-CTO. Previously, Mittal led Silicon Technology and Foundry interface at Google. “Hiring Anurag demonstrates our team’s unwavering commitment to revolutionizing advanced electronics and the entire semiconductor ecosystem,” said Shai Cohen, proteanTecs co-founder and CEO. “He brings breadth and depth of technological expertise that will accelerate our growth as the market continues to demand advanced in-chip visibility.

Test, Measurement & Analytics
July’s Test, Measurement & Analytics newsletter is here, with these new featured stories, along with many blogs and white papers:
• Improving Yield With Machine Learning
• Finding Frameworks for End-to-End Analytics
• E-Beam’s Role Grows for Detecting IC Defects

Business and startups
Check out Semiconductor Engineering’s Business & Startups page. Find the latest chip industry stock chart, monthly detailed startup funding reports (including a deep-dive into China’s startups), profiles of new startups, as well as the latest business news.

Upcoming events
Find upcoming chip industry events, including:

IEEE International Conference on Manipulation, Manufacturing and Measurement on the Nanoscale (3M-NANO), Aug. 8 – 12 (Tianjin, China/Hybrid)
SPIE Optics & Photonics, Aug. 21 – 25 (San Diego, CA)
AI Hardware/Edge AI Summit, Sept. 13 – 15 (Santa Clara, CA)
SPIE Photonics Industry Summit, Sept. 21 (Washington, D.C.)
SPIE Photomask Technology/Extreme Ultraviolet Lithography, Sept. 25 – 29 (Monterey, CA)

—Ed Sperling contributed to this article—

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