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Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

U.S. export controls on key EDA tech; Si wafer market growth; heat shuts fabs; TSMC 3nm; JCET, Synopsys financials; Lip-Bu Tan on Intel board; neuromorphic chip for AI; 2D semiconductors; Intel sells patents.

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The U.S. Commerce Department issued export controls on key technologies, including gallium oxide (Ga2O3) and diamond substrates, which are used at high voltages and temperatures, as well as EDA tools specifically developed for GAA FETs. It’s not clear how this will impact EDA companies, because many of the tools that will be used for designing for GAA FETs already are in use today for finFETs. How much they will need to be tweaked for the new 3nm and 2nm processes at which GAA FETs will be manufactured remains to be seen.

The silicon wafer market for semiconductor applications, including SOI wafers, will grow to $16 billion this year, an increase of about 12% year-over-year, according to TECHCET’s 2022 Critical Materials Report on Silicon Wafers. Wafer shipments are expected to reach a record, with a forecasted 6% growth to 15.1 billion square inches. Shipment growth is essentially going to “cap out,” given the limitations in available capacity for increased production. Any brownfield expansion is constrained, and new greenfield capacity by suppliers will not have any appreciable impact until 2024.

Foxconn, Intel, and other Sichuan-based fabs have been ordered by Chinese authorities to shut down for six days, in response to an unrelenting heatwave, with temperatures topping 40°C (104°F). Because Sichuan is also the center of Chinese lithium mining, analysts warn the price of the critical element could potentially rise.

TSMC expects to begin 3nm high-volume production in the second half of next year, according to one report. TSMC plans to use finFETs at that node, and will move to GAA FETs at 2nm.

China’s Biren Technology released its first general-purpose GPU chip, with 16-bit floating point and 8-bit fixed-point computing, and based on the company’s proprietary architecture.

Financials, deals

Advantest received all necessary regulatory approvals for its acquisition of CREA – Collaudi Elettronici Automatizzati S.r.l. The acquisition was complete as of Aug. 10. Going forward, both companies will implement integrated business activities based on Advantest’s corporate vision. No financial details were available.

JCET reported a record high Q2. Revenue was RMB 7.46 billion ($1.15 billion), an increase of 4.9% year over year.

Synopsys reported results for its fiscal Q3. Revenue $1.248 billion, compared to $1.057 billion for the same period in fiscal 2021. “We delivered excellent fiscal third quarter results, with broad-based strength, and are increasing our outlook for the year,” said Aart de Geus, chairman and CEO of Synopsys. “Technology strength across the board, including multiple game-changing innovations, drove outstanding technical, competitive, and business results. While our customers navigate through the ebbs and flows of the market, they are simultaneously investing heavily in more complex chips, more sophisticated systems, and more software. The combination of Synopsys’ powerful portfolio and constructive market dynamics, plus the resilience of our business model, position us for a strong finish to the year. We expect to cross the $5 billion revenue mark in FY’22, with over 20% revenue growth, strong margin expansion and EPS growth, and more than $1.6 billion in operating cash flow.”

Intel announced that Lip-Bu Tan, executive chairman of Cadence and chairman Walden International, will join its board of directors on Sept. 1.  Also, California-based IPValue acquired 5000 Intel patents.

Research

DARPA’s Next-Generation Microelectronics Manufacturing (NGMM) aims to create a novel, U.S.-based center for R&D and manufacturing 3DHI microsystems. “The ability to perform onshore 3DHI R&D and prototyping for silicon-based components is hindered by the lack of integrated design tools and assembly/packaging/testing facilities. There is extremely limited capability for non-silicon-based 3DHI,” said Carl McCants, a special assistant to the DARPA director. “This program’s emphasis on pre-competitive collaboration across industry, defense, and academic partners should widen the range of stakeholders participating in 3DHI innovation, accelerate design innovations, and enhance testing, reliability, and security for these microsystems.” Details on the solicitation process are here.

An international team of researchers, co-led by UCSD neuromorphic pioneer Gert Cauwenberghs, has created a chip dubbed NeuRRAM that runs computations directly in memory and can perform AI applications using far less energy than current AI chips. “The conventional wisdom is that the higher efficiency of compute-in-memory is at the cost of versatility, but our NeuRRAM chip obtains efficiency while not sacrificing versatility,” said Weier Wan, one of the paper‘s authors.

MIT researchers found that semiconductors not only become much stiffer in response to light, but the effect is reversible when the light is turned off. The underlying cause is lattice defects, according to their paper. “To see defects having such big effects on elastic response is very surprising, which opens the door to a variety of applications,” said MIT professor Ju Li, one of the co-authors. “Computation could help us screen many more such materials.”

Italian and Swiss researchers demonstrated fine-tuned control of the band structure in 2D semiconductors, in a paper entitled “Quenching the bandgap of two-dimensional semiconductors with a perpendicular electric field.”

Further reading

This month’s Manufacturing, Packaging & Materials newsletter has just been published. Read the special report on Big Changes In Architectures, Transistors, Materials.

In case you missed this month’s Test, Measurement & Analytics newsletter, check out the stories on how overlay keeps pace with EUV patterning; why nanosheets are driving changes in metrology and inspection; and how to leverage data lakes.

Upcoming events

BACUS, the photomask arm of SPIE, is kicking off a new educational webinar series. Aki Fujimura, CEO of D2S – managing company sponsor of the eBeam Initiative, will be the first keynote speaker. The free event will be held Aug. 30, from 8 to 9 a.m. On the agenda is a brief primer on deep learning (DL), how it’s programmed, and why data augmentation is crucial for DL — especially in the mask industry.

Other events:

SPIE Optics & Photonics, Aug. 21 – 25 (San Diego, CA)

Hot Chips 2022, Aug. 21 – 23 (Online only)

TSMC Taiwan Technology Symposium, Aug. 30 (Taiwan)

AI Hardware/Edge AI Summit, Sept. 13 – 15 (Santa Clara, CA)

Semicon Taiwan, Sept. 14 – 16 (Taipei, Taiwan)

SPIE Photonics Industry Summit, Sept. 21 (Washington, D.C.)

SPIE Photomask Technology/Extreme Ultraviolet Lithography, Sept. 25 – 29 (Monterey, CA)

55th International Symposium on Microelectronics, Oct. 3 – 6 (Boston, MA)



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