Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

Trade wars; Intel 10nm delays; UMC lists China unit; DARPA.


Trade issues
China and the United States are embroiled in a trade war. What is the impact?

In testimony submitted to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) on the proposed tariffs on Chinese products, Consumer Technology Association (CTA) Vice President of International Trade Sage Chandler argues tariffs negatively impact businesses and consumers as well as fail to correct China’s unfair practices. The Trump administration’s proposed tariffs of Chinese imports, coupled with retaliation promised by China, would reduce U.S. gross domestic product by nearly $3 billion and destroy 134,000 American jobs annually, according to a study released by CTA and the National Retail Federation. The CTA, formerly Consumer Electronics Association, is a standards and trade organization for the consumer electronics industry in the United States

“The tariffs will also harm millions of U.S. businesses and workers across every sector that use innovative technology products to increase productivity, as well as consumers who depend on connected devices to access the internet on a daily basis. China is the exclusive or primary manufacturer of a range of goods that Americans enjoy every day, from cell phones to household goods. Tariffs on these products will put consumers at risk of price increases on numerous consumer goods, raising most Americans’ cost of living. Tariff-driven price increases will boost inflation, and the impact will fall disproportionately on older and lower-income Americans who are more likely to rely on lower-cost Chinese imports,” Chandler said. “Ironically these tariffs will harm the industries they seek to protect while failing to influence China’s behavior or help the administration’s stated goal of eliminating China’s discriminatory trade practices.”

The full submitted testimony can be read here.

Intel posted its results. Intel continues to fall behind in the process technology race. TSMC is shipping 7nm, which is equivalent to Intel’s 10nm. Originally, Intel was supposed to ship its 10nm technology by late 2017. “Due to slower-than-expected progress on yields, Intel stated that volume production of 10nm processors has been pushed out to 2H19 from prior expectations of 2H18. Intel assured investors that the company has identified manufacturing issues beyond the slow yield curve, and has defined improvements to the process,” said Michael McConnell, an analyst at KeyBanc Capital Markets, in a research note. “Intel remained confident that its manufacturing lead vs. competitors remains intact despite the 10nm volume manufacturing pushout, as the company has targeted a more aggressive 2.7x scaling factor vs. competing foundries at a 1.5-2.0x range. With limited 10nm shipments already commencing, management expects to expand its manufacturing lead at 7nm.”

Taiwan’s United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC) has approved a plan to list its China-based operations on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. The listing is led by UMC’s HeJian foundry unit in China.

UMC also reported its results for the second quarter of 2018. Second quarter consolidated revenue was up 3.6% quarter-over-quarter and up 3.5% year-over-year. “Overall capacity utilization reached 97%, bringing wafer shipments to 1.85 million 8-inch equivalent wafers. The operating results from 2Q18 reflected full utilization from 8-inch and mature 12-inch technologies, driven by strong demand in computing and communications segments,” said Jason Wang, co-president of UMC. “We project third quarter demand outlook to remain flat due to rising inventory levels from slower smartphone digestion and the uncertainty surrounding the ongoing US-China trade tension.”

China’s Hua Hong Semiconductor and its subsidiary HHGrace have outlined plans to build a new 300mm wafer fab in Wuxi. Production is planned to commence during the fourth quarter of 2019, with the monthly capacity targeted to ramp from 10,000 wafers at the end of 2019 up to 40,000 wafers by the end of 2022.

China’s Yangtze Memory Technologies will give a keynote at the upcoming Flash Memory Summit. It plans to reveal its new 3D NAND technology, dubbed Xtacking. YMTC is the first Chinese company to take part in the NAND flash memory industry. China faces some challenges in the memory arena.

SK Hynix posted record results. It also plans to complete the cleanroom construction of a new fab in Cheongju, Korea by the end of this September. The new fab is expected to contribute to the company’s production capacity from the beginning of the next year. In addition, the cleanroom space expansion at SK Hynix’ Wuxi fab in China will be completed by the end of this year, as planned.

Toshiba Memory has held a groundbreaking ceremony for the first semiconductor fab, called K1, in Kitakami, Iwate prefecture, in northeastern Japan. On its completion in autumn of 2019, the fab will produce 3D NAND.

Samsung has begun mass producing a second-generation, 10nm-class (1y-nm) LPDDR4X (Low Power, Double Data Rate, 4X) DRAM. This improves the efficiency and lowers the battery drain of today’s premium smartphones and other mobile applications.

China’s Tsinghua Unigroup has signed a deal to acquire French smart chip components maker Linxens for about $2.6 billion, according to a report from Reuters.

Qualcomm has announced the termination of the acquisition of NXP Semiconductors. In accordance with the terms of the purchase agreement, Qualcomm will pay a termination fee of $2 billion to NXP. Sravan Kundojjala, a consultant at Strategy Analytics, said: “In the wake of terminated NXP deal, Qualcomm is set to pursue 5G NR with more vigor to boost its core mobile revenue. NXP deal would have allowed Qualcomm to accelerate its non-mobile market position. Strategy Analytics believes that Qualcomm’s existing strategy of expanding its industry-leading Snapdragon franchise to non-mobile markets will continue to yield good results. While Apple iPhone design-loss is likely to hit Qualcomm’s baseband volume to some extent, Strategy Analytics believes that Qualcomm is unlikely to be affected in terms of revenue, thanks to improved product mix with higher priced baseband-integrated applications processors.”

Kandou Bus, a supplier of SerDes IP and chip solutions, has completed its Series B investment round with a $15 million investment from Bessemer Venture Partners and Walden Investment. The close of the Series B signifies Kandou’s accomplishment of critical research and development milestones and key design wins.

IEEE and others have launched a new group, dubbed the Open Community for Ethics in Autonomous and Intelligent Systems (OCEANIS). This global forum brings together organizations interested in the development and use of standards as a means to address ethical matters in autonomous and intelligent systems.

Design, fab tools and manufacturing
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has announced a number of new R&D programs. First, DARPA has announced its Artificial Intelligence Exploration (AIE) program.

Separately, under DARPA’s Electronics Resurgence Initiative (ERI), research teams have been selected to explore the roles new materials and different architectures can play in forming disparate chip components into larger systems. As a part of the ERI Materials & Integration research thrust area, DARPA has organized two programs–the Three Dimensional Monolithic System-on-a-Chip (3DSoC) program and the Foundations Required for Novel Compute (FRANC) program. “The 3DSoC program aims to develop materials, design tools, and fabrication techniques for building microsystems on a single substrate with a third dimension,” according to DARPA. “The FRANC program seeks innovations that go beyond von Neumann compute architectures.”

Applied Materials is one of many entities in the FRANC program. Applied has been awarded one of the contracts by DARPA. The equipment maker is working with Arm and Symetrix to develop a new neuromorphic switch based on CeRAM memory that can allow data to be stored and processed in the same material. The goal of the project is to enable an improvement in artificial intelligence compute performance and power efficiency with the use of analog signal processing as compared to current digital approaches.

Meanwhile, as part of ERI, DARPA has announced the research teams for two other programs—the Software Defined Hardware (SDH) and Domain-specific System on Chip (DSSoC). “The SDH program aims to develop hardware and software that can be reconfigured in real-time based on the data being processed,” according to DARPA. “The DSSoC program aims to enable the rapid development of multi-application systems through a single programmable framework.”

Separately, DARPA has also announced the research teams for its Intelligent Design of Electronic Assets (IDEA) and Posh Open Source Hardware (POSH) programs. “The IDEA program aims to create a “no human in the loop” layout generator that would enable users with limited electronic design expertise to complete the physical design of electronic hardware within 24 hours,” according to DARPA. POSH seeks “to significantly reduce the effort required to start a new mixed-signal SoC design by building a foundation of verified IP building blocks with known functionality.”


Semiconductor Research Corp. (SRC) has announced the release of $26 million in added research funding for its New Science Team (NST) Joint University Microelectronics Program (JUMP). JUMP will fund 24 additional research projects spanning 14 U.S. universities. The awards will enhance the program’s expertise in technical areas, such as atomic layer deposition (ALD), novel ferroelectric and spintronic materials and devices, 3D and heterogeneous integration, thermal management solutions, architectures for machine learning and statistical computing, memory abstractions, reconfigurable RF front-ends, and mmWave-to-THz arrays and systems for communications and sensing.

Lam Research announced its financial results for the quarter ended June 24. Lam reported shipments of $3.03 billion and revenue of $3.13 billion. “Lam’s June quarter results confirmed 2018 as the strongest fiscal year in our history, with over 11 billion dollars in revenues, approximately 18 dollars in non-GAAP diluted earnings per share and 2.7 billion dollars of cash generated from operations,” said Martin Anstice, Lam Research’s chief executive.

TEL posted its results for the quarter. Sales were up 25% year-over-year. Net income was up 35.1%. “The semiconductor production equipment market was robust, with capital investment by semiconductor manufacturers continuing in areas such as DRAM, 3D NAND flash memory and logic semiconductors driven by demand for data centers,” according to TEL.

Ultra Clean Holdings, a supplier of subsystems for the semiconductor and display equipment industries, has signed an agreement to acquire Quantum Global Technologies, a developer of ultra-high purity, sub-10nm outsourced tool chamber parts cleaning and coating services. Under the terms, the total transaction value is approximately $342 million.

Packaging and test
ATE giant Advantest posted its results. Sales were up 74.3% for the quarter. The company saw strong demand for its memory and logic testers.

ASE Technology Holding (ASEH) was established by Advanced Semiconductor Engineering (ASE) and Siliconware Precision Industries (SPIL) on April 30, 2018. ASEH said second quarter revenues were up by 28% year-over-year and up by 30% sequentially.

Market research
North America-based manufacturers of semiconductor equipment posted $2.49 billion in billings worldwide in June 2018, according to SEMI. The billings figure is 8.0% lower than the final May 2018 level of $2.70 billion, and is 8.1% higher than the June 2017 billings level of $2.30 billion.

There are mixed signals in the IC market with trouble brewing on the 3D NAND front. “With the 3D NAND technology transition reaching maturity, and the continued transition to 64L 3D NAND, the NAND market began to neutralize in Q1 2018 and has since gone into oversupply. We expect the oversupply situation to continue through the rest of the year, but as demand is expected to pick up in the second half of year, the degree of oversupply should subside slightly,” said Craig Stice, an analyst at IHS. “In 2019 we expect the NAND oversupply scenario to continue through at least the first half of the year, demand signals are showing that the market could tighten a bit into the latter part of 2019.”

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