Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

Wolfspeed surges; mergers & analytics; chip and wafer woes.


Cree posted its results for the third quarter of fiscal 2019 ended March 31. Revenue from continuing operations was $274 million, a 22% increase compared to revenue from continuing operations of $225 million in the like period a year ago.

As previously announced, Cree executed a definitive agreement to sell its Lighting Products business to IDEAL. As a result, Cree’s Wolfspeed unit has become the largest part of the company. Wolfspeed makes power semiconductors based on silicon carbide (SIC) as well as RF devices built around gallium nitride (GaN). “Our Wolfspeed business continued to post strong performance in the third quarter, which helped drive non-GAAP earnings per share above the top end of our range,” said Cree CEO Gregg Lowe. “We are well positioned to meet the growing demand for next generation silicon carbide solutions over the next five years that support a variety of mega trends including the auto industry’s transition to electric vehicles and the rapid deployment of faster 5G wireless networks.”

Cree is also converting some LED fab capacity to GaN in order to meet demand for RF GaN. RF GaN is seeing growth for 5G. “Within Wolfspeed, the business was somewhat bifurcated with GaN demand outstripping supply, while the EV and power device business took a breather as China EV subsidies were cut,” said Jed Dorsheimer, an analyst at Canaccord Genuity, in a research note.

Fab, process and materials
Linton Crystal Technologies has broken ground on a new facility in Dalian, China. Linton Crystal Technologies is a leader in the design, development and manufacture of equipment for producing monocrystalline ingots for the semiconductor and solar industries.

Atomera has introduced MST SP, a new technique capable of delivering a performance improvement of up to 50% in select chips. MST SP is a quantum-engineered material, partnered with a doping profile that enhances transistor performance. Atomera, working with its partner foundry, has demonstrated a performance improvement of up to a 50% reduction in channel on-resistance in 5V analog transistors.

Test, measurement and analytics
PDF Solutions has acquired certain assets, including all related IP, from StreamMosaic, a provider of artificial intelligence and machine learning solutions for the semiconductor industry. The addition of StreamMosaic’s products will enhance PDF’s position in advanced data analytics for semiconductors and electronics.

In a blog, Michael Schuldenfrei, a technology fellow at OptimalPlus, talks about the big data challenges in the fourth industrial revolution, sometimes called Industry 4.0.

CyberOptics, a developer and manufacturer of 3D sensing solutions, has been awarded two 2019 EM Asia Innovation Awards in the categories of test & measurement/inspection systems. The company also received another award.

National Instruments announced first-quarter revenue of $311 million. “I am proud of the team’s execution in the first quarter, despite the weakened industrial economy, especially in Europe. We delivered record Non-GAAP net income for a first quarter, up 21% year-over-year,” said Alex Davern, NI’s CEO.

ASE Holding reported its results for the first quarter. Sales for the IC-packaging giant were up by 37% year-over-year.

Market research
The IC industry is in the midst of a slowdown. How bad it is? “From 1Q84 through 1Q19 there have been 141 quarters, and only seven of them registered an IC market decline of ≥10%,” according to IC Insights. “The 1Q19/4Q18 IC market decline of 17.6% was the fourth largest since 1984 and the third largest first quarter decline over that same time period.”

Others agreed. Conditions in the IC market have deteriorated since the start of the year, causing IHS Markit to slash its 2019 growth outlook by more than 10 percentage points. The worldwide microchip industry is set to suffer a 7.4% drop in revenue this year, according to the latest figures from the IHS Markit. Revenue will fall to $446.2 billion in 2019, down from $482.0 billion in 2018.

“After the chip industry attained a heady revenue expansion of 15% in 2018, many semiconductor suppliers in early 2019 remained optimistic that they could achieve modest growth this year,” said Myson Robles Bruce, research manager, semiconductor value chain at IHS Markit. “However, the chipmakers’ confidence quickly transformed into apprehension as they witnessed the depth and ferocity of the current downturn. The latest data indicates the semiconductor business now is destined for its worst year in a decade.”

There are other bad signs. Worldwide silicon wafer area shipments dropped 5.6% during the first quarter 2019, compared to the fourth quarter 2018 and are now at their lowest level since the fourth quarter of 2017, according to SEMI.

“Global silicon wafer shipment volumes started the year at a slightly lower level when compared to the historic highs experienced last year,” said Neil Weaver, chairman of the SEMI SMG group and director of product development and applications engineering of Shin Etsu Handotai America. “Some seasonality has returned and some inventory adjustments are being made. Despite this, silicon shipments remain at elevated levels.”


The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) and 42 of its member companies joined the Trump administration’s Pledge to America’s Workers, promising to add 392,214 new U.S. worker training opportunities over the next five years. “We now have 500,000 high-tech jobs open here in the U.S. – but we don’t have enough workers with the skills needed to fill all these jobs. If we want to maintain our nation’s global leadership as a tech innovator and keep these jobs in America, we must help our workers develop the skills to succeed throughout their careers,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the CTA, a trade group.

Leave a Reply

(Note: This name will be displayed publicly)