Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

Trade war hits fab tools; Huawei passes Apple; wafers.


Trade wars
After opposing $34 billion in U.S. trade tariffs on behalf of the U.S. semiconductor manufacturing industry, Jonathan Davis, global vice president of industry advocacy at SEMI, recently spoke out against an additional $16 billion in duties on Chinese goods.

The tariffs do little to address U.S. concerns over IP loss, according to SEMI. Over the past month, SEMI has also submitted written comments in the arena.

“SEMI estimates that the second list of proposed tariffs, covering about $16 billion in Chinese goods, will cost its 400 U.S. members more than $500 million annually in additional duties,” said Jay Chittooran, public policy manager at SEMI, in a blog. “The tariffs on $34 billion in Chinese goods, which took effect July 6, impact products such as test and inspection equipment as well as spare parts that enter the U.S. from China. That round of tariffs will cost SEMI member companies an estimated tens of millions of dollars annually.”

SEMI this week announced its support for calls on the Trump administration yesterday by nearly 50 members of Congress to remove tariffs on U.S. semiconductor products imported from China.

Market research
Smartphone vendors shipped a total of 342.0 million units during the second quarter of 2018, a 1.8% decline compared to the 348.2 million units shipped in the second quarter of 2017, according to a report from IDC.

Here’s the surprise: China’s Huawei surpassed Apple in smartphone shipments. The arrival of Huawei in the second position marks the first quarter since 2Q10 where Apple has not been the number one or two smartphone company in terms of market share. Huawei delivered shipments of 54.2 million units to move into the second position with a record high market share of 15.8%. Samsung maintained a comfortable lead in the market, according to IDC.

“The continued growth of Huawei is impressive, to say the least, as is its ability to move into markets where, until recently, the brand was largely unknown,” said Ryan Reith, program vice president at IDC. “It is worth noting that Apple moved into the top position each of the last two holiday quarters following its product refresh, so it’s likely we’ll see continued movement among the top ranked companies in 2018 and beyond. For most markets, the ultra-high end ($700+) competition is largely some combination of Apple, Samsung, and Huawei, depending on the geography, and this is unlikely to change much in the short term. At the same time, Xiaomi, OPPO, and vivo are all slowly pushing their customer base upstream at a price tier slightly lower than the top three. This is an area they should all watch closely as the builds in this segment are getting increasingly more advanced.”


Reaching their highest recorded quarterly level ever on robust demand, worldwide silicon wafer area shipments rose 2.5% in the second quarter of 2018 to 3,160 million square inches from 3,084 million square inches the previous quarter, according to the SEMI Silicon Manufacturers Group (SMG) in its quarterly analysis of the silicon wafer industry. New quarterly total area shipments are 6.1% higher than second quarter 2017 shipments.

Will 5G happen? “The industry has been pushing 5G quite hard, working to accelerate the development and rollout. This includes 5G in both mm-wave and sub-6GHz. If you look at spectrum holdings of many of the operators, they cannot easily deploy Gigabit LTE with the spectrum they have, let alone 5G. Hence, there is an interest in LTE in unlicensed bands (borrowing spectrum from WiFi), new bands with shared access with incumbents (CBRS for example), and millimeter-wave bands. The variant of 5G known by the 3GPP as 5G NSA (non-standalone) basically accelerates 5G by six months or more, providing a bridge to 5G SA (standalone) later,” said Christopher Taylor, an analyst at Strategy Analytics.

Separately, the RF gallium nitride (GaN) market growth continued to accelerate in 2017, with revenues growing at over 38% year-on-year, according to Strategy Analytics. The firm forecasts that RF GaN revenues will push past the $1 billion milestone by 2022. The military radar segment will remain the largest user of GaN devices for the defense sector. “As well as demand from military radar, operational requirements to operate in contested and congested environments, as well as being able to counter modern agile radar and communications, will drive opportunities for RF GaN for the electronic warfare (EW) market,” noted Asif Anwar, an analyst at the research firm. “Communicating voice, data and video simultaneously and securely over wider and higher bandwidths in an increasingly complex spectrum environment will underpin trends for military communications system design. We expect the associated component demand will also be increasingly underpinned with RF GaN.”

Allegro MicroSystems and United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC) have signed a long-term agreement. UMC will continue as Allegro’s primary foundry wafer manufacturer. The agreement covers technical collaboration and establishes capacity at UMC for Allegro’s automotive-grade technologies. Currently, the two companies are developing Allegro’s A10S and A10P 180nm BCD technologies as well as supporting custom, leading-edge GMR/TMR on-silicon integration. In 2012, the two companies established a previous foundry agreement.

Xperi has announced a partnership with UMC. Together, Xperi and UMC will further optimize and commercialize Xperi’s direct and hybrid bonding technologies for a wide range of semiconductor devices, including image sensors, RF, MEMS, display drivers, touch controllers, analog, power and mixed-signal devices.

Infineon Technologies held discussions to acquire STMicroelectronics last year, but the German chipmaker dropped the idea, according to reports. Separately, Dialog Semiconductor has terminated its acquisition discussions with Synaptics.

Fab tools
Orbotech, which is in the process of being acquired by KLA-Tencor, said revenues for the second quarter of 2018 totaled $267.5 million, compared with $210.7 million in the second quarter of 2017, and $250.6 million in the first quarter of 2018. Separately, on July 12, the Korean Supreme Court dismissed the prosecutor’s appeal against the Seoul Central District Court’s 2014 decision acquitting Orbotech’s Korean subsidiary and five of its employees in the matter of alleged unlawful acquisition and divulgence of confidential technical information. Orbotech and its Korean subsidiary have been vindicated in this matter.

KLA-Tencor announced its operating results for the fourth quarter and fiscal year ended June 30. KLA-Tencor reported GAAP net income of $349 million, or $2.22 per share, on revenues of $1.07 billion for the fourth quarter. For the fiscal year, the company reported GAAP net income of $802 million, or $5.10 per share, on revenues of $4.0 billion.

“KLAC posted a F4Q revenue and EPS beat, and guided F1Q above consensus at the midpoint, a strong signal that KLAC is much better positioned to weather current softness from memory customers than some equipment peers. On this point, KLAC anticipates F1Q revenue to be roughly flat q/q at the midpoint of guidance, while MKSI and LRCX each indicated that semiconductor revenue could be down over 20% q/q,” said Weston Twigg, an analyst at KeyBanc Capital Markets, in a research note. “KLAC also expects revenue to rebound in December, similar to LRCX, led by a recovery in memory along with improving foundry demand. KLAC expects its CY18 revenue to grow in the low-double-digit range, consistent with comments made last quarter. It noted strength in mask and bare wafer inspection, indicating substantial demand from outside of the traditional front-end fab space.”

KLA-Tencor also announced the appointment of Ana Pinczuk to its board of directors. Pinczuk was most recently president and general manager for HPE Pointnext, HPE’s service organization.

Advantest has introduced a test solution for developing, debugging and mass producing PCIe Gen 4 solid-state drives (SSD) on the MPT3000 platform. The new test solution enables SSD manufacturers to accelerate their newest products’ time to market.

Astronics reported its financial results for the three and six months ended June 30. Test system sales in the second quarter increased approximately $20.8 million to $42.4 million, almost doubling compared with the same period in 2017.

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