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Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

GF sheds mask unit; trade wars; 5G phone teardown.

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Chipmakers
In its latest move to cut costs and focus on its core business, GlobalFoundries (GF) has announced plans to jettison its U.S. photomask operations in Burlington, Vt., but the foundry vendor will maintain a stake in its joint venture mask unit.

Under the plan, Toppan Photomasks will acquire certain assets of GF’s Burlington photomask facility. “GF is transferring its mask tools and operations to Toppan,” according to officials from GF. Toppan Photomasks, a merchant mask maker, is a subsidiary of Tokyo-listed Toppan Printing.

Over the next several months, Toppan and GF will work to transition the acquired equipment and processes to Toppan’s facilities worldwide. The two companies also entered into a multi-year supply agreement in which Toppan will provide GF with photomasks and related services currently supported by GF’s Burlington-based mask operations.

“There will be no impact to jobs at the Burlington site,” according to officials from GF. “Burlington employees, supporting mask operations, will be able to transfer to another position within GF.”

Prior to the announcement, GF had two mask operations–Burlington and the Advanced Mask Technology Center (AMTC). The Burlington site was formerly IBM’s mask operation. GF assumed control of that unit when it acquired IBM’s chip operations several years ago.

There is no change at AMTC, a joint mask venture between Toppan Photomasks and GF in Dresden, Germany. GF will maintain its holdings in that venture. The transaction with Toppan paves the way to transition additional advanced mask manufacturing tools to AMTC.

This is the latest move by GF to cut costs and focus on its core foundry business. Last year, GF stopped development of its 7nm technology to focus on other processes at 14nm/12nm and above.

Earlier this year, Vanguard International Semiconductor acquired GF’s Fab 3E in Singapore. Then, in April, ON Semiconductor and GF entered into a definitive agreement for ON Semi to acquire GF’s 300mm fab in East Fishkill, N.Y. And in May, Marvell entered into definitive agreements to purchase Avera, the ASIC business of GF.

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FTSE4Good has named UMC as an index series constituent for the second consecutive year. The FTSE4Good Index Series is designed to measure the performance of companies demonstrating strong environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices.

SkyWater Technology Foundry has received a Small Business Supplier of the Year award for Program Execution Excellence from L3Harris Technologies, a global aerospace and defense technology innovator.

Micron Technology has announced advancements in DRAM scaling. Micron is the first memory company to begin mass production of 16Gb DDR4 products using 1znm process technology. In addition, Micron also unveiled the industry’s highest-capacity monolithic 16Gb low-power double data rate 4X (LPDDR4X) DRAM.

Chipmaker ams is moving ahead in its unsolicited bid to acquire Osram, an LED supplier. Based on the recent discussions with Osram’s board, ams currently expects to be able to start the tender period in the near term.

Fab tools
Applied Materials reported sales of $3.56 billion during the quarter, down 14% from the same period a year ago. On a GAAP basis, the company recorded net income of $571 million during the quarter, down 44% year-over year. In the fourth quarter of fiscal 2019, Applied expects net sales to be approximately $3.685 billion, plus or minus $150 million. Non-GAAP adjusted diluted EPS is expected to be in the range of $0.72 to $0.80. “AMAT posted good F3Q results and reiterated its full-year 2019 demand outlook for both semiconductor and display,” said said Weston Twigg, an analyst at KeyBanc, in a research note. “Similar to peers, AMAT notedstrong foundry/logic demand and soft memory demand as it reiterated its view of global equipment demand down in the mid- to high-teens percentage range this year, similar to our down 17% forecast. It also believes foundry will remain strong in 2020, and memory capex will likely begin to improve in 2020, led by NAND and followed by DRAM, mirroring our view of a modest recovery next year (we project equipment demand to be up 6% in 2020).”

In a blog, Llew Vaughan-Edmunds, director of strategic marketing at Applied Materials, talks about the benefits of silicon carbide (SiC).

In another blog, Sharma Pamarthy, senior director in business development and product marketing at Lam Research, talks about the use of legacy etch products in 200mm fabs.

Packaging and test
Yole and TechInsights have independently confirmed that Deca’s M-Series fan-out wafer-level packaging has been adopted by Qualcomm for power management integrated circuit (PMIC) devices in Samsung’s S10 handset, along with the Xiaomi Mi 9 and LG G8 handsets.

OptimalPlus has joined the Component Technical Committee of the Automotive Electronics Council (AEC). Created by automakers to establish a common qualification and quality standards system for vehicles and their components, the AEC has grown to include dozens of OEMs and top-tier suppliers of the automotive industry.

Trade wars
Here’s the latest from Reuters on the U.S.-China trade war: “U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday backed off his Sept. 1 deadline for 10% tariffs on remaining Chinese imports, delaying duties on cellphones, laptops and other consumer goods, in the hopes of blunting their impact on U.S. holiday sales.”

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The Trump administration delayed new tariffs on some consumer goods until Dec. 15 to avoid any impact on holiday spending, but many products will still be hit by tariffs taking effect on Sept. 1. The tariffs starting Sep. 1 will affect $52 billion in consumer technology products, and the tariffs starting Dec. 15 will affect $115 billion in products, according to the U.S. Consumer Technology Association (CTA). Since July 2018, Section 301 tariffs on China have cost the consumer tech industry over $10 billion, including $1 billion on 5G-related products.

The following statement is attributed to Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the CTA, regarding the administration’s finalized lists of products (List 4) facing 10% tariffs on Sep. 1 and Dec. 15.

“We appreciate the administration hearing us about the damage retaliatory tariffs inflict and deciding to delay part of the list – but the uncertainty and volatility of policy based on tariffs is bad for American businesses and is bad for workers, families and the U.S. economy. Recent wild, tariff-induced swings in the stock market concern every American with a 401(k), pension or IRA, proving the folly of unwinnable trade wars.

“The president is right to address China’s forced technology transfer and theft of intellectual property, but retaliatory tariffs are bad economic policy in the short and long term. The administration’s legally dubious trade war is compromising America’s global leadership. This is the biggest economic mistake since the passage of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act in 1930, which sent our country spiraling into the Great Depression. Continuing down this path will devastate U.S. startups and small businesses – many of them will face no-win decisions about shrinking operations and cutting jobs.

“Tariffs are taxes. The Chinese government doesn’t pay for them – Americans bear the burden. And next month, we’ll begin to pay more for some of our favorite tech devices – including TVs, smart speakers and desktop computers. The administration should permanently remove these harmful tariffs and find another way to hold China accountable for its unfair trading practices.”

Market research
TechInsights has posted a teardown of Huawei’s Mate 20 X (5G), the company’s first 5G smartphone. The model is the EVR-N29. In addition, TechInsights also posted a teardown on AC adapters and found devices based on gallium nitride (GaN), silicon carbide (SiC) and silicon.

Events
Find upcoming semiconductor industry events here, including the upcoming Hot Chips Conference (Aug 18-20) and SPIE Photomask Technology & EUV Lithography (Sept 15-19).



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