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Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

Trade wars; MRAM deal; China enters finFET biz.

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Trade wars
The Trump administration unveiled a plan to impose additional tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods on July 10. The announced product list included more than ten categories of LED package and lighting products, according to LEDinside, a division of TrendForce.

The export value of the major lighting products in the list reached $5 billion in 2017. “So far, the impact of the US-China trade war on LED packaging manufacturers are not yet noticeable, but manufacturers with plants outside China may be benefited in the long term since orders could be transferred there to avoid the tariffs,” according to the firm.

Prices of mainstream LED package products remained stable in the Chinese market for July 2018, according to LEDinside. “Demand in the lighting market remained sluggish in July, but price decline has not been observed yet,” said LEDinside analyst Terri Wang.

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The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) President and CEO Jay Timmons recently released the following statement on the implementation of an additional $16 billion in U.S. tariffs on China: “This announcement underscores that the administration needs to get Beijing back to the negotiating table, as manufacturers have been urging for months. Two things are abundantly clear to manufacturers: China cheats, and another round of tariffs on China will not fix the problem. As the administration rightly notes, China attempts to force U.S. companies to hand over valuable technology, restricts foreign investment, distorts the free market to give their own companies an advantage, undercuts us in the global economy and steals manufacturers’ intellectual property. While these additional tariffs may be an attempt to create more leverage, they also increase the risks for manufacturing in America and add to mounting uncertainty. We are already seeing price increases that will be felt by consumers and working families, and additional retaliatory tariffs could close major markets off to U.S. exports. Manufacturing workers are feeling the pain of tariffs, as are American consumers. If the point is to put pressure on China to change its actions, tariffs paid by American businesses and consumers are simply not effective.”

NAM is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states.

Chipmakers
United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC) and Avalanche Technology have entered into a partnership for the development and production of Avalanche’s STT-MRAM. The technology is aimed to replace embedded flash. UMC will also make this technology available to other companies through licensing with Avalanche.

SMIC, China’s largest foundry vendor, posted its results and disclosed it is readying its initial finFET technology. “We are pleased to say that we have achieved significant progress on our 14nm finFET development. The R&D of our first version of finFET technology is now ready for business engagement,” said Zhao Haijun and Liang Mong Song, SMIC’s co-CEOs. “In addition to our 28nm PolySiON and HKC, our HKC+ technology development is now complete. Our 28nm HKC continues to ramp up, as its yield meets industry benchmark.”

TSMC recently provided an update on the company’s computer virus outbreak on Aug. 3, which affected a number of computer systems and fab tools in Taiwan. TSMC contained the problem and found a solution. The company expects full recovery on August 6. But TSMC expected this incident to cause shipment delays and additional costs. It estimated the impact to third quarter revenue to be about 3%, and impact to gross margin to be about one percentage point.

Skyworks Solutions has signed a definitive agreement to purchase Avnera, a leading developer of analog system-on-chips (ASoCs).

Manufacturing
NextFlex, a flexible hybrid electronics (FHE) manufacturing institute, has released Project Call 4.0 (PC 4.0)—the latest call for proposals to fund projects that seek to further the development and adoption of FHE.

PDF Solutions has announced that Christine Russell will replace Gregory Walker as chief financial officer upon Walker’s retirement as vice president, finance and CFO. Walker will remain with the company in an operations role.

Market research
IC Insights has revised its forecast of the largest and fastest-growing IC product categories this year. “With forecast sales of $101.6 billion, (39% growth) the DRAM market is expected to be the largest of all IC product categories in 2018, repeating the ranking it held last year. If the sales level is achieved, it would mark the first time an individual IC product category has surpassed $100.0 billion in annual sales. The DRAM market is forecast to account for 24% of IC sales in 2018. The NAND flash market is expected to achieve the second-largest revenue level with total sales of $62.6 billion this year,” according to the firm.

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Consumers are somewhat embracing augmented reality technology on their smartphones through apps such as Snapchat and Pokémon GO. But AR headsets, such as Google Glass and Microsoft HoloLens remain a niche product with sales barely into the hundreds of thousands of units, according to Strategy Analytics.

David MacQueen, an analyst at Strategy Analytics, said: “2013 and the launch of Google Glass really kickstarted the dedicated AR device market. Although the device was not a commercial success, the potential of AR became clear and the hype around it saw Google, Apple, Microsoft and other major players make serious investments in the AR field. Five years on, and much of that technology has found its way onto smartphones, while dedicated AR headsets have remained a niche product.”



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