Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

AI chip boom or bust?; fab sensors; yield management.


AI chip boom or bust?
The semiconductor industry is the most bullish about adopting artificial intelligence (AI), according to a new report from Accenture. Some 77% of semiconductor executives surveyed said they have adopted AI within their businesses or are piloting the technology. In addition, 63% of semiconductor executives expect that AI will have the greatest impact on their business over the next three years, according to the report.

In a blog, Applied Materials CEO Gary Dickerson talks about the “AI Paradox.” For this, the industry won’t realize the benefits of AI unless it addresses the challenges in the arena. There is an explosion of data. As a result, AI data centers could consume more than 10% of global electricity supply by the year 2025, according to Applied Materials. “To do its part, the chip industry needs a new playbook for semiconductor design and manufacturing—one that involves a combination of techniques—to improve semiconductor performance, power and cost,” Dickerson said.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has released a plan for prioritizing federal agency engagement in the development of standards for AI. The plan recommends that the federal government “commit to deeper, consistent, long-term engagement” in activities to help the U.S. speed the pace of AI technology development.

Fab tools and sensors
CyberOptics will soon launch its new WaferSense Auto Vibration and Leveling Sensor (AVLS3). The AVLS3 is a sub-system used in fab equipment. It collects and displays both leveling and vibration data for fast equipment set-up, alignment and real-time equipment diagnostics. In addition, the company will also roll out the new NanoResolution Multi-Reflection Suppression (MRS) sensor for inspection and metrology in semiconductor applications.

YieldHUB announced a significant increase in the speed of the company’s yield management system. It is now up to five times faster, including in the analysis of STDF and other industry data formats. “This new technology is a breakthrough and it has been a boom to us as we continue to improve the speed of our software using C++ and other similar programming languages. We’re currently upgrading our customers to this new faster service. All new customers will be on the faster version from the start,” said Jerome Auza, director of engineering at yieldHUB.

JSR will establish a subsidiary to invest in startups mainly focusing on digital technology. The subsidiary, JSR Active Innovation Fund, will launch on Oct. 1. “With the rapid growth of digitization and innovations generated from startups, the conventional market structure will change dramatically in the near future, and all companies will need to seek new business models that utilize digital technology,” said Eric Johnson, chief executive of JSR.

Chipmakers and OEMs
Cree reported revenue of $251.2 million for its fourth quarter of fiscal 2019, ended June 30, 2019. This represents a 5% decrease compared to revenue of $265.8 million reported for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2018, and an 8% decrease compared to the third quarter of fiscal 2019. “While the Huawei ban and softness in the LED market will continue to impact the sector in the short-term, our long-term outlook remains unchanged – there is a significant opportunity to help customers make the shift from silicon to silicon carbide solutions for their next generation applications,” stated Gregg Lowe, Cree’s chief executive.

LED maker Osram has waived the existing standstill agreement with chipmaker ams. This clears the way for a voluntary public takeover offer of Osram by ams. The offer amounts to 38.50 euros in cash per share, with a minimum acceptance level of 70%.

Poet Technologies has signed a definitive agreement with respect to its previously announced sale of its Singapore-based subsidiary, DenseLight Semiconductors. The buyer is DenseLight Semiconductor Technology (Shanghai), a company recently organized by China Prosper Group on behalf of investors.

HP has appointed Enrique Lores, currently president of HP’s Imaging, Printing and Solutions business, to succeed Dion Weisler as the company’s president and chief executive, effective Nov. 1. Weisler’s decision to step down at this time is due to a family health matter and he will be returning home to Australia. Weisler will continue to serve on HP’s board until the next annual meeting of stockholders.

Market research
Here’s the latest from the AP: “China on Friday announced tariff hikes on $75 billion of U.S. products in retaliation for President Donald Trump’s latest planned increase, deepening a conflict over trade and technology that threatens to tip a weakening global economy into recession.”

North America-based manufacturers of semiconductor equipment posted $2.03 billion in billings worldwide in July 2019, according to SEMI. The billings figure is 0.4% higher than the final June 2019 level of $2.03 billion, and is 14.5% lower than the July 2018 billings level of $2.38 billion. “Total billings of North American equipment manufacturers for July were slightly up over June billings,” said Ajit Manocha, president and chief executive of SEMI. “Demand for semiconductor equipment this year is being driven by leading-edge logic and foundry, though memory segment growth is soft due to weak market sentiment.”

IC Insights released its semiconductor rankings in terms of sales for the first half of 2019. There were two new entrants into the top-15 ranking in 1H19–MediaTek and Sony. Intel retained its number one position in the rankings. “Intel replaced Samsung as the number one quarterly semiconductor supplier in 4Q18 after losing the lead spot to Samsung in 2Q17,” according to the firm. “While Samsung held the full-year number one ranking in 2017 and 2018, Intel is forecast to easily recapture the number one ranking for the full year of 2019, a position it previously held from 1993 through 2016. With the collapse of the DRAM and NAND flash markets over the past year, a complete switch has occurred. In 1H18, Samsung had 22% more total semiconductor sales than Intel, but Intel had 20% more semiconductor sales than Samsung in 1H19!”

Find upcoming semiconductor industry events here, including SPIE Photomask Technology & EUV Lithography (Sept 15-19).

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