Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

GF vs TSMC; fabless rankings; hypersonic missile race.


GlobalFoundries has filed suits in the U.S. and Germany, alleging that semiconductor manufacturing technologies used by TSMC infringe upon 16 of GF’s patents. The suits were filed in the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), the U.S. Federal District Courts in the Districts of Delaware and the Western District of Texas, and the Regional Courts of Dusseldorf and Mannheim in Germany.

In filing the lawsuits, GF seeks orders that will prevent semiconductors produced with the infringing technologies by TSMC from being imported into the U.S. and Germany. GF also seeks significant damages from TSMC based on TSMC’s alleged unlawful use of GF’s proprietary technology in its tens of billions of dollars of sales.

There are several sides to the story. Here’s one: “While semiconductor manufacturing has continued to shift to Asia, GF has bucked the trend by investing heavily in the American and European semiconductor industries, spending more than $15 billion dollars in the last decade in the U.S. and more than $6 billion in Europe’s largest semiconductor manufacturing fabrication facility. These lawsuits are aimed at protecting those investments and the US and European-based innovation that powers them,” said Gregg Bartlett, senior vice president, engineering and technology at GF. “For years, while we have been devoting billions of dollars to domestic research and development, TSMC has been unlawfully reaping the benefits of our investments. This action is critical to halt Taiwan Semiconductor’s unlawful use of our vital assets and to safeguard the American and European manufacturing base.”

Then, here’s one article about the subject.

And here’s what one analyst said: “GlobalFoundries (GF) has filed multiple lawsuits alleging that TSMC has infringed on 16 of its patents, to be adopted across 7nm, 10nm, 12nm, 16nm and 28nm. Many TSMC customers are also listed as defendants, like Apple, Broadcom, Qualcomm, Nvidia, MediaTek, etc.,” said Sebastian Hou, head of technology research at CLSA, in a research note. “We briefly studied the claim and 16 patents and found nothing proprietary to GF. And judging from TSMC’s more than 5x R&D investment over GF in the past decade, technology lead and differences in the above process nodes, we find the allegations hard to believe. In addition, the timing of the lawsuit looks suspicious, particularly at a time when GF aims to sell everything still valuable as soon as possible. While we cannot confirm this, we cannot help but think the allegations are more about helping GF sell at a better price than about really suing TSMC – a feasible tactic. Overall impacts remain to be measured as we are not IP experts, but our initial take is that this is a non-event for TSMC and any impact should be small.”

Defendants in the GF suit include TSMC, Apple, Broadcom, MediaTek, Nvidia, Qualcomm, Xilinx, Avnet/EBV, Digi-key and Mouser, according to CLSA. Products involved in the suit come from Arista, Asustek, BLU, Google, Google, Hisense, Lenovo, Motorola, TCL, and OnePlus, according to the firm.

As reported, GF has sold off various operations in an effort to cut costs.

Fab tools
Stephen Newberry, chairman of Lam Research, has decided to retire from his position on the board, effective Nov. 4. The board appointed Abhijit Talwalkar to succeed Newberry as chairman upon his reelection to the board at the annual meeting. Talwalkar has been a member of Lam’s board since 2011 and currently serves as the board’s lead independent director. Lam also announced that Christine Heckart has resigned from its board effective Nov. 4. In January, she became chief executive of Scalyr, a log management software company. She is stepping off the Lam board to devote time to her current role.

KLA has announced that the Automotive Electronics Council (AEC) has accepted the company as an associate member. As the first semiconductor equipment company to join AEC, KLA helps chip manufacturers implement zero defect strategies aimed at optimizing the reliability of automotive electronics.

EV Group and Schott have demonstrated the readiness of a 300mm nanoimprint lithography capability for use in patterning high-refractive index glass wafers. This is used for waveguides/light guides for next-generation augmented/mixed reality (AR/MR) headsets.

ASE has released its 2018 corporate sustainability report. The report documents ASE’s programs and activities in advancing sustainability development.

Market research
Military and defense represent a tiny market for the overall IC industry. It’s less than 1%. But the defense community relies on chips for critical programs.

Here’s one of those programs–hypersonic missiles. In fact, there is a race among nations in the hypersonic missile market. This market will disrupt the defense market, according to IHS.

“Hypersonic weapons incorporate the speed of a ballistic missile with the maneuvering capabilities of a cruise missile. Hypersonic weapons refer to weapons that travel faster than Mach 5 (~3,800mph) and have the capability to maneuver during the entire flight,” according to the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance. “Hypersonic weapons are specifically designed for increased survivability against modern ballistic missile defense systems.”

China, Russia and the U.S. are all investing in hypersonic technology. To date, IHS’ Jane unit estimates the U.S. to have spent over $3.3 billion for the R&D of hypersonic technologies and weapons, with a further 2020 budget request of $2.6 billion.

“Currently, we see Russia and China both leading research and developmental work with considerable funding, suggesting that the US has somehow fallen behind these countries. However, this may change in the near term, given the existing US programs’ priority and commitment,” said Rahul Udoshi, analyst at Jane’s by IHS Markit.

“Russia is estimated to have spent over $1.1 billion covering the Avangard, 3M22 Tsirkon and Kinzhal programs. Russian spending on hypersonic weapons is not expected to rise significantly as the Kinzhal is already in service while the Tsirkon and Avangard are close to entering service,” according to the firm. “Chinese funding for hypersonic weapons is estimated to be more than Russia with over $1.5 billion spent on programs such as the DF-ZF and the Starry Sky-2. DF-ZF is expected to be operational by 2020, while Starry Sky would be operational by around 2025. China is expected to sustain its funding for hypersonic technologies as it takes the current programs to their conclusion.”


TrendForce has released its top-ten IC design companies in terms of sales for the second quarter of 2019. Broadcom was in first place, followed by Qualcomm and Nvidia.

DSCC has released its latest quarterly display CapEx and equipment report. In 2019, display CapEx is expected to fall 26% to $15.5 billion with OLED spending down 64% and LCD spending up 23%, according to the firm. “2020 is expected to rebound with 31% growth to $20.3B with the market split 50/50 between LCD and OLED,” according to the firm. “LCDs are projected to fall 9% with OLED spending up 132% on new mobile OLED fabs in China. Mobile’s share of spending is expected to jump to 40% with TV/other at 60%.”

The silicon wafer market got off to a rough start in 2019, according to SEMI. Major silicon wafer makers all had lackluster results.

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

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