Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

Memory rebound?; quantum computing; flying cars.


Fab tools
It’s been a tough period for memory. But is there now a sign of a rebound? For the September 2019 quarter, Lam Research reported revenue of $2.166 billion, and net income was $466 million, or $3.09 per diluted share on a U.S. GAAP basis.

The outlook at Lam (LRCX) is a bright spot. “LRCX posted strong results and guidance, noting strength from logic and foundry in the December quarter and signaling early signs of a recovery in memory demand, led by NAND producers,” said Weston Twigg, an analyst at KeyBanc, in a report. “LRCX noted that memory orders have begun to pick up and that some projects are beginning to move forward, which could drive a recovery in memory capex in 2020. NAND is healthier than DRAM in the near term, with inventory levels close to normal. Memory producers have been underinvesting and we expect bit supply for both DRAM and NAND to undergrow demand in 2020, which should spark capacity equipment orders in 1H20 for 2H20 production; we think LRCX commentary supports this view. LRCX also noted that 2019 domestic China fab equipment demand is tracking over $6B (similar to our model), growing in 2020, likely led by NAND capex, in our view.”


CyberOptics has reported sales of $12.4 million for the third quarter of 2019 ended Sept. 30. Looking ahead, CyberOptics believes the third quarter of 2019 marked the trough of the downturn in the SMT and semiconductor capital equipment market.

In a video, Aki Fujimura, chief executive of D2S, shared his perspective on the recent Photomask + EUV Technology Conference.

Mycronic has launched the SLX, a new laser-based mask writer for the semiconductor industry. The introduction of the SLX marks the company’s re-entry into this market, with the first shipment expected around year end 2020.

Chipmakers and OEMs
Google has updated its latest efforts in quantum computing. The company has devised a processor with programmable superconducting qubits to create quantum states on 53 qubits. “In practical terms, our chip, which we call Sycamore, performed a computation in 200 seconds that would take the world’s fastest supercomputer 10,000 years,” according to a blog from Google.

IonQ, a developer of quantum computing technology, has secured $55 million in a funding round led by the Samsung Catalyst Fund and Mubadala Capital. This round of funding brings IonQ’s total amount raised to $77 million. IonQ makes use of single-atom qubits. It claimed to have built the world’s most powerful quantum computer

Micron Technology has acquired FWDNXT, a deep learning software and hardware startup. When combined with Micron’s memory, FWDNXT’s technology enables deep learning solutions for data analytics, particularly in IoT and edge computing.

In addition, Micron has invested in Volocopter, a flying car startup. Volocopter is developing an affordable air taxi service to megacities worldwide. The company is developing the first fully electric “eVTOL” aircraft in certification to safely and quietly transport passengers within cities. Recently, Volocopter signed the first closing of its Series C funding round, which is being led by Zhejiang Geely Holding Group (Geely Holding). The new funds will be used towards bringing the VoloCity aircraft to commercial launch within the next three years.

At its technical event, meanwhile, Micron has rolled out a slew of products. First, Micron introduced a solid-state storage drive (SSD) based on 3D XPoint, a next-generation memory type. In addition, Micron introduced other SSDs.

Samsung has rolled out several new memory and system logic devices at its technical event. The company unveiled the Exynos 990 premium mobile processor, the 5G-enabled Exynos Modem 5123 and announced mass production of its third-generation 10nm-class 1znm DRAM. Both the Exynos 990 mobile processor and next-generation 5G Exynos modem 5123 are based on 7nm and make use of extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography.

Samsung has developed the industry’s first 12-layer 3D-TSV (Through Silicon Via) technology. The new technology allows for the stacking of 12 DRAM chips using more than 60,000 TSV holes, while maintaining the same thickness as current 8-layer chips.

The U.S. Department of Defense has announced plans to invest up to $170 million in SkyWater Technology, a U.S.-based foundry. The initial funding is set at $80 million. As part of the funding, SkyWater will be expanding its “trusted foundry” fab facility. SkyWater will leverage this investment to develop a new 90nm rad-hard production capability. In addition, the DoD will fund SkyWater to add copper dual-damascene interconnect technology to the facility.

Bosch is entering the silicon carbide (SiC) market. The company plans to make SiC devices in a new 150mm fab. “Bosch will be producing the SiC chips with 150 mm wafers since no other sizes are available at the moment. The production plant will be Reutlingen near Stuttgart,” according to a spokeswoman for Bosch.

Packaging and test
ASE has developed an ANSYS Customization Toolkit (ACT) workflow. This sub-modeling automation solution enhances the IC packaging and development process. This enables ASE to create precise models.

Teradyne has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire AutoGuidefor $165 million. AutoGuide provides autonomous mobile robots for material transport of payloads up to 10,000 pounds (4,500 kg) for the manufacturing, warehouse and logistics markets.

Market research
North America-based manufacturers of semiconductor equipment posted $1.95 billion in billings worldwide in September 2019, according to SEMI. The billings figure is 2.4% lower than the final August 2019 level of $2.00 billion, and is 6% lower than the September 2018 billings level of $2.08 billion.

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