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Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

China’s 5G phone shipments; RF GaN; wafer woes.

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Market research
Smartphone shipments in China stood at 98.9 million units in the third quarter of 2019, down 3.6% year-on-year, according to IDC. Of that, 5G phone shipments in China have grown from virtually zero not long ago to 485,000 units in the third quarter of 2019, according to IDC.

Vendors shipped devices amid the launch of commercial 5G services in October. The early smartphone leader is a big surprise. “Vivo gained an early lead by releasing two 5G models in one month, breaking into both US$700+ high-end via offline channels, as well as pushing into a lower US$450-550 range via online channels,” according to IDC. “In contrast, Huawei and Samsung were contained to the high-end, while ZTE and China Mobile landed in the US$600-650 range. Xiaomi was able to occupy the US$450-550 segment.”

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Revenue from RF GaN-enabled devices grew by nearly 22% in 2018, according to Strategy Analytics. The firm forecasts that this growth will accelerate and RF GaN revenue will surpass $1.7 billion in 2023. The drivers are 4G and 5G base station deployments, along with defense applications.

Marking the fourth consecutive quarterly decline, worldwide silicon wafer area shipments totaled 2,932 million square inches in the third quarter of 2019, down 1.7% from the 2,983 million square inches shipped in the second quarter of the year and 9.9% lower than shipments during the same period in 2018, according to the SEMI Silicon Manufacturers Group (SMG). “Global silicon wafer shipments continue to ship at lower volumes relative to last year’s record levels,” said Neil Weaver, chairman of SEMI SMG and vice president of product development and applications engineering at Shin Etsu Handotai America. “Ongoing geopolitical tensions and the overall economic slowdown have negatively impacted silicon demand for the year.”

Fab tools
Applied Materials reported revenue of $3.75 billion for the quarter, roughly flat as compared to the like quarter a year ago. In fiscal 2019, Applied generated revenue of $14.61 billion. “Applied Materials’ fourth quarter results reflect a healthy uptick in demand for semiconductor equipment, combined with strong execution across the company,” said Gary Dickerson, president and chief executive.

“AMAT noted strong foundry/logic demand and early indications of improving memory demand as it posted strong results and guidance,” said Weston Twigg, an analyst at KeyBanc, in a report. “F4Q margin performance was slightly better than we expected, with the EPS beat primarily driven by stronger than expected revenue and aggressive share buybacks ($500M). F1Q guidance indicates improving demand into 2020, supported by a record backlog. We expect demand to improve in 2020 as memory customers begin to resume capacity buildouts amid tight supply. Display revenue may be flat or down next year as TV demand has weakened. Services should remain a steady grower.

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Applied Materials recently announced the opening of the Materials Engineering Technology Accelerator (META Center), a facility aimed at speeding customer prototyping of new materials, process technologies and devices. In a blog, Steve Ghanayem, senior vice president for the New Markets and Alliances Group at Applied Materials, explained the role of the new center.

In a blog, Lam Research talks about developing chips in the “More-than-Moore” era. This involves an assortment of technologies, “where digital electronics meet the analog world,” according to the blog.

Test
National Instruments has rolled out a pair of test technologies for radar and electric vehicles.

Radar is a key enabler in automotive. It is used for vehicle safety in current advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and future autonomous driving. The automotive industry has migrated towards 79GHz radar technology. However, there are tradeoffs and a larger set of test challenges.

To address the challenges, NI has released its 4 GHz Vehicle Radar Test System (VRTS). With the simulation capabilities of the VRTS, engineers can work to improve their test to address these challenges.

Separately, NI has also rolled out a new product for hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) validation of electric vehicle (EV) powertrain components.

Chipmakers and OEMs
NUVIA, which is developing processors for the data center, has announced the close of its Series A funding round raising $53 million. The funding round was co-led by Capricorn Investment Group, Dell Technologies Capital, Mayfield and WRVI Capital, with additional participation from Nepenthe LLC.

Osram has concluded a comprehensive business combination agreement with ams. The LED maker recommends its shareholders accept the current takeover offer from ams.

Volkswagen has joined SEMI. Volkswagen is a founding member of the SEMI Global Automotive Advisory Council (GAAC).



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