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Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

Fab tool export restrictions; probe cards; top chip buyers.

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Fab tools
The United States is mulling over new trade export restrictions for U.S. fab equipment to China, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.

“Recent press reports suggest the U.S. Department of Commerce is exploring additional measures to limit Huawei’s access to U.S. semiconductor capital equipment (SPE) by requiring chip manufacturing plants globally to procure licenses,” said Krish Sankar, an analyst at Cowen, in a research note. “If true, this would introduce a new and increasingly strict period of trade restrictions that appears to be an alternative path to outright export restrictions on SPE products to China. Such a restriction may require chip foundries such as TSMC, a major foundry services provider, to obtain a license to produce chips on behalf of Huawei. Another rule that the Department of Commerce is considering would restrict the ability of U.S. tech companies in supplying Huawei from overseas facilities.”

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CyberOptics has reported sales of $16.9 million for the fourth quarter of 2019 ended Dec. 31, down from $18.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2018 but up 36% sequentially from $12.4 million in the third quarter of 2019. Net income for the fourth quarter of 2019 was $168,000, or $0.02 per diluted share, compared to $1.2 million, or $0.16 per diluted share, in the year-earlier quarter.

Inpria, a developer of metal oxide photoresists for extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV), has secured $31 million in Series C funding. This financing was led by JSR. New investors included SK Hynix and TSMC Partners. Others also participated.

SEMI has announced the appointment of Timothy Brosnihan as executive director of the MEMS & Sensors Industry Group (MSIG), a SEMI Strategic Association Partner.

Chipmakers
Samsung’s new semiconductor fabrication line has moved into production in Hwaseong, South Korea. The facility, called V1, is Samsung’s first semiconductor production line dedicated for extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography. The facility produces chips at 7nm and below. V1 broke ground last year, and began test wafer production in the second half of 2019. Its first products will be delivered to customers in the first quarter.

Dialog Semiconductor has signed a definitive agreement to acquire all outstanding shares of Adesto.

Test
FormFactor has the introduced Altius, a vertical MEMS probe card that addresses the wafer test challenges for 2.5D/3D advanced packages. Altius supports low-force probing at a 45µm grid-array contact pitch, with a scalable roadmap for future IC package pitch reduction.

It enables wafer or die test of a variety of components in a heterogenous integrated system, from validating at-speed performance of high bandwidth memory (HBM), to ensuring the integrity of high-density interconnects, such as silicon interposers and embedded bridges.

“Advanced packaging and heterogenous integration raise the bar for wafer test; increasing both complexity and coverage. The contact pattern for wafer probe is generally two to four times denser than a monolithic die and higher quality test is required to ensure a bad chip does not ‘kill’ several otherwise good chips in the same advanced package,” said Mike Slessor, CEO of FormFactor. “The Altius probe card, with its scalable MEMS probe technology, helps accelerate our customers’ yield improvement on these new manufacturing processes while meeting their aggressive pitch reduction roadmaps.”

Market research
Apple reclaimed the No. 1 position among semiconductor chip buyers in 2019, representing 8.6% of the total worldwide market, according to Gartner. Samsung dropped to the second spot with 8% market share. Huawei retained the third position, according to Gartner. “The members of the top five did not change in 2019, but all of them decreased chip spending through 2019,” said Masatsune Yamaji, senior principal analyst at Gartner. “The major reason was the sharp memory price decline. Memory prices were extremely high and a serious burden for many OEMs in 2018, representing 45% of their total chip spending. However, the situation improved in 2019. The top five OEMs reduced their memory spending share to 36% in 2019 while improving the computing performance of their products with better processors and greater memory content.”

North America-based manufacturers of semiconductor equipment posted $2.34 billion in billings worldwide in January 2020, according to SEMI. The billings figure is 5.9% lower than the final December 2019 level of $2.49 billion, and is 22.9% higher than the January 2019 billings level of $1.90 billion. “January data marked a solid start to 2020 with strong year-over-year billings growth for North America-based semiconductor equipment manufacturers,” said Ajit Manocha, SEMI president and CEO. “We expect the equipment market to recover from the soft 2019 though growth prospects may need to be tempered with the potential industry impacts of the coronavirus outbreak.”

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