Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

Lower fab tool spending; iPhone shortfalls; 12nm MRAM.


Market research
The coronavirus is having a major impact on the semiconductor, smartphone and related markets.

For example, global fab equipment spending promises to rebound from its 2019 downturn and see a modest recovery this year, according to a report from SEMI. But the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has eroded fab equipment spending in China and elsewhere in 2020, according to the report.

“The report shows a slow recovery in 2020 – 3% year-over-year (YoY) growth to $57.8 billion – owing in large part to an 18% expected slump in the first half of 2020 from the second half of 2019,” according to SEMI. “The picture should brighten in the second half of this year as a recovery starts to take hold.”

The coronavirus is also impacting the memory market. Supply remains limited amid the outbreak. “Memory producers have actively limited new supply by constraining capex, freezing capacity plans, and lowering wafer starts. Demand has improved among datacenter customers, supporting positive DRAM and NAND price trends in 1Q despite seasonal softness and emerging consumer risk. Our updated memory supply model projects 16% DRAM bit growth in 2020 (vs. our prior estimate of 15%) and 29% NAND bit growth (vs. our prior estimate of 30%),” said Weston Twigg, an analyst at KeyBanc, in a report.

Meanwhile, trying to find an Apple iPhones is easier said than done. “Our latest carrier survey indicated that iPhone shipments to carrier stores have been materially disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak in China,” said John Vinh, an analyst at KeyBanc, in a research note. “Key investment point stores were constantly running low/out of iPhones due to limited supply. Our latest round of carrier checks indicated extremely limited iPhone shipment to carriers amid the supply chain disruption in China.

“Many stores have been running out of iPhones for one to two weeks without any idea of when they will receive additional shipments. The shortage is especially severe for Pro/Max models where almost all stores have either run out or had extremely limited inventory on hand, while most stores had limited supply of the iPhone 11 available,” Vinh said. “Overall, shipments to stores were either halted for a while or became less frequent and came in smaller quantity. In light of the shortage, many stores have recommended customers order online, but certain Pro/Max SKUs have seen order lead time extended to late March, while others remained normal at ~two days.”

Meanwhile, IDC expects to see a slowdown in spending on hardware during the first half of 2020 with software and services spending also affected as the crisis reverberates through all sectors of the economy, including supply chains, trade, and business planning.

Fab tools and test
FormFactor has added new silicon photonics capabilities on its CM300xi probing system.

The probe station is an integrated silicon photonics wafer and die-level probing solution. The new features extend the probing system’s capability to couple fibers to the edge of photonic devices, both on singulated die and on wafers, enabling test engineers to measure device performance consistent with native operating conditions.

In addition, FormFactor’s new machine vision techniques and in-situ calibration, and integration of Keysight’s Test Automation Platform (TAP) software, help customers accelerate products to market.


CyberOptics has launched a memory module inspection system. The 3D MX3000 Final Vision Inspection (FVI) system makes use of its Multi-Reflection Suppression (MRS) technology.

With two MRS sensors, the 3D MX3000 enables dual-sided final vision inspection. MRS technology identifies and rejects multiple reflections caused by shiny and reflective surfaces.

“Our MRS sensor technology is widely used in SMT, semiconductor and other challenging applications for inspection and metrology,” said Subodh Kulkarni, president and CEO of CyberOptics. “We have now integrated the 3D technology into our memory module inspection systems to deliver a combination of high resolution, high accuracy and high speed. Ultimately, we’re enabling yield and productivity improvements for our customers.”

Everspin and GlobalFoundries have extended their STT-MRAM manufacturing deal. Everspin and GF have been partners on 40nm, 28nm, and 22nm STT-MRAM processes. Now, they have updated their agreement and will develop an advanced 12nm finFET MRAM solution.

SkyWater Technology, a foundry vendor, announced that Mark Litecky has been appointed as its Chief Revenue Officer (CRO). In this newly created role, Litecky will be responsible for growing and expanding the revenue strategies. In addition, SkyWater and Applied Novel Devices have entered into a licensing and manufacturing agreement to offer an improved standard process flow for silicon power MOSFETs.

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