Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

GF halts 7nm; reaction to GF news; world’s first 7nm SoC.


GlobalFoundries said that it is putting its 7nm finFET program on hold indefinitely and has dropped plans to pursue technology nodes beyond 7nm.

To be sure, it was a tough decision by GF to put 7nm on hold. But generally, analysts believe that GF made the right decision. “There’s only a handful of semiconductor companies that will require high-volume 7nm technology right when the process is rolled out,” said Joanne Itow, managing director at Semico Research. “GlobalFoundries has been successful with some of its carefully tuned manufacturing offerings. It’s always smart to focus on strengths and differentiate your product. They’ll probably get a much better return on their investment over the next few years by not chasing after the bleeding edge. There will still be plenty of opportunity to offer 7nm after materials, equipment and processes have been fine tuned.”

Others agreed. “GF made a very rational decision. The cost of having an alternate source for a design at 7nm is $200 million to $300 million and payback is low unless there is some type of disaster,” said Handel Jones, chief executive of International Business Strategies (IBS). “(For GF), there is the ability to have good financial returns from having access to specialty wafer processes such as 22FDX and 12FDX.”

Len Jelinek, an analyst at IHS, added: “This now affords GF to focus on RF-SOI for RF front-ends and I believe they can actually increase their presence in this area and impact their company revenue. GF also intends to focus on derivatives for 14nm and 12nm technology so it should be said they are not exiting all advanced technology.”

For equipment makers, it’s a different story. It represents one less bleeding-edge equipment buyer. One equipment vendor said: “This will have a big impact. (GF’s) spending will drop substantially. This is also bad news for the U.S. since TSMC will become even stronger.”


In his IFA 2018 keynote, titled “The Ultimate Power of Mobile AI,” Huawei Consumer Business Group CEO Richard Yu introduced the Kirin 980, a 7nm, system-on-a-chip (SoC) for use in the company’s future smartphones. As the world’s first commercial SoC manufactured with TSMC’s 7nm process, Kirin 980 will feature a “Dual NPU AI” processing capability.

Micron Technology will invest $3 billion to increase its memory production at its fab in Virginia. The initial clean room expansion is expected to be completed in the fall of 2019 with production ramp in the first half of 2020. This expansion will add less than 5% to Micron’s global clean room space footprint and will primarily support enablement of DRAM and NAND technology transitions.

Renesas is considering buying Integrated Device Technology (IDT), according to various reports. Renesas declined to comment.

Lattice Semiconductor has named Jim Anderson as its new president and chief executive, and as well as a board member, effective Sept. 4. Anderson joins Lattice from Advanced Micro Devices, where he served as the general manager and senior vice president of the Computing and Graphics Business Group.

Packaging and test
KLA-Tencor has rolled out two new defect inspection products designed for IC packages. The Kronos 1080 is a high-sensitivity wafer inspection system for advanced packaging. The ICOS F160 system examines packages after wafers have been diced. It looks for several defect types, including sidewall cracks, a new defect type affecting the yield of high-end packages.

Cohu and Xcerra have announced that their respective shareholders have voted to approve proposals related to Cohu’s plan to acquire Xcerra. The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2018, subject to the satisfaction or waiver of customary closing conditions.

Fab tools
PDF Solutions announced that Michael B. Gustafson has joined the board effective Aug. 27. Gustafson is currently executive chairman and independent board director at Druva.

Brooks Automation has entered into a definitive agreement to sell its semiconductor cryogenics business to Edwards Vacuum, a member of the Atlas Copco Group, for $675 million in cash. The semiconductor cryogenics business provides a wide range of high performance cryogenic products for the semiconductor, display, and general vacuum industries.

Market research
North America-based manufacturers of semiconductor equipment posted $2.36 billion in billings worldwide in July of 2018, according to SEMI. The billings figure is 4.9% lower than the final June 2018 level of $2.48 billion, and is 4.1% higher than the July 2017 billings level of $2.27 billion. “Global billings declined for the second month in a row, indicative of customer push-outs,” said Ajit Manocha, president and CEO of SEMI. “We expect the industry to weather this soft patch and end the year overall with strong growth.”

IC Insights forecasts total semiconductor capital expenditures will rise to $102 billion this year. This represents a 9% increase over $93.3 billion spent in 2017, which was a 38% surge over 2016. “Collectively, memory is forecast to account for 53% of semiconductor capital expenditures this year,” according to the firm.

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