Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

Sobering forecasts; China’s 128-layer 3D NAND; U.S. rare earths.


Market research
The coronavirus pandemic continues to reduce the outlook for worldwide GDP as well as the electronics and IC markets.

For example, IC Insights has lowered its IC forecast from 3% to minus 4% in 2020. The IC market is now expected to hit $345.8 billion in 2020, which is $39.0 billion less than the original forecast, which called for an 8% increase this year.

Due to the impact of the coronavirus on semiconductor supply and demand, worldwide semiconductor revenue is forecast to decline 0.9% in 2020, according to a new report from Gartner. This is down from the previous quarter’s forecast of 12.5% growth. “The wide spread of COVID-19 across the world and the resulting strong actions by governments to contain the spread will have a far more severe impact on demand than initially predicted,” said Richard Gordon, research practice vice president at Gartner. “This year’s forecast could have been worse, but growth in memory could prevent a steep decline.”

VLSI Research also has a sobering forecast. Click here and look for page 3.

Covid-19 will also disrupt the automotive, consumer electronics and IT infrastructure businesses worldwide in 2020, according to Strategy Analytics. Real GDP is predicted to fall, according to the firm, who also sees a recovery in 2021. “The entire supply chain for digital products in our homes, our cars, and associated with our mobile lifestyles will experience significant damage during this downturn that is likely to be felt globally over the next three to four quarters,” said Harvey Cohen, president of Strategy Analytics.

“Globally, automotive sales and the consequent demand for automotive electronics are in free fall since March, with a potential decline of up to 25% for 2020 compared with 2019,” said Ian Riches, vice president of Strategy Analytics.

David Kerr, an analyst with the firm, added: “Global smartphone sales will tumble 23% in 2020 before seeing a modest recovery in 2021. The impact on 5G will be significant with services delayed in Europe and consumer appetite for expensive new 5G devices being much less healthy in North America and China. China’s supply chain has recovered but consumer willingness to follow through on their plans to migrate to 5G devices and services is uncertain at best. One relative bright spot is network services. Shelter-in-home orders are increasing the demand for broadband activity, although this will have little impact on operator revenues in the short term.”

China’s Yangtze Memory Technologies Co. (YMTC) has been trying to ramp up a 64-layer 3D NAND device. It planned to skip the 96-layer generation. Now, the company has announced that its 128-layer 1.33Tb QLC 3D NAND flash memory chip, X2-6070, has passed sample verification on an SSD platform.

Chipmakers are expected to see fewer disruptions in their factories amid a strict lockdown in Singapore, according to a report from Reuters.

Samsung recently announced that it would end all of its LCD production by the end of 2020, according to DSCC. “The leader in LCDs just 10 years ago is exiting the LCD market,” according to the research firm. “In the case of its Korean LCD fabs, they will be shut down and converted to QD-OLED, mobile OLED, left idle or re-purposed. In the case of its China LCD fab, it did not say, but it is expected to be sold.”

Test and fab tools
Sales of semiconductor probe cards grew a solid 6.8% in 2019, according to VLSI Research. “The main driver for growth was the continued adoption of MEMS probe card technology for non-memory applications,” according to the firm.

FormFactor was again ranked as the world’s number one supplier of semiconductor probe cards, according to VLSI Research. FormFactor has held the top position for seven consecutive years. FormFactor’s market share grew to 32%, nearly twice that of its nearest competitor.

Lam Research is committing $25 million for global COVID-19 relief and recovery efforts. The funds will be for short-term community assistance, including supplies to hospitals, longer-term recovery for communities, and relief funds to employees. Additionally, the company has instituted a 2-for-1 matching gift campaign for employee monetary donations to eligible COVID-19 relief programs.

Texas Mineral Resources has purchased the neodymium iron boron (NdFeB) permanent magnet manufacturing equipment formerly owned and operated in North Carolina by Hitachi Metals America. The equipment should provide most of what is needed to re-establish rare earth magnet production in the U.S. With the addition of some readily available components, the firm can produce at least 2,000 tons annually of rare earth magnets.

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