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Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test

KLA forms new unit; China’s EV market; U.S. rare earths.

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Fab tools and test
KLA has announced the formation of a new business group for its Electronics, Packaging and Components (EPC) businesses. The new EPC group includes the ICOS, Orbotech and the SPTS Technologies organizations. The group will be headed by Oreste Donzella, KLA’s executive vice president.

In 2018, KLA acquired Orbotech for $3.4 billion, a deal that included two organizations–Orbotech and SPTS. ICOS had been a separate group within KLA. Orbotech is involved in three markets—PCB equipment, flat-panel display gear and semiconductor equipment. SPTS sells equipment for packaging and other markets. KLA’s ICOS unit sells inspection systems for IC packaging.

The EPC group joins KLA’s existing business units, Semiconductor Process Control and Global Support and Services. “This new group integrates KLA’s acquisition of the Orbotech and SPTS business to bring complementary technologies, products and services into one organization to drive innovation and results in fast-growing markets,” said Rick Wallace, president and CEO of KLA.

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Citing deteriorating market conditions, Cognex, a supplier of machine vision systems, has reduced its global workforce of approximately 190 employees, or 8% of its headcount. In addition, Cognex CEO Rob Willett as well as Chairman Robert Shillman have decided to waive their salaries. The board has also waived its cash fees for the remainder of the year.

VLSI Research has listed the 2020 top probe card supplier rankings according to a customer satisfaction survey. Technoprobe, FormFactor, and Nidec topped the list.

How are semiconductor professionals dealing with Covid-19? With most of the world still in lockdown, yieldHUB found out how different people in the semiconductor industry are dealing with the coronavirus.

OEMs and chipmakers
The electric vehicle (EV) market is heating up again in China. Volkswagen is in final talks to close two investment deals in the electric vehicle space in China, according to Roskill, a research firm. “Despite the negative outlook for the auto industry amid the Covid-19 crisis, automakers will continue to implement their long-term electrification strategies in 2020. Volkswagen is, alongside Tesla and GM, one of the few automakers already preparing the ground for mass-scale EV manufacturing,” said Jose Lazuen of Roskill. Here’s one more article on the EV situation in both Europe and China.

IC Insights has released its rankings of the top analog suppliers in 2019 in terms of sales. With analog sales of $10.2 billion and a 19% market share, Texas Instruments remained the leading supplier of analog devices in 2019, according to the firm. Ranked in second place was Analog Devices (ADI), followed by Infineon and ST, according to the firm.

Materials
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) recently introduced the Onshoring Rare Earths Act of 2020, or the ORE Act legislation, to end U.S. dependence on China for rare earth elements and other critical minerals. These minerals are used to manufacture defense technologies and high-tech products. The goal is to enable a supply chain for these minerals in the U.S., including by requiring the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to source these minerals domestically.

In a separate move, U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) introduced a bill to reduce America’s dependence on foreign sources of critical minerals and bring the U.S. supply chain from China back to America. The American Critical Mineral Exploration and Innovation Act of 2020 would reduce American dependence on foreign minerals.

Will these efforts ever work? “China dominates the production of rare earths, accounting for 86% of total refined output in 2019, and 99% of the heavy rare earths of particular use in US defense applications and critical technologies,” writes Suzanne Shaw of Roskill. “While it would be strategically beneficial for the USA to develop its own domestic capabilities, rare earth supply chains are long and technically demanding.”

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North American Helium has closed a non-brokered common share equity financing of approximately $39 million. Proceeds from the financing will be used to purchase and construct the company’s second helium purification plant in Saskatchewan. Helium is required for semiconductor manufacturing, MRI machines and certain welding applications.

Market research
Here’s the latest from DRAMeXchange: “NAND flash bit shipment in 1Q20 was relatively on par with 4Q19. The overall ASP of NAND flash products also climbed during the period. As a result, the global NAND flash revenue for the quarter went up by 8.3% QoQ to US$13.6 billion.”

Micron raised its guidance for the quarter. “Strength was noted in both DRAM and NAND, led by work-from-home and e-commerce trends, though overall demand is still negatively impacted by the pandemic. MU’s supply has been better than it previously expected, and pricing has been strong,” said Weston Twigg, an analyst at KeyBanc, in a research note.

Job, Event and Webinar Boards
Find industry jobs and upcoming virtual conferences and webinars all in one place on Semiconductor Engineering. And check out the latest video on Cleaning Data For Final Test.

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