The Week In Review: Manufacturing

3D NAND dispute; AI FD-SOI; finding defects; DRAM, NOR shortages.


Toshiba and its fab partner, Western Digital, have jointly rolled out a 96-layer 3D NAND product amid a legal dispute. The companies have developed prototype samples of a 96-layer 3D NAND device. Samples of the new 96-layer product, which is a 256 gigabit (32 gigabytes) device, is scheduled for release in the second half of 2017 and mass production is targeted for 2018. Separately, Toshiba will invest approximately 180 billion yen in its Fab 6 facility in Japan. The production at Fab 6 is targeted for its 3D NAND technology.

As reported, Toshiba recently selected a group to buy its memory business. The consortium includes the Innovation Network Corp. of Japan, the Development Bank of Japan and Bain Capital. Rival SK Hynix is also part of the group. Meanwhile, Western Digital attempted but failed to buy the unit, and is now trying to block the deal. This week, Toshiba filed a petition with the Tokyo District Court against Western Digital, seeking a provisional disposition order for an injunction against acts of unfair competition. It also brought suit for a permanent injunction, damages and payment of 120 billion yen, alleging violation of the Unfair Competition Prevention Act.

Intel has delivered a 64-layer, 3D NAND-based solid state drive (SSD). “While others have been talking about it, we have delivered,” said Rob Crooke, senior vice president and general manager of the Non-Volatile Memory Solutions Group at Intel.

AImotive has announced that its AI-optimized hardware IP is available to global chip manufacturers for licensing. The technology, dubbed aiWare, is built from the ground up for running neural networks. VeriSilicon will be the first to integrate aiWare into a chip design. The aiWare-based test chips will be fabricated on GlobalFoundries’ 22nm FD-SOI process.

Fab tools
The ability to detect and identify defects is becoming increasingly difficult at each node. In a blog, Applied Materials described one way of finding killer defects.


Soitec reported its results for the year. “Regarding its capex plan, Soitec has made the decision to go ahead with the 40 million euros investment at Bernin II aimed at progressively increase FD-SOI production capacity from 100,000 to 400,000 FD-SOI wafers (300mm) per year whilst Bernin II full capacity will remain at 650,000 wafers per year. These capex will be spread between FY’18 and FY’19. The process has actually started and the first part of these capex has already been incurred,” according to Soitec.

“In order to address long-term demand for FD-SOI wafers, Soitec intends to reopen its 300mm facility in Singapore. Net cost related to the restarting of the plant would amount to approximately 20 million Euros, to be spread over a period of 24 months once the decision to reopen Singapore is made. The total contemplated investment would reach approximately 270 million US Dollars to bring the production capacity up to 850,000 wafers per year (300mm), including a qualification line worth 40 million US Dollars of which investment will be spent over a period of 24 months following the decision to reopen Singapore. Customer commitments would trigger the gradual roll out of the capex plan,” according to the company.

“The list of end products benefiting from FD-SOI technology is expanding from the first FD-SOI consumer products: Sony’s GPS embedded in Huami Amazfit Smartwatch and Casio Pro Trek Smartwatch, Mobileye’s EyeQ4 and DreamChip solution for automotive driver assistance, NXP’s i.MX series (7ULP, 8) for consumer applications (like Amazon Alexa) are main examples of FD-SOI adoptions,” it added.

Market research
Amid shortages of DRAMs in the market, DRAMeXchange estimates that the overall ASP of DRAM products will rise by about 5% in the third quarter compared with the second quarter. “Although the end demand, particularly from the smartphone market, has not been strong this year, the general pace of manufacturing technology migration has been slow and is contributing to the tightening of supply,” said Avril Wu, research director of DRAMeXchange. “This situation is anticipated to last to 2018 since suppliers will not take on significant additional production capacity in the short term. Meanwhile, ASPs of various DRAM products will remain high.”

NOR flash supply will also remain tight. DRAMeXchange estimates that prices of NOR flash will rise by about 20% sequentially in the third quarter due to supply scarcity. Wu noted that several major suppliers of NOR flash have plans to reduce production or gradually exit the market. “Cypress, for instance, is reducing the portion of NOR flash in its product mix as the company shifts its focus towards automotive and industrial IC markets,” said Wu. “Also, a memory maker has recently put up its 8-inch NOR flash wafer fab for sale.”

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