The Week In Review: Manufacturing

Fab accident; IC counterfeit seizure; AI flops; K&S litho move.

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Chipmakers
Inotera, known as Micron Technology Taiwan, suspended its operations after an accident occurred at its Fab 2 facility in Taoyuan City on July 1, according to TrendForce. Inotera is responsible for manufacturing Micron’s LPDDR4 products that go into Apple’s supply chain for the iPhone, according to the market research firm.

The problem involved a malfunction in the fab. “The malfunctioning of the nitrogen gas dispensing system led to the contamination of wafers and equipment in the facility,” according to the research firm. DRAMeXchange, a division of TrendForce, estimated that Inotera has suffered a production capacity loss of around 60,000 wafer starts per month, out of the supplier’s previous total of 125,000 wafer starts per month. “This conservative estimate also amounts to a 5.5% cut in the global DRAM production capacity for this July. The temporary shutdown of Fab 2 is expected to aggravate the current undersupply situation in the DRAM market and cause further price increases for memory products,” according to the firm.

In an e-mail, a spokesman for Micron said: “Micron confirms that there was a minor facility-related event at its Taoyuan, Taiwan site on July 1. Operations are recovering speedily, and we expect no material impact to the business. The incident had no effect on the local environment and there were no safety issues for our team members. Micron will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates to our customers and suppliers as needed.”

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The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) and others seized more than one million counterfeit devices imported into the European Union (EU) from China and Hong Kong by post/express courier.

The counterfeit devices included diodes, LEDs, transistors and integrated circuits. The operation was coordinated by Dutch customs and carried out in cooperation with the OLAF and customs authorities from twelve EU member states in 2016.

“As the semiconductors in question were not produced by the genuine manufacturers, their incorporation into electronic products could have led to the failure of computer systems and caused serious malfunctions of sensitive infrastructures, whether civilian or military,” according to the OLAF. “As some of the counterfeit semiconductors seized could have been destined for the transport sector and ended up in cars or airplanes or could have made their way into hospitals as part of surgical instruments, their use could have endangered human lives. Moreover, the smuggling of counterfeit products causes serious financial damages to the European industry.”

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Samsung Electronics announced that its new wafer fab line in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, has begun mass production. The new facility will focus on the production of Samsung’s fourth-generation V-NAND, a 3D NAND technology with 64 layers. Samsung is looking to expand its fabs in other areas.

Samsung remains strong in hardware but not software or artificial intelligence (AI), according to an analyst. In March, Samsung launched the Galaxy s8 with a personal assistant called Bixby. Bixby was aimed to make the device fun, easy and intuitive. “Unfortunately, the promised complete, contextually aware assistant with best in class natural language recognition has turned out to be a vaguely relevant page of content that only speaks Korean,” said Richard Windsor, an analyst at Edison Investment Research, in a e-mail. “The English-speaking version of Bixby was first promised at the end of May, was then pushed to June and now seems to be on hold indefinitely. The problem now is that Samsung is unable to get hold of enough data in English in order to train Bixby well enough to offer a decent voice recognition experience. To me this makes no sense and speaks to discord and poor communication between the different parts of Samsung working in this area.”

Packaging and test
Kulicke & Soffa Industries has acquired a 100% equity stake in privately-held Liteq. Liteq has developed a dedicated step-and-repeat tool for advanced packaging.

In a blog, David Park, vice president of worldwide marketing at Optimal+, discusses how to enhance product quality in the Industrial IoT era.

EV Group has unveiled its next-generation laser debonding solution, which enables high-throughput, low-cost-of-ownership (CoO) room-temperature debonding for ultra-thin and stacked fan-out packages.

Market research
The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) said that worldwide sales of semiconductors reached $31.9 billion for the month of May 2017, an increase of 22.6% compared to the May 2016 total of $26 billion and 1.9% more than the April 2017 total of $31.4 billion. Year-to-year growth in May was the global market’s largest since September 2010.

Worldwide shipments of PCs, tablets and smartphones are expected to exceed 2.3 billion units in 2017, a decline of 0.3% from 2016, according to Gartner. The market is forecast to return to growth in 2018 with a 1.6% increase in shipments.