The Week In Review: Manufacturing & Design

Sapphire Apples; Applied-TEL thoughts; RF SOI ramps; 3D TSV new standards.

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GT Advanced Technologies has entered into a multi-year supply agreement with Apple for sapphire materials. GT will own and operate its furnaces and related equipment to produce the sapphire materials at an Apple-owned facility in Arizona. GT expects to employ more than 700 people in the facility. Apple will provide GT with a prepayment of about $578 million. “We believe Apple likely has significant plans for sapphire, which could include large cover glass applications for iPhones and tablets,” said Jagadish Iyer, an analyst with Piper Jaffray. Sapphire is supposedly stronger and more durable than current glass products.

Applied Materials recently signed a definitive agreement to acquire Tokyo Electron Ltd. (TEL). Analysts continue to weigh in on the deal. “We think the technology trends favor Applied Materials, and we think the deal will help Applied Materials gain share in expanding markets. In particular, we expect the combined company to offer a la carte etch, clean, and deposition chamber capabilities on common platforms. We believe there is strong customer pull for this type of platform,” said Weston Twigg, an analyst with Pacific Crest Securities, in a research note.

Dean Freeman, an analyst with Gartner, added: “From my perspective what will make this deal is how well they can integrate the companies, and how well they can integrate the products. It’s early enough in the 450mm development that this could pay some nice dividends in the future. I think one of the keys to the successful integration is how many TEL managers come to the U.S. and how many AMAT managers head to Japan.”

Skyworks has a growing portfolio of RF SOI chips. Kevin Walsh, Skyworks’ marketing director of analog solutions, talks about the company’s RF SOI strategy with Advanced Substrate News.

TowerJazz is ramping up its RF SOI foundry capacity. The company also declined to comment that it would buy a fab from Panasonic.

Regarding Panasonic, the Japanese company plans to cut its semiconductor workforce by half and will sell some chip-making plants amid ongoing losses, according to Reuters.

Since its formation in 2010, the SEMI 3DS-IC Standards Committee has made progress in establishing key standards in areas such as TSV metrology, glass carrier wafers and terminology. Now, the committee has devised two new standards. The first standard, SEMI 3D6-0913, defines the specifications for middle-end-of-line (MEOL) process related manufacturing flow. In addition, SEMI 3D7-0913 defines alignment mark specifications for 3DS-IC processing.

M/A-COM Technology Solutions Holdings, a supplier of RF, microwave, and millimeter wave products, has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Mindspeed Technologies.

Imec has demonstrated the first III-V compound semiconductor finFET devices integrated epitaxially on 300mm silicon wafers, through a novel silicon fin replacement process.

There are numerous changes expected within the top-20 semiconductor ranking in 2013 as compared to the top 20 ranking of 2012, according to IC Insights. Some of the companies forecast to rise in the ranking include SK Hynix, Broadcom and MediaTek. In contrast, Fujitsu and Renesas are moving in the other direction.

Smartglasses, such as Google Glass, are causing CIOs to take a fresh look at the impact wearable electronics will have on the enterprise. Gartner said that the use of smartglasses has the potential to improve worker efficiency in vertical markets.