The Week In Review: Oct. 4

ESilicon intros MPW system; more Applied-TEL; Synopsys boosts virtual prototyping; ultrapure water; wafer madness; FD-SOI award; foundry CapEx.

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By Mark LaPedus & Ed Sperling
eSilicon introduced an automated multi-project wafer quote system, which allows companies to sort through a number of options and get pricing. The quotes are tied into TSMC’s 20nm to 350nm processes, and GlobalFoundries’ 20nm to 180nm processes. The approach eliminates the need for companies to buy a full wafer if their volume requirements don’t warrant it—something that will become even more critical as the industry begins shifting to 450mm wafers over the next few years. Multi-project wafers reduce prototyping costs by up to 90% compared with full production masks, according to eSilicon.

Synopsys rolled out the latest release of its virtual prototyping technology to accelerate the development and debug of embedded software. New in this version are TLM subsystem encapsulation and more granularity, which allows engineers to disable components in the design during debugging process.

Commenting on Applied Materials’ recent and proposed move to buy Tokyo Electron Ltd. (TEL), Weston Twigg, an analyst with Pacific Crest Securities, said: “This could be good for Lam in the near term, as etch and CVD pricing should stabilize somewhat. Customers may also attempt to move more business toward Lam in an effort to diversify away from Applied Materials; this could be evident at Intel, which is a heavy user of Tokyo Electron’s etch equipment and recently awarded Lam some etch business. However, over the longer term, we expect very competitive new products to roll out of Applied, which could pressure Lam in the future.”

Denny McGuirk, president and CEO of SEMI, made this observation about Applied Materials’ proposed move to buy TEL: “Another important trend the merger underscores is the continued maturation and consolidation of the industry: there are fewer large suppliers serving increasingly fewer leading-edge chip companies.”

SEMI has set up a new standards task force to develop an ultrapure water standard. The goal is to mitigate the risk of contamination from ion exchange resins used in IC manufacturing.

SEMI recently completed its annual silicon shipment forecast for the semiconductor industry. “Economic uncertainty continues to hamper silicon demand,” SEMI’s McGuirk said. “We expect 2013 silicon shipment volumes to remain essentially flat when compared to 2012 and increase in 2014 and 2015.”

STMicroelectronics has won a prestigious BearingPoint Innovation Management Award for its FD-SOI technology in the “Innovation Ecosystem” category.

Cascade Microtech, a supplier of probe cards, has acquired ATT Advanced Temperature Test Systems. ATT makes thermal systems used in the testing of semiconductor wafers.

Cirrus Logic has acquired Acoustic Technologies. The firm develops embedded firmware voice processing technology.

Chinese RF chipmaker RDA Microelectronics has received an unsolicited letter from Shanghai Pudong Science and Technology Investment under which Shanghai Pudong proposes to acquire RDA.

The total capital outlays by the “Big 4” pure-play foundries are forecast to be $16.6 billion in 2013, which would represent 53% of their combined sales, according to IC Insights. This far exceeds the industry average of 18% capital-spending-to-sales ratio.