Saturday, July 19, 2014

SEMI materials outlook: Semicon West 2014

At Semicon West 2014, Daniel P. Tracy, senior director, Industry Research and Statistics, SEMI, presented on SEMI Materials Outlook. He estimated that semiconductor materials will see unit growth of 6 percent or more. There may be low revenue growth in a large number of segments due to the pricing pressures and change in material.

For semiconductor eequipment, he estimated ~20 percent growth this year, following two years of spending decline. It is currently estimated at ~11 percent spending growth in 2015.

Overall, the year to date estimate is positive growth vs. same period 2013, for units and materials shipments, and for equipment billings.

For equipment outlook, it is pointing to ~18 percent growth in equipment for 2014. Total equipment orders are up ~17 percent year-to-date.

For wafer fab materials outlook, the silicon area monthly shipments are at an all-time high for the moment. Lithography process chemicals saw -7 percent sales decline in 2013. The 2014 outlook is downward pressure on ASPs for some chemicals. 193nm resists are approaching $600 million. ARC has been growing 5-7 percent, respectively.

For packaging materials, the Flip Chip growth drivers are a flip chip growth of ~25 percent from 2012 to 2017 in units. There are trends toward copper pillar and micro bumps for TSV. Future flip chip growth in wireless products are driven by form factor and performance. BB and AP processors are also moving to flip chip.

There has been growth in WLP shipments. Major applications for WLP are driven by mobile products such as smartphones and tablets. It should grow at a CAGR of ~11 percent in units (2012-2017).

Solder balls were $280 million market in 2013. Shipments of lead-free solder balls continues to increase. Underfillls were $208 million in 2013. It includes underfills for flip chip and packages. The increased use of underfills for CSPs and WLPs are likely to pass the drop test in high-end mobile devices.

Wafer-level dielectrics were $94 million market in 2013. Materials and structures are likely to enhance board-level reliability performance.

Die-attach materials has over a dozen suppliers. Hitachi Chemical and Henkel account for major share of total die attach market. New players are continuing to emerge in China and Korea. Stacked-die CSP package applications have been increasing. Industry acceptance of film (flow)-over-wire (FOW) and dicing die attach film (DDF) technologies are also happening.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Semicon West 2014: SEMI World Fab forecast report

Christian Gregor Dieseldorff, senior analyst, Industry Research & Statistics  Group at SEMI, presented the SEMI World Fab Forecast at the recently held Semicon West 2014, as part of the SEMI/Gartner Market Symposium on July 7.

Scenarios of fab equipment spending over time has been  20-25 percent in 2014, and 10-15 percent in 2015. At this time, worldwide fab equipment spending is about same in 1H14 vs 2H14. As for fab construction projects, 2013 was a record year with over $9 billion.

New fabs: construction spending (front end cleanrooms only!)
2013: record year with over $9 billion.
2014: -22 percent to -27 percent (~$6.6 billion)
2015: -22 percent to -30 percent (~$5 billion +/-).

Fab equipment spending front end (new and used)
2014: 20 percent to 25 percent (~$35 billion to $36 billion) – if $35 billion, then third largest on record.
2015: 10 percent to 15 percent (~$40 billion) – if $40 billion, then largest in record.

Installed capacity for front end fabs (without discretes)
2014: 2 to 3 percent
2015: 3 to 4 percent
Future outlook beyond 2015: less than 4 percent.

SEMI World Fab Forecast report status and activity outlined that there were 1,148 front end facilities (R&D to HVM) active and future. Also,
* There are 507 companies (R&D to HVM).
* Including 249 LEDs and Opto facilities active and future.
* There are 60 future facilities starting HVM in 2014 or later.
* Major investments (construction projects and/or equipping): 202 facilities in 2014, 189 facilities in 2015.

A slow down of fab closures is expected from 2015 to 2018 for 200mm fabs and 150mm fabs.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Semiconductor capital spending outlook 2013-18: Gartner

At Semicon West 2014, Bob Johnson, VP Research, Gartner, presented the Semiconductor Capital Spending Outlook at the SEMI/Gartner Market Symposium on July 7.

First, a look at the semiconductor revenue forecast: it is likely to grow at a 4.3 percent CAGR from 2013-2018. Logic continues to dominate, but growth falters. As per the 2013-2018 CAGRs, logic will be growing 3.5 percent, memory at 4.5 percent, and other at 6.3 percent.

As for the memory forecast, NAND should surpass DRAM. At 2013-2018 CAGRs, DRAM should grow -1.1 percent, while NAND should grow 10.8 percent. Smartphone, SSD and Ultramobile are the applications driving growth through 2018. SSDs are powering the NAND market.

Among ultramobiles, tablets should dominate through 2018. They should also take share from PCs. Next, smartphones have been dominating mobile phones.

Looking at the critical markets for capital investment, smartphones are the largest growth segment, but have been showing signs of saturation. The revenue growth could slow dramatically by 2018. Ultramobiles have the highest overall CAGR, but at the expense of PC market. Tablets are driving down semiconductor content. Desktop and notebook PCs are a large, but declining market. This also requires critical revenue to fund logic capex. Lastly, SSDs are driving NAND Flash growth. The move to data centers is driving sustainable growth.

In capital spending, memory is strong, but logic is weak through 2018. The 2014 spending is up 7.1 percent, driven by strong memory market. Strength in NAND spending will drive future growth. Note that memory oversupply in 2016 can create next cycle. NAND is the capex growth driver in memory spending.

The major semiconductor markets, which justify investment in logic leading edge capacity, are now running out of gas. Ultramobiles are cannibalizing PCs, smartphones are saturating and both are moving to lower cost alternatives. It is increasingly difficult to manufacture complex SoCs successfully at the absolute leading edge. Moore’s Law is slowing down, while costs are going up.

Breakthrough technologies (i.e., EUV) are not ready when needed. Much of the intelligence of future applications is moving to the cloud. The data centers' needs for fast, low power storage solutions are creating sustainable growth for NAND Flash.

The traditional two-year per node pace of Moore’s Law will continue to slow down. Only a few high volume/high performance applications will be able to justify the costs of 20nm and beyond. Whether this will require new or upgraded capacity is uncertain. 28nm will be a long lived node as mid-range mobility products demand higher levels of performance. Finally, the cloud will continue to grow in size and influence creating demand for new NAND Flash capacity and technology.

How Intel competes on today’s fabless ecosystem?

The SEMI/Gartner Market Symposium was held Semicon West 2014 at San Francisco, on July 7. Am grateful to Ms. Becky Tonnesen, Gartner, and Ms Agnes Cobar, SEMI, for providing me the presentations. Thanks are also due to Ms Deborah Geiger, SEMI.

Dean Freeman, research VP, Gartner, outlined the speakers:

• Sunit Rikhi, VP, Technology and Manufacturing Group, GM, Intel Custom Foundry Intel, presented on Competing in today’s Fabless Ecosystem.

• Bob Johnson, VP Research, Gartner, presented the Semiconductor Capital Spending Outlook.

• Christian Gregor Dieseldorff, director Market Research, SEMI, presented the SEMI World Fab Forecast: Analysis and Forecast for Fab Spending, Capacity and Technology.

• Sam Wang, VP Research Analyst, Gartner, presented on How Foundries will Compete in a 3D World.

• Jim Walker, VP Research, Gartner, presented on Foundry versus SATS: The Battle for 3D and Wafer Level Supremacy.

• Dr. Dan Tracy, senior director, Industry Research & Statistics, SEMI, presented on Semiconductor Materials Market Outlook.

Let's start with Sunit Rikhi at Intel.

As a new player in the fabless eco-system, Intel focuses on:
* The value it brings to the table.
* How it delivers on platforms of capability and services.
* How it leverage the advantages of being inside the world’s leading Integrated Device Manufacturer (IDM)
* How it face the challenges of being inside the world’s leading IDM.

Intel has leadership in silicon technologies. Transistor performance per watt is the critical enabler for all. Density improvements offset wafer cost trends. Intel currently has ~3.5-year lead in introducing revolutionary transistor technologies.

In foundry capabilities and services platforms, Intel brings differentiated value on industry standard platforms. 22nm was started in 2011, while 14nm was started in 2013. 10nm will be starting in 2015. To date, 125 prototype designs have been processed.

Intel offers broad capability and services on industry standard platforms. It also has fuller array of co-optimized end-to-end services. As for the packaging technology, Intel has been building better products through
multi-component integration. Intel has also been starting high on the yield learning curve.

Regarding IDM challenges, such as high-mix-low-volume configuration, Intel has been doing configuration optimization in tooling and set-up. It has also been separating priority and planning process for customers. Intel has been providing an effective response for every challenge.

Some of Intel Custom Foundry announced customers include Achronix, Altera, Microsemi, Netronome, Panasonic and Tabula.

Monday, June 30, 2014

What's the future of MEMS?

What does the future hold for MEMS? How can the MEMS indistry stay profitable and innovative in the next five years? The MEMS market is still in a dynamic growth with an estimated 12.3 percent CAGR over 2013-2019 in $US value, growing from $11.7 billion in 2013 to $24 billion in 2019.

This growth, principally driven by a huge expansion of consumer products, is mitigated by two main factors. First, due to a fierce competition based on pricing, the average selling prices (ASPs) are continuously decreasing.

Second, innovation is slow and incremental, as no new devices have been successfully introduced on the market since 2003.  Fierce competition based on pricing in now ongoing putting thus extreme pressure on device manufacturers.
Some trends are still impacting MEMS business. These are:

* Decrease of price in consumer electronics; ASP of MEMS microphones.
* Component size is still decreasing.

However, successful companies are still large leaders in distinct MEMS categories, such as STMicroelectronics, Knowles, etc. But maintaining growth in consumer electronic applications remains a challenge.

The market for motion sensor in cell phones and tablets is large and continuously expanding. Discrete sensors still decline, but will still be used in some platforms (OIS function for gyros). Next, 6- and 9-axis combos should grow rapidly. Because of strong price pressure and high adoption rate, the total market will stabilize from 2015.

STMicroelectronics, InvenSense and Bosch are still leaders in 3-axis gyros and 6-axis IMUs. It seems difficult for new players to compete and be profitable in this market. The automotive, industrial and medical applications of MEMS are also drivingthe growthof the MEMS business. MEMS for automotive will grow from $2.6 billion in 2012 to $3.6 billion in 2018 with 5 percent CAGR.

MEMS industry is big and growing. Strong market pull observed for sensors and actuators in cell phones, automotive, medical, industrial.

• Not limited to few devices. A new wave of MEMS is coming!

• Component and die size are still being optimized while combo approaches become mainstream. And several disruptive technology approaches are now in development to keep going in term of size and price decrease.

• But the MEMS industry has not solved a critical issue: how to increase the chance of new devices to enter the market?

–RF switch, autofocus, energy harvesting devices, fuel cells… are example of devices still under development after more than 10 years of effort.
–How to help companies to go faster and safer on the market with new devices?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Is GaN-on-Si disruptive technology?

The masse adoption of GaN on Si technology for LED applications remains uncertain. Opinions regarding the chance of success for LED-On-Si vary widely in the LED industry from unconditional enthusiasm to unjustified skepticism. Although significant improvements have been achieved, there are still some technology hurdles (such as performance, yields, CMOS compatibility, etc.).

The differential in substrate cost itself is not enough to justify the transition to GaN on Si technology. The main driver lies in the ability to manufacture in existing, depreciated CMOS fabs in 6” or 8”. For Yole Développement, if the technology hurdles are cleared, GaN-on-Si LEDs will be adopted by some LED manufacturers, but will not become the industry standard.

Yole is more optimistic about the adoption of GaN on Si technology for power GaN devices. Contrary to LED industry, where GaN on Sapphire technology is the main stream and presents a challenging target, GaN on Si will dominate the GaN based power electronics applications. Although the GaN based devices remain more expensive than Si based devices, the overall cost of GaN device for some applications are expected to be lower three years from now according to some manufacturers.
In 2020, GaN could reach more than 7 percent of the overall power device market and GaN on Si will capture more than 1.5 percent of the overall power substrate volume, representing more than 50 percent of the overall GaN on Si wafer volume, subjecting to the hypothesis that the 600 V devices would take off in 2014-2015.

GaN targets a $15 billion served available device market. GaN can power 4 families of devices and related applications. These are blue and green laser diodes, LEDs, power electronics and RF.

Regarding GaN-on-Si LED, there will be no more than 5 percent penetration by 2020. As for GaN-on-GaN, it will be less than 2 percent. Yole considers that the leading proponents of LED-On-Si will successful and eventually adopt Si for all their manufacturing. Those include Bridgelux/Toshiba, Lattice Power, TSMC and Samsung. It expects that Silicon will capture 4.4 percent of LED manufacturing by 2020.

GaN wafer could break through the $2000 per 4” wafer barrier by 2017 or 2018, enabling limited adoption in applications that require high lumen output other small surfaces.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Plunify’s InTime helps FPGA design engineers meet timing and area goals!

Engineers designing FPGA applications face many challenges. Starting from setting up the environment, to handling multiple tools, tackling design problems and analyzing results.

Using Plunify's automation and analysis platform, engineers can run 100 times more builds, analyze a larger set of builds and quickly zoom in on better quality results. Using data analytics and the cloud, Plunify created new capabilities for FPGA design, with InTime being an example.

Kirvy Teo said: What happens when you need to close timing in FPGA design and still can't get it to work? Here is a new way to solve that problem - machine learning and analytics. InTime is an expert software that helps FPGA design engineers meet timing and area goals by recommending "strategies".

Strategies are combination of settings found in the existing FPGA software. With more than 70 settings available in the FPGA software, no sane FPGA design engineer have the time or capacity to understand how these affect the design outcomes.

One of the common methods now is to try random bruteforce using seeds. This is a one-way street. If you get to your desired result, great! If not, you would have wasted a bunch of time running builds with you none the wiser. Another aspect of running seeds is that the variance of the results is usually not very big, meaning you can't run seeds on a design with bad timing scores.

However, using InTime, all builds become part of the data that we used to recommend strategies that can give you better results, using machine learning and predictive analytics. This means you will definitely get a better answer at the end of the day, and we have seen 40 percent performance improvements on designs!

How has Plunify been doing this year so far? Plunify did a controlled release to selected customers in first quarter of 2014, who are mainly based in China. It is easier to guess who as we nicknamed them "BCC" - Big Chinese Corporations.

Unsurprisingly, they have different methodologies to solving timing problems and design guidelines, many of which were done to pre-empt timing problems at the later stage of the design. InTime was a great way to help them to achieve their performance targets without disrupting their tool flows.

Plunify is announcing the launch of InTime during DAC and will be looking to partner with sale organizations in US.

What's the future path likely to be? Teo added: "Machine learning and predictive analytics are one of the hottest topics and we have yet seen it being used much in chip design. We see a lot of potential in this sector. Beyond what InTime is doing now, there are still many chip design problems that can be solved with similar techniques.

"First, there is a need to determine the type of problems that can be solved with these techniques. Second, we are re-looking at existing design problems and wondering, if I can throw 100 or 1000 machines to this problem, can I get a better result? Third, how to get that better result without even running it!

"As you know, we do offer a FPGA cloud platform on Amazon. One of the most surprising observations is that people do not know how to use all those cheap power in the cloud! FPGA design is still confined to a single machine for daily work, like email. Even if I give you 100 machines, you don't know how to check your emails faster! We see the same thing, the only method they know is to run seeds. InTime is what they need to make use of all these resources intelligently.

Why would FPGA providers take up the solution? The InTime software works as a desktop software which can be installed in internal data centers or desktops. It is on longer just a cloud play. It works with the current  in-house FPGA software that the customer already own. We are helping FPGA providers like Xilinx or Altera, by helping their customers with the designs. They will feel: How about "Getting better results without touching your RTL code!"