World News


Gartner cancels doom alarm for chip sales, returns to gloom

The semiconductor industry seems to have avoided a worst-case scenario of a record sales dropoff in 2009, according to recently updated analysis from Gartner, but the firm reiterates things are still looking pretty lousy and won’t improve much anytime soon.

Back in February the firm lowered its outlook for 2009 semiconductor revenues to about $194B, a -24% decrease from 2008—vs. an initial prediction in December of a -16% annual decline—and warned that a record -33% decline was very much in the cards if moderate declines continued through 2Q and 3Q. Research VP Bryan Lewis had suggested firms accelerate their outsourcing and partnering to mitigate expenses, and even outright trim R&D budgets.

Worldwide semiconductor revenues 2007-2008 and projected 2009. (Source: Gartner)
Click here to enlarge image

By the end of May, though, Gartner backed off its doom & gloom, and gently uplifted its outlook a few notches to a -22.4% decline in 2009 sales (to about $198B). Because PC shipments were better than expected in 1Q09, and chip sales were expected to swing up 4.9% in 2Q09, the firm has moved away from its worst-case scenario of a record down year in 2009.

The good news in PC sales is hollow, though, Lewis pointed out, because suppliers rebuilt inventories that they’ve hurriedly burned off since 4Q, not because of any real end-demand. “The semiconductor industry is clearly not out of the woods, as there is minimal evidence that demand is returning, except in China,” he wrote. “Consumer spending will remain somewhat depressed due to high unemployment, low housing pricing, and relatively low consumer confidence,” he added, and corporate spending is still below budgets which were already “modestly down” versus a year ago.


Aggressive adoption of semiconductor-enabled technologies could lower total US electricity demand by 1.2 trillion kWh by 2030, 22% below the DoE’s base case and 11% below current levels, according to a study by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), commissioned by the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA).

Wafer shipments hit a seven-year low in 1Q09 of 940M in2, down -34% sequentially and -56% vs. 1Q08. But Nobuo Katsuoka, chairman of SEMI’s Silicon Manufacturing Group, suggested market conditions hit a bottom in Jan-Feb, asserting that at least the quarterly comparisons should start to look better in the near term.

Hemlock Semiconductor began operations at its new $1B, 8500 metric ton poly-Si facility in MI. A second phase of capacity expansion will start coming online in 2010, with total capacity eventually reaching ~36,000 MT.

Takumi Technology has been awarded a patent in both the US and China for its proximity effect correction methodology, which it says provides a mean of reducing data volume and simplifies the mask-writing, inspection, and repair processes.


Scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have devised a new technique that uses long-wave terahertz waves to measure structural properties of nanoscale metal-oxide films used in high-speed ICs, and could eventually be used as a quality-control tool for monitoring semiconductor processes and evaluating new materials.

Startup Unity Semiconductor has decloaked with plans to deliver storage-class nonvolatile memory based on conductive metal oxides making it scalable to 20nm with better density than 4bit/cell NAND flash. A 64Gb device is slated for pilot production in 2H10.

Jazz Semiconductor has launched a monthly multiproject wafer shuttle program to help aerospace and defense customers develop new designs in CMIS, SiGe, and SOI.

Researchers at Arizona State’s Flexible Display Center and the U. of Texas/Dallas say they have integrated N-type amorphous silicon and P-type organic silicon into CMOS logic gates produced on a flexible plastic substrate. Startup Pixelligent Technologies has closed $2M in equity financing to support its work with materials for optical lithography and nanocomposites.


Hynix Semiconductor hopes to save $1.6B through a new backend JV in Wuxi, China with local partner Wuxi Industrial Development Group. The deal, which also involves selling about $300M of backend equipment, will hike Hynix’s outsourcing of backend manufacturing to about 50% from 30%.

Dai Nippon Printing says its new lead frame uses only a third of the normal amount of gold wire, reducing chip package costs by around 40%.

TSMC is looking to broaden its profile (and boost margins) by exploring work in the renewable energy sector, notably solar panels and photovoltaics, according to reports.

Nemotek has certified a Class 10 cleanroom in a 10,000 m2 facility in Morocco for design and manufacture of wafer-level packaging, wafer-level optics, and wafer-level cameras. SMIC has released 65nm low leakage process IP including six memory compilers; silicon validation is “ongoing,” the foundry claims.

Japan’s Taiyo Nippon Sanso and Germany’s Evonik are investing ??20B (US ~$209M) in a new 1000 tons/year monosilane gas plant in Yokkaichi, Mie Prefecture, slated to come online in 2011.

Hynix, LG, and Samsung are spearheading a new industry consortium to promote Serial Port Memory Technology as an industry standard for DRAM interface, initially for mobile devices.

Korea’s Dongbu HiTek has ramped production of Taiwan firm Eon Silicon’s 128Mb NOR devices on 90nm process technology.


austriamicrosystems says it now is offering through-silicon via (TSV) technology as a foundry offering, specifically for 3D sensors.

STMicroelectronics has licensed Soitec’s Smart Stacking bonding technology for 300mm wafer-level backside illumination for image sensors.

The Linde Group says it will supply gas systems for Italy’s first thin-film solar cell plant, located in Sicily.

The European Investment Bank will issue a ???400 million loan for Wacker Chemie’s new polysilicon production project in N??nchritz, Germany, which will help to more than double the company’s production capacity.

NXP’s former passives site in Cote de Nacre (near Caen, in northwest France) has been reformed as “IPDIA,” backed by a consortium of investors and support from national and local government authorities.

Following last fall’s acquisition of Alcatel Micro Machining Systems (AMMS) and Alcatel Lucent, Tegal has created a R&D hub in the Haute Savoie capital of Annecy, France.