ASML Holding and KLA-Tencor have brought out overlay metrology systems that can deal with the dozens of masking layers to be found in chips with 10-nanometer and 7nm features, Mark LaPedus writes. Bob Johnson of Gartner says, "While it may seem that ASML and KLA-Tencor are on a collision course, they are actually approaching the overlay market from different directions."
Semico Research forecasts the boom in artificial intelligence technology will boost application-specific integrated circuit design starts for voice-activated devices to a compound annual growth rate of nearly 20% by 2021, almost double the 10.1% CAGR for all ASIC design starts. Digital assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home are driving the trend, the market research firm notes.
Samsung Electronics initiated construction of the $7 billion expansion for its wafer fabrication facility in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, China. When the fab goes into operation in 2019, it will be used for volume production of V-NAND flash memory chips.
The EU ruling on Qualcomm's proposed $38 billion acquisition of NXP Semiconductors may wait until next year, said Margrethe Vestager, European commissioner for competition. The US chip company has reportedly offered to purchase NXP without some of its patents as a concession to the European antitrust regulators.
Artificial intelligence presents both challenges and opportunities for the microchip industry, says CC Wei, co-CEO of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. AI potentially could help people live healthier lives as the technology becomes more prevalent in everyday life, he asserts.
Copper interconnects in chips, pioneered by IBM 20 years ago, will be around for many years to come with minor tweaks in copper deposition process technology, the company says. "Graphene is not readily manufacturable, and furthermore end-to-end comparisons show graphene does not flow uniformly and can't achieve the low resistances of enhanced copper interconnects," says IBM Fellow Dan Edelstein.
Semiconductor manufacturing equipment is experiencing more process variation in making chips with 10-nanometer and 7nm features, this analysis notes. "Reducing variation through system matching and chamber matching is becoming increasingly important to meet the ever-stringent variability requirements," Jason Shields of Lam Research says.
Johny Srouji of Apple is actively considering acquisitions of Israeli startups to gain access to chip technology, especially for flash-based data storage and sensors. "We don't make buys to increase workforce and to obtain new talented workers, we do it for the technology," he says in this interview.
Nanjing, China, and its Jiangbei New Area are drawing a number of semiconductor-related companies, foreign and domestic, industry sources note. They include ASML, Cadence Design Systems, Huada Semiconductor, Solomon Systech, Spreadtrum Communications, Synopsys, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., Tsinghua Unigroup Semiconductor and Vimicro.