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Round-up 2013: Best of semiconductors, electronics and solar

December 31, 2013 Comments off

Virtex UltraScale device.

Virtex UltraScale device.

Friends, here’s a review of 2013! There have been the usual hits and misses, globally, while in India, the electronics and semiconductor industries really need to do a lot more! Enjoy, and here’s wishing everyone a Very Happy and Prosperous 2014! Be safe and stay safe!!

DEC. 2013
What does it take to create Silicon Valley!

How’s global semicon industry performing in sub-20nm era?

Xilinx announces 20nm All Programmable UltraSCALE portfolio

Dr. Wally Rhines: Watch out for 14/16nm technologies in 2014!

Outlook 2014: Xilinx bets big on 28nm

NOV. 2013
Indian electronics scenario still dull: Leaptech

Connecting intelligence today for connected world: ARM

India poses huge opportunity for DLP: TI

SEMICON Europa 2013: Where does Europe stand in 450mm path?

OCT. 2013
Apple’s done it again, wth iPad Air!

IEF 2013: New markets and opportunities in sub-20nm era!

SEPT. 2013
ST intros STM32F4 series high-performance Cortex-M4 MCUs

Great, India’s having fabs! But, is the tech choice right?

G450C

G450C

Now, India to have two semicon fabs!

Higher levels of abstraction growth area for EDA

AUG. 2013
Moore’s Law could come to an end within next decade: POET

What’s happening with 450mm: G450C update and status

300mm is the new 200mm!

JULY 2013
Xilinx tapes-out first UltraScale ASIC-class programmable architecture

JUNE 2013
EC’s goal: Reach 20 percent share in chip manufacturing by 2020!
Read more…

March’s ‘one-two-three’ calamity! What now for chip industry?


This is a summary by Malcolm Penn, chairman and CEO, Future Horizons. For those who wish to know more, please get in touch with me or Future Horizons.

 

Malcolm Penn, Future Horizons.

Malcolm Penn, Future Horizons.

It was all going so well at the beginning of March when January’s WSTS results were released. The oil and North African issues were being taken in their stride. Then, less than two weeks later, the earthquake and tsunami disaster struck Japan and by the close of the month, the Gaddafi Libyan regime was under western international airstrike siege.

Given the fragility of industry’s confidence since the Lehman Brothers crisis, the industry has weathered these ‘incidents’ with remarkable sanguinity, with concerns focused purely on supply not demand-side issues. In our view this underlines what we have been saying all along; the 2010 recovery and 2011 outlook were both stronger than most people thought.

The industry’s biggest problems in 2011 were always going to be supply not demand driven; the situation in Japan has simply amplified and accelerated their coming.

The chip industry took March’s one-two-three knocks with remarkable calm, hit first by the spike in oil prices following the politic unrest bordering on civil wars in North Africa, then the dreadful 11 March earthquake and Tsunami in Japan, culminating on 19 March with a multi-state coalition military intervention in Libya to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973.

Last year, any of these events would probably have been enough to deal the industry a knockout blow, as with the September 2008 Lehman Brothers collapse; this time around, despite the still fragile global economic confidence, the industry seems to have taken these events in its stride.

Whilst it is far too early to quantify exactly what the industry impact will be, the oil price and North Africa situation pales into insignificance when compared with the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami. Japan is too important a cog in the global electronics industry for its impact not to have serious global repercussions. It has also brought to a head the far deeper industry problems that we have long warned of – man-made in the corporate boardrooms – that could (should) have been avoided.

In this aspect, Japan’s disasters do have parallels with the Lehman Brothers collapse and its impact of worldwide finance; we hope that the current disruption to manufacturing worldwide from will force a rethink of how the world manages production. Read more…

Aftermath of Japanese earthquake: Implications for global electronics industry!

April 4, 2011 Comments off

This is a commentary on industry trends from Malcolm Penn, chairman and CEO, Future Horizons.

Importance of Japan
Japan is a major producer of semiconductor components accounting for around 22 percent of global semiconductor production. The Flash memory market sector – crucially mobile phones, iPads and their derivatives, digital cameras, and portable storage devices, account for approximately 50 percent of the market, almost all of which are produced by one Japanese firm, Toshiba/Sandisk.

Several of Japan’s major semiconductor companies locate their manufacturing spots in the northeast prefectures, for example Toshiba’s 8-inch wafer fab in lwate, Renesas Electronics’ factories in Aomori, Hoddaido and Yamagata, Elpedia Memory’s backend manufacturing facility in Akita and Fujitsu’s plants in Fukushima.

The effects of the devastating earthquake, which hit Japan on Friday 11th March, are already beginning to take hold on the global electronics industry. Damaged buildings and infrastructure and halts to some semiconductor fabs will without doubt have a knock on affect upon the global semiconductor supply chain, with many of the big names, i.e., Nokia, General Motors and Apple already experiencing supply shortages.

Many manufacturers, not directly hit by the earthquake, have experienced power failures interrupting production; just a microsecond power supply glitch can result in the scrapping of weeks of in-process production, and with manufacturers no longer holding inventory it will impact IC supply availability in Q2. To what extent, still remains to be seen. The impact will be felt both in the long and short term, affecting not only the semiconductor supply chain but nearly every other industry imaginable, as it is very rare these days to find an industry which is not reliant on chips.

Component prices
As in any shortage situation, component price increases are inevitable and this has already happened in memory, although it is not yet clear how much of this is panic profiteering and how much is sustainable. But shortages are inevitable and recovery due to the long production cycle times and already tight capacity – will not happen over night.

Automakers
The automotive semiconductor market grew 37 percent in 2010, clearly leaving the problematic 2009 behind. However the recent earthquake in Japan has once again awoken auto manufacturers concerns about the industry. Even before the earthquake purchasing managers had expressed concern about supply levels; inventories were unusually low, resulting in heightened concern from purchasing executives around the world.

It is difficult to estimate the extent auto manufacturers will be affected, but following an official announcement from Japan that car production will be down 33 percent from its normal monthly production level of 750k cars per month to 500k it looks as though the 2010 market growth may be short lived.

Toyota Motor Co, the worlds largest auto manufacturer, said all 12 Japanese assembly plants would remain closed until at least 26th March and it was not sure when they would re-open. Production lost between 14-26 March would be about 140,000 units. Read more…

Top 20 global semicon suppliers of 2010!

December 16, 2010 1 comment

I’ve just received this report from iSuppli, which says that the global semiconductor revenue expands by record margin in 2010 — to $304 billion in 2010, up from $229.5 billion in 2009. This represents growth of 32.5 percent for the year! Fantastic!!

This growth is said to be courtesy of a boom in DRAM and NAND sales benefiting memory suppliers. One hopes the semicon industry turns in an equally better performance in 2011. That’d be just great!

In the meantime, I’d like to share with you iSuppli’s preliminary ranking of the Top 20 semiconductor suppliers in 2010.

Top 20 semiconductor suppliers of 2010: Source: iSuppli, USA.

Top 20 semiconductor suppliers of 2010: Source: iSuppli, USA.

As per iSuppli, Marvell is likely to achieve organic revenue growth of more than 43 percent and jump five places to the No. 18 spot in 2010.

Qualcomm and AMD, and Sony have experienced revenue growth notably less than the overall market. Therefore, they will likely slip three to four positions in the rankings in 2010.

After a number of years of dramatically outperforming the market, Taiwan’s MediaTek fell back to earth in 2010, as it will barely achieve revenue growth at 1.2 percent, the only company among the Top 20 to not achieve a double-digit increase. The company is likely to slip to No. 19 in the rankings, down from No. 16 place in 2009.

Only one company is at risk of dropping out of the list of 20. iSuppli projects that nVidia will retain its ranking at No. 20. However, ROHM Semiconductor is competing for the final slot among the Top 20 and the final outcome should be very close.

I hope to get into a conversation with iSuppli regarding the top 20 semicon suppliers.

Reports of memory market recovery greatly exaggerated: iSuppli

April 24, 2009 Comments off

EL SEGUNDO, USA: Concerned about their image as they face the specter of bankruptcy, many memory chip suppliers are attempting to paint a more optimistic picture of the business by talking up a potential market recovery.

However, while overall memory chip prices are expected to stabilize during the remaining quarters of 2009, iSuppli Corp. believes a true recovery in demand and profitability is not imminent.

After a 14.3 percent sequential decline in global revenue in the first quarter DRAM and NAND flash, the market for these products will grow throughout the rest of the year. Combined DRAM and NAND revenue will rise by 3.6 percent in the second quarter, and surge by 21.9 percent and 17.5 percent in the third and fourth quarters respectively.

“While this growth may spur some optimism among memory suppliers, the oversupply situation will continue to be acute,” said Nam Hyung Kim, director and chief analyst for memory ICs and storage at iSuppli.

“For example shipments of DRAM in the equivalent of the 1Gbit density will exceeded demand by an average of 14 percent during the first three quarters of 2009. This will prevent a strong price recovery, which will be required to achieve profitability for most memory suppliers.”

Painful oversupply
Due to a long-lasting glut of DRAM, the imbalance between supply and demand is too great for this market to recover to profitability any time soon.

“Even if all of the Taiwanese DRAM suppliers idled all their fabs, which equates to 25 percent of global DRAM megabit production, the market would remain in a state of oversupply,” Kim said. “This illustrates that the current oversupply is much more severe than many suppliers believe—or hope.”

Besides cutting capacity, which suppliers have already been doing, they presently have few options other than waiting for a fundamental demand recovery. iSuppli believes that another round of production cuts will take place in the second quarter, which will positively impact suppliers’ balance sheets late this year or early in 2010 at the earliest.

DRAM prices now amount to only one-third-level of Taiwanese suppliers’ cash costs. Unless prices increase by more than 200 percent, cash losses will persist for these Taiwanese suppliers.

While average megabit pricing for DRAM will rise during every quarter of 2009, it will not be even remotely enough to allow suppliers to generate profits in this industry. The industry needs a dramatic price recovery of a few hundred percentage points to make any kind of impact.

iSuppli is maintaining its “negative” rating of near-term market conditions for DRAM suppliers.

Confusing picture in NAND
The picture is a little more complicated in the NAND flash memory market.

Pricing for NAND since January has been better than iSuppli had expected. However, iSuppli believes this doesn’t signal a real market recovery.

Most NAND flash makers are continuing to lose money. The leading supplier, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., seems to be enjoying the current NAND price rally as prices have almost reached the company’s break-even costs. However, all the other NAND suppliers still are losing money.

“While the NAND market in the past has been able to achieve strong growth and solid pricing solely based on orders from Apple Computer Inc. for its popular iPod and iPhone products, this situation is not likely to recur in the future,” Kim said. “Even if Apple’s order surge, and it books most of Samsung’s capacity, it would require a commensurate increase in demand to other suppliers to generate a fundamental recovery in demand.”

However, iSuppli has not detected any substantial increase in orders from Apple to other suppliers. Furthermore, Apple’s orders, according to press reports, are not sufficient to positively impact the market as a whole.

It doesn’t make sense for major NAND suppliers Toshiba Corp. and Hynix Semiconductor Inc. to further decrease their production if there is a real fundamental market recovery. This means supply will continue to exceed demand and pricing will not rise enough to allow the NAND market as a whole to achieve profitability.

The NAND flash market is in a better situation than DRAM at least. However, the market remains challenging because fundamental demand conditions in the consumer electronics market have not improved due to the global recession.

One of the reasons why the price rally occurred is that inventory levels have been reduced in the channel and re-stocking activity has been progressing. Overall, memory suppliers will begin to announce their earnings shortly and iSuppli will remain cautious about the NAND flash market until we detect solid evidence, not just speculation, of a recovery.

iSuppli is remaining cautious about the near term rating of NAND market, holding its negative view for now, before considering upgrading it to neutral.

“Production cuts undoubtedly will have a positive impact on the market in the future. However, it’s too early for to celebrate. iSuppli believes the surge in optimism is premature. Supplier must be rational and watch the current market conditions carefully to avoid jumping to conclusions too quickly,” Kim concluded.

2009 DRAM CAPEX decreased by 56 percent: DRAMeXchange

April 19, 2009 Comments off

The 2008 DRAM chip price dropped more than 85 percent, while the global DRAM industry has faced more than two years of cyclical downturn, and the consumer demand suddenly froze because of the global financial crisis in 2H08.

In 1Q09, the DDR2 667 MHz 1Gb chip price rebounded to an average of US$ 0.88, which fell between the material cost and cash cost level. Still, the DRAM vendors encountered huge cash outflow pressure. Not only were capacity cut conducted, the process migration schedules were also delayed in the wake of respective sharp CAPEX cuts.

According to the survey of DRAMeXchange, the worldwide DRAM CAPEX of 2009 has been revised down to US$ 5.4 billion, sharply down by 56 percent, in contrast to the US$ 12.2 billion in 2008.

WW DRAM 50nm process migration schedules all deferred one to two quarters
From the roadmaps of DRAM vendors, the adoption schedule of DRAM mass production using the 50 nm process have now been delayed one to two quarters. DRAMeXchange estimates that by the end of 2009, the DDR3 will account for 30 percent of the standard DRAM.

Regarding the new DDR2 and DDR3 process migration, all DRAM vendors still own different types of strategies of density and types. For example, the Korean vendors’ 50 nm process migration schedules of DDR 3 are earlier than DDR2 and the 2 Gb DDR3 mass production schedule is earlier than the 1Gb chip.

As for the US and Japanese vendors, according to their DDR3 roadmap, the 50 nm process will be introduced between 3Q09 and 4Q09, which is later than the Korean vendors, and also firstly with mass production of 2 Gb DDR3. Therefore, in the DDR3 era, the density will mainly be 2 Gb which is a lower cost driver with more stimulating incentive to the market demand of higher density chips. The Taiwanese vendors are under the high cash pressure and are falling behind in the 50 nm process race. They are mainly focused on “pilot production”.

Gross die increases 40-50 percent as 50nm process drives down cost
According to the Moore’s Law, the number of transistors on an integrated circuit doubles every 12 months. After the process shrinking became more difficult in the recent decade, it increased to 24 months. With new process migration, the closer the line distance is the larger gross die number a single wafer gets, meanwhile the cost is lower and the vendors gain more competitiveness.

The average DRAM output increased about 30 percent during the process migration from 70nm to 60nm. With improvements of process design and die shrink in the same generation of process technology, the output can once again increase 20 percent. In the 50nm generation, the output will increase almost 40-50 percent, compared to 60nm process and the number of gross die increases to 1500-1700 per 12 inch wafer with another 30 percent cost down.

Cost of immersion lithography tools major capex of 50nm process migration
The major challenge of 50nm process migration is the lithography technology. The newest immersion lithography equipment is required and the older exposure equipment at the wavelength of 193nm is no longer suitable under 65nm process, due to physical limitations.

Traditional dry lithography uses air as the medium to image through masks. However, immersion lithography uses water as the medium. Immersion lithography puts water between the light source and wafer. The wavelength of light shrinks through water so it is able to project more precise and smaller images on the wafer. This is the invention that enabled the semiconductor process technology to migrate from 65nm to 45nm.

The current major immersion equipment vendors are ASML, Nikon, and Canon. The largest vendor in the market is AMSL, which is now mainly promoting its XT1900Gi, a tool that is capable to go lower than 40nm and is the most accepted model in the industry. Nikon still promotes its NSR-S610C, which was launched in 2007 and is able to go down to 45nm process. Canon launched its FPA-7000AS7 in mid 2008 that supports the process under 45nm.

New routing tool likely to cover upcoming MCMM challenges: Hanns Windele, Mentor

April 17, 2009 Comments off

This is a continuation of the previous post based on the recent India visit of Hanns Windele, VP Europe and India, Mentor Graphics, where he met key industry figures in a session organized by the India Semiconductor Association. Windele is standing sixth from left, and Poornima Shenoy, president, ISA is standing fifth from right.

Multimode, multicorner tools
Windele mentioned that in every likelihood, another new routing tool would be coming in once the industry enters the 45nm/32nm space. “There is an increasing static timing analysis signoff complexity. The explosive growth in complexity requires multimode and multicorner tools,” he said.

Multicorner and multimode (MCMM) and manufacturing variability will drive the next generation place and route technology. Even in the low-growth markets, technical discontinuities create opportunities for market share changes. For instance, 65nm brings along more than 21 corners/modes scenarios; while 90nm has 10 corners, and 130nm only has four corners.

Therefore, another place and route tool will cover the upcoming MCMM problem. Even in low-growth markets, technical discontinuities create opportunities for market share changes.

Companies cannot afford the growing cost of EDA. Even the cost of design is growing exponentially, especially, verification, as well as embedded software development costs. Even the EDA revenue has been a flat 2 percent of the IC revenue. However, productivity has been growing as the number of engineers don’t seem to be multiplying in a great way. For example, the transistors produced per electronic engineer has been hearly four-orders of magnitude since 1985.

Showing optimism in recession
Turning to the ongoing recession, which has impacted the semiconductor industry, Windele said that 2009 will be most likely turn out to be the worst recession in the history of the global semiconductor industry.

“It seems to be heading that way. There is also a lot of reason for optimism. I feel that 2009 will be a lot milder than 1985 and 2001,” he said. Even the electronics indsutry’s growth rates have been slowing, decade by decade as well.

Therefore, with this ongoing global recession, why should we remain optimistic? Simple! A crisis translates into opportunities!!

Betting on India
No prizes for guessing where the most opportunities lie — India! Significantly, the ‘middle class’ in urban India becoming a majority. There is likely to be $3 trillion of discretionary spending by 2010. “People who can afford electronic and consumer goods will be growing further,” he added.

Windele cited ISA’s figures, which says that India’s electronics consumption is headed toward $300 billion by 2015. India’s electronic equipment consumption will likely grow at a CAGR of 30 percent through 2015. It was around $28 billion in 2005, and is likely to increase to $127 billion by 2010, and to $363 billion by 2015.

Yet another reason is the growing number of new cell phone subscribers in China and India, which will be 2x larger than the total US subscribers until 2011. Asia is, by far, the most attractive market for new cell phone sales. India will grow fastest, he added.

Downturns compared
Comparing the downturns of the recent years, Windele noted that 2008 and 2009 look different than the other downturns. “There is hardly any inventory left in the industry. One prediction is: as the price upswing comes, prices in the semicon industry will go up very quickly,” he noted.

Seeds already being sown for recovery in 2010. Already, the industry has experiecned two years of severe price declines in memory. Further, systems will be re-designed to take advantage of lower bit prices of FLASH and DRAM.

There will be consolidation and reduced investment in semiconductor capacity in 2008 and 2009. Ramp-up of new system designs will likely happen in 2010 during the period of reduced semiconductor supply.

Concluding, he added that Mentor Graphics became the number 1 EDA company in Europe as the company managed the crisis better than some of our competitors.

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