Monthly Archives: October 2015


TSMC will enter the fan out wafer level package business

“The fact that TSMC is interested in advanced packaging isn’t “new news”, comments Jean-Christophe Eloy, President & CEO, Yole Développement (Yole). He adds: “Over the last few years TSMC has significantly invested in flip-chip copper pillar capacities (Source: 2015 Flip Chip Business Update report, October 2015) and 3DIC stacking for CMOS image sensors and logic devices.” What is new is TSMC’s interest in supporting the fan out wafer level package platform for volume production, using its own proprietary InFO technology. Yole’s analysts have confirmed that TSMC will begin volume production in 2016, and it’s likely that the Apple A10 will be its first customer – one of what will be a wave of new customers, with Qualcomm, Mediatek, and other big companies eyeing this field.


Yole’s estimation is that TSMC’s 2016 business will be at least a few hundred million dollars, giving a significant boost to FanOut sales. Linked to this estimate, Yole’s advanced packaging team has updated its FanOut market forecast (see graph) in order to account for the potential sales increase starting in 2016 (Source: Fan-Out and Embedded Die: Technologies & Market Trends report, Feb. 2015) “It’s clear that TSMC is making these technological investments in order to have a complete offer for Application processor (AP), MCU, and GPU manufacturers, from front-end manufacturing to full backend processing,” explains Jean-Christophe Eloy, Yole.



TSMC will gain a significant advantage over Samsung and GLOBALFOUNDRIES if it’s able to capture and retain Apple, Qualcomm, and Mediatek’s business inhouse. The sales forecast for FanOut at TSMC will not hugely impact the company, but the effect of TSMC’s involvement in FanOut, and its ability to attract big customers, will dramatically impact another part of the industry: OSAT and substrate makers. Substrate makers will be most impacted, and the reason is simple: inFO means no substrate, and TSMC providing a complete service to Apple means that OSATs will lose business.


High-end packaging and advanced substrate activities are moving away from their existing providers: Shinko, Ibiden, Unimicron, etc. – and advanced substrates will be heavily affected in 2016 – 2017 when one of their largest profit centers disappears. The impact on OSATs is clear, but TSMC customers will likely continue requesting second and third sources, meaning OSATs will be able to partially limit their sales losses.


This TSMC development is another example of the importance of middle-end foundry services that are assembled step by step in order to use semiconductor front-end processes to provide back-end services. TSMC’s investment, and that of several other foundries (i.e. CWLCSP), along with the recent M&A activities occurring in advanced packaging: for example the acquisition of STATS ChipPAC by JCET or the acquisition of FCI by TianShui Huatian Technology Co…. This is a great sign of advanced packaging’s growing importance (and not just cost-related) as an added value to the chip.

Market Research

IC Insights Lowers its Worldwide 2015 IC Market Forecast from +1% to -1%

IC Insights recently released its October Update to The McClean Report, which examined the effects of slowing worldwide GDP growth and a stronger U.S. dollar on the 2015 IC market forecast.


Since all of IC Insights’ figures are presented in U.S. dollars, a strengthening U.S. currency deflates foreign sales and market results while a weakening U.S. dollar serves to inflate the sales and market figures.  The rare occurrence of significant strengthening of the U.S. dollar versus most of the major currencies this year is expected to deflate the 2015 worldwide IC market growth rate by at least three full percentage points.  This “deflation” presents itself in the form of lower IC average selling prices (ASPs), which are forecast to register a steep 5% decline this year when reported in U.S. dollars.


Figure 1 compares the worldwide monthly IC market figures from January through August of 2015 and 2014.  As shown, the beginning of this year started out very strong with the January 2015/2014 IC market showing year-over-year growth of more than 10%.  In total, the 1Q15 IC market ended up 6.5% higher than the 1Q14 worldwide IC market.


The second quarter of 2015 began by registering similar monthly year-over-year IC market growth that was displayed in 1Q15, with the combined 2015 April and May IC markets up 5.6% compared to the combined April and May IC markets in 2014.  However, things began to change in June as the IC market ended up 3.1% lower than the June 2014 IC market.  Unfortunately, as shown in Figure 1, the 2015 July and August worldwide IC markets followed the disappointing year-over-year trend that began in June.


It should be noted that the average second half versus first half of the year growth rate in the IC market since 1990 is 9.2%.  However, IC Insights is forecasting that the 2H15 IC market will be down 1.0% as compared to 1H15.  If this occurs, it would be only the fifth time since 1990 that the second half of the year IC market was worse than the first half (the other years being 1996, 2001, 2008, and 2011).  This weak second half market has resulted in IC Insights lowering its full-year 2015 IC market forecast from +1% to -1%.


Figure 1


Looking ahead to 2016, three reasons lead IC Insights to believe that the worldwide IC market will register mid-single digit growth next year:


  1. The current excess IC inventory is forecast to be under control by early next year.
  2. Worldwide GDP growth in 2016 is expected to show some improvement as compared to 2015.
  3. The U.S. dollar is unlikely to show nearly as much strength against the major foreign currencies next year as it did this year.


This is a guest post by IC Insights which provides market research services for the semiconductor industry


BiCMOS process overview

While the entire semiconductor industry is excited about FinFET and FDSOI process technologies, there is one semiconductor technology that considered by engineers as “the process for real men” and it’s called BiCMOS.


BiCMOS process is essentially a combination of Bipolar transistor and CMOS transistors, it offers many technical advantages and some semiconductor foundries still provide access to BiCMOS technology. Besides having BiCMOS wafer production as an ongoing business they also have a clear roadmap to develop more advanced nodes based on BiCMOS process (e.g 65nm/55nm) etc.


Fun fact: Both Pentium and Pentium-Pro processors were based on BiCMOS technology.


BiCMOS process overview

BiCMOS technology is a mix of Bipolar and CMOS technology. CMOS technology provides less power consumption and higher integration while Bipolar technology offers high switching and I/O speed while maintating good noise performance.

It’s safe to say that BiCMOS technology accomplishes both speed over CMOS and lower power dissipation than bipolar technology.

The main drawback of BiCMOS technology is the higher costs due to the process complexity.



What applications are using BiCMOS technology?

There are endless applications for the BiCMOS technology, ranging from microprocessors and memories, to communications devices. Especially applications that require memories, high performing ICs and increased complexity and integration together with very high speed operating frequencies.


New applications such as Automotive Radars, Satellite Communications, LAN RF transceivers, Point¬-to-Point radio , Defense, Instrumentation and more.


Which foundry supports BiCMOS process today:




Sony spins off chipmaking business

Sony has announced that its semiconductor unit will now be separated from the company’s core business. The strategic decision arrived in order to allow the Japanese electronic firm to focus its resources and attentions on the Devices and the Digital image divisions. This last one in particular, in fact, has been stated to provide sensors for use in iPhone cameras.




The new spin off company, called Sony Semiconductor Solutions, will kick off and start running from next April 2016 and it will be mostly focus on the product development of image sensors. In this way, the Devices division that has been holding inside the image sensor business, battery and storage media arms all together, will be now eventually split in a different way.


Indeed, the battery business will belong to the Sony Energy Devices Corporation, while the storage media division will become part of the Sony Storage Media and Devices Corporation. The Device division, which represents one of the leading and fast growing units for the Japanese company,  will now focus on image sensors production. As a matter of fact, Sony found a great return on this niche that  has been generating an operating income of $249 millions in just 3 months. A great result that would help to balance the hard efforts made to keep it up with the smartphone business.


Referring to the upcoming changes, Kazuo Hirai, CEO of the company, stated that this spin off decision was taken in the aim of improving Sony’s internal processes, making the Japanese firm more profitable and responsible.


Intel has 1,000 people working on chips for the iPhone

Interesting and surprising cooperation: Intel is developing the modem chip to be used in the next iPhone’s devices. To meet Apple’s tough and tight schedule IBM has allocated a staff of about 1,000 people. Intel’s foothold in what is expected to be the world’s best-selling smartphone has a dramatic importance in the competition versus Qualcomm.


According to VentureBeat reports of more than 1,000 employees of Intel are working hard in recent months on the development of modem 7360LTE chip to be ready in time for iPhone 7. According to Intel, the modem SoC Supports 4G LTE speeds up to 450Mbps.


Intel develops the modem chips in Germany by a team that has many years of experience in developing and delivering modem chip. The German design team was acquired by Intel a few year back from Infineon.


Will this attempt finally make Intel successful in the mobile market?



STATS ChipPAC Sold to China’s JCET

According to the latest reports, Temasek and China’s Jiangsu Changjiang Electronics Technology Co Ltd (JCET) just signed a $1.8 million deal that will allow JCET to acquire STATS ChipPAC from Temasek.





The decision followed the new internal financial policy at Temsasek which aims to diversify the risk on its $173 billion portfolio. As a result of the new strategy, in fact, Temasek will drop leading positions inside publicly listed companies and will start investing more into private ones in the hope of improving its outcomes.  For the same exact reason, indeed, Temasek sold its shares in Seoul Semiconductor (a Korean semiconductor manufacturer) descending its influence to the telecommunications, media and technology sector from 29 (in 2006) to the current 23 percent.


Meanwhile, JCET, the leading electronics packaging service in China, had already started its moves to express interest in acquiring STATS ChipPAC together with rival Chinese bidder Tianshui Huatian Technology Co. According to the latest JCET’s press release, for instance, the company announced that was ready to buy all the shares of STATS ChipPAC with a 22 percent discount on the last traded price, for a total value of $1.8 million deal. The purchase of the 84 percent STAT’s shares hold by Temasek has now been placed on hold in order to allow Chinese institutions to evaluate the legitimacy of the purchase and the parties are waiting for the final announcement. The deal, however, will not include STATS ChipPAC’s Taiwan subsidiaries. All the parties are turning down all the request to leave a comment on the situation.