04:25 AM

Chip News Roundup - Strange Things Are Afoot At TSMC . . . And A New Periodic Element

[Matt Grimshaw offers a weekly roundup of news affecting the largest US tech industry.]

By Matt Grimshaw, Editorial Director, Future-Fab International

It seems as if the chip industry is working its way through the procedure to recover from a heavy night….It woke up with a bad hangover, memory loss and for some strange reason; random street furniture on or around it’s bed (take your pick; traffic cone, street sign, car tyre etc).

Then it had its black coffee, whilst sifting through broken memories of the night before and now feels strong enough to face some food…

Nervously picking through a pile of eggs & toast hoping that it can hold it down long enough to get its blood sugar levels back to something nearing the standard classification of ‘alive’.

I’m not sure why, but this week seemed to indicate a sense of normality (if there is such a thing in this business) returning, an emergence from the fog of earnings (or lack of) announcements and a recommencing of the usual lunacy surrounding the tech business that allows all other tech businesses to exist in the first place…

The News This Week…

There’s only one word dominating the news this week: Foundries. Most of the meat seems to surround the biggest of the foundry players; TSMC, with lots of strange things emanating from the chip manufacturing powerhouse, not least of which is Morris Chang, TSMC’s 78 year old legendary Chairman & founder, taking over the CEO role again…put into context this would be like Gordon Moore coming back to take up the reigns at Intel again…simply put; weird.

Sticking with TSMC for the moment, their sales are up 12.5% this month (from last month), which is echoed by arch rival UMC who are up 9% and Chartered Semi who’s wafer shipments are up 60%.

This is all causing the Foundry rankings to change as companies vie to grab the biggest chunk of the pie heading into a period of growth/recovery. As the established players duke it out for market share, the new kid on the block; GLOBALFOUNDRIES (I’m not shouting, you HAVE to write it in caps apparently) has reaffirmed its commitment to build a $4.2bn facility in New York.

Fab spending is expected to take a big step towards recovering lost ground in 2010 lthough the down side of this news is that due to the 300mm fabs productivity gains less fabs are being built. The lithography market has not exactly been the hotbed of news in the last 5 years with Extreme Ultra-Violet (EUV) getting delayed ad-infinitum, and 193 immersion managing to plug the ever increasing gap – however even 193 is really running out of oomph now and increasingly desperate measures are being taken including the horrendously expensive double patterning technology, although even that pales against EUV.

Speaking of which ASML is touting its potential customers for EUV tools including TSMC who are keeping their options open.

In final news just to remind us all that there still is an economic crisis to get over Gartner throws out a gloomy forecast and the seemingly forever embattled Aviza Technology jumps on the Chapter 11 bandwagon, will they be the last? Who knows…

Geek of the Week…

GOTW was pretty easy this week, but a little out of the normal sphere of what is traditionally known as Geekdom. This week the collective accolade goes to the GSI Centre for Heavy Ion Research in Darmstadt for adding another element to the periodic table although they haven't gotten around to naming it yet and the discovery was made 13 years ago…

Seeing as they named their first in 1981 – bohrium (atomic number 107), after the physicist Niels Bohr – and other elements after scientists, such as meitnerium (atomic number 109, after Lise Meitner) and roentgenium (atomic number 111, after Wilhelm Roentgen) think the time is right for einsteinium no?

Matt Grimshaw is the Editorial Director of the Semiconductor Technical Journal; Future Fab International (www.future-fab.com) and writes a weekly blog post for FFI’s social network site Future Fab Connect (www.futurefabconnect.com) that offers a tongue in cheek review of the weeks news and his wanderings in search of Editorial in the Semiconductor industry.