Semicon: Some Good News
SAN FRANCISCO, July 16, 2009 -- In one of the booths at this year's Semicon West, the assets of Germany-based bankrupt semiconductor maker Qimonda were for sale. That included the campus, buildings, and everything in them.
Cymer, a San Diego-based maker of laser light sources for photolithographic steppers, elected not to have a booth, in a cost-cutting move. Others did likewise. In terms of exhibit halls, Semicon West went from filling almost three in 2008 to only two this year.
But the bad times may be ending, as evidenced by some recent good news.
Some comes from Intel. At a keynote address here, Anand Chandrasekher, senior vice president and general manager of the company's Ultra Mobility Group, demonstrated Intel's next mobile processor chip. He used a handheld unit to seamlessly stream multiple full resolution videos wirelessly to different screens at the same time.
"The biggest mobile data growth is in video," Chandrasekher said during his talk.
He also noted that the company plans to invest $7 billion in semiconductor factories over the next two years. Those fabs will have to be full of equipment and filled with silicon to pay off.
Coincidentally, Intel released its earnings for the last quarter the same day as the keynote, showing better than expected results. Intel's forecast for the current quarter is also about $700 million higher than what analysts had been estimating.
In another bit of good news, Cymer's tally of laser light source pulses at customer sites indicates growth from last year's low, said Nigel Farrar, the company's vice president of strategic and technical applications, at the show.
There's also good news on the technical front. Just as Semicon West started, Cymer announced the shipment of the first full integrated laser-produced plasma extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography source to ASML, the stepper maker.
Cymer also announced a 75-W exposure power EUV source, a record for full die exposure. Since EUV is being counted on to power next generation lithography, getting a suitable light source is key to continued long term growth of the industry.
"In Q3, our target is 100 watts," said Farrar.
That number, he added, is a 4000-fold improvement over the original technology demonstration. It's a threshold for manufacturing but is only a fourth of the power called for in Cymer's roadmap.
In another keynote, Walden Rhines, chairman and CEO of electronic design automation provider Mentor Graphics, predicted the semiconductor recovery will be faster than that of the overall economy. His relatively sunny forecast is because the industry entered the current economic turmoil in relatively good shape, without over-inventory problems.
He had another bit of good news for the industry and others that depend on its advances to power new applications. After looking at the data, he summed up the innovation situation by saying, "The adoption of leading edge technology is the same as in the past."
- 1. A localized fracture at the end of a cleaved optical fiber or on a glass surface. 2. An integrated circuit.
- The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
- A gas made up of electrons and ions.
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