Semiconductor market news(May. 15 to May. 21)丨China’s chip output up 3.8% in April; Edge AI chip competition heating up…

01. China's chip output up 3.8% in April

May. 17, 2023, According to reports, chip production in mainland China saw its first monthly increase in 16 months in April.

Citing the latest data from China's National Bureau of Statistics, the report said chip production rose 3.8% year-on-year to 28.1 billion units in April, the first monthly increase since January 2022.

In addition, in April, the output value of enterprises with an annual turnover of more than 20 million yuan (about $2.87 million) increased by 5.6% year-on-year, the largest monthly increase since October last year.

Earlier, China's IC production fell 3% year-on-year in March, after falling 17% year-on-year in the previous two months, the report said. The increase points to a recovery in chip production in the world's largest semiconductor market.

It is worth mentioning that despite the increase in output, China's overall IC import data is still in a downward trend. According to reports, in the first four months of this year, China's total chip imports fell by 21% year-on-year to 146.8 billion.

02. Edge AI chip competition heating up

The ChatGPT-triggered AI hype has attracted many IC vendors. Startup firms say they are now feeling the pressure from major IC design houses, such as MediaTek, Novatek and Realtek, who are stepping up efforts for AI chips, according to industry sources.

AI processors come in different grades for different applications, and the performance requirements for edge AI chips are already comparable to those of midrange to high-end smartphone APs, the sources said.

Leading GPU/CPU vendors Nvidia and AMD have unveiled high-performance AI chips made using advanced manufacturing process and packaging technology. However, AI chip vendors noted that not all AI applications need the support of top-notch GPUs, as adopting neural processing units (NPU) can produce chip solutions that can achieve both performance and cost competitiveness, according to the sources.

STMicroelectronics has already introduced MCUs with built-in NPUs. Even Oppo, which has just announced the closure of its chip development department, had also developed its own NPUs, made using TSMC's 6nm process, the sources said. None of the above-mentioned companies commented on the report.

03. Kioxia and Western Digital speed up merger talks

May. 16, 2023, According to Reuters, Kioxia Holdings and Western Digital are speeding up merger talks and finalizing the deal structure.

According to the plan currently being formulated, Kioxia will own 43% of the shares after the merger, Western Digital will own 37% of the shares, and the remaining shares will be owned by the company's existing shareholders.

For now, no decisions have been made by the companies, and details could change.

04. Renesas plans to expand production at three local fabs

May. 18, 2023, Renesas Electronics announced plans to further increase the production capacity of automotive semiconductors by 10% from the current level by 2026.

According to the plan, Renesas Electronics will invest approximately 48 billion yen to install manufacturing equipment at three fabs in Japan. In addition, production lines in Japan will back up each other to achieve a stable supply of semiconductors.

According to the plan, in February 2025, Renesas' Ibaraki fab will introduce 40nm manufacturing equipment. The Kofu fab in Yamanashi Prefecture will introduce thin film deposition equipment in August 2026, and it has the ability to import the equipment of the Ibaraki fab within one month in case of emergency.

The Kofu fab was closed in 2014, but the company plans to restart operations in the first half of 2024 due to increased demand for electric vehicle (EV) power semiconductors.

In addition, the Kawajiri fab in Kumamoto Prefecture will introduce 130nm automotive semiconductor manufacturing equipment by March 2025, with a monthly production capacity of 10,000 12-inch diameter silicon wafers. After the introduction, the Kawajiri fab will have a monthly production capacity of 29,100 8-inch silicon wafers. The combined production capacity of the three fabs is equivalent to more than 10% of the total production capacity of Renesas Electronics.

05. Analog Devices announces €630 Million Investment in Chip R&D and Manufacturing Facility

May. 16, 2023, Analog Devices, Inc. recently announced a new €630 million investment in its European regional headquarters in Raheen Business Park, Limerick, Ireland. The investment enables the construction of a new, state-of-the-art, 45,000 sq-ft Research & Development and manufacturing facility.

The new facility will support ADI’s development of next-generation signal processing innovations designed to accelerate the digital transformation of Industrial, Automotive, Healthcare, and other sectors. It is expected to triple ADI’s European wafer production capacity and aligns with the company’s goal of doubling its internal manufacturing capacity to enhance the resiliency of its global supply chain and better serve customer needs.

06. STMicroelectronics announces new 4.0-ready edge AI powered microprocessors

May. 18, 2023,STMicroelectronics recently introduced the second generation of its STM32 MPUs (microprocessors), coming with a new architecture built upon the same ecosystem and raising performance and security for applications at the industrial and IoT edge.

“The new STM32MP2 Series devices further our investment in application processors, combining 64-bit cores with Edge AI acceleration, advanced multimedia features, graphics processing, and digital connectivity,” said Ricardo De Sa Earp, Executive Vice-President and General-Purpose Microcontrollers Sub-Group GM, STMicroelectronics. “Also integrating advanced security features in hardware, the new MPUs are ready for emerging opportunities in secure Industry 4.0, IoT, and rich user-interface applications.”

ST is now delivering samples of STM32MP25 devices along with evaluation boards to select OEM customers. Volume production of chips and boards is scheduled to begin in the first half of 2024.

07. onsemi closes Wi-Fi chip R&D office in Russia

May. 19, 2023, According to reports, onsemi recently initiated a liquidation procedure for its subsidiary Kvantenna in Russia, which has been engaged in the development of Wi-Fi chips since 2012.

According to reports, Kvantenna was jointly established by Rusnano of Russia and Quantenna Communications, an American Wi-Fi module developer. In 2018, Rusnano withdrew from the list of shareholders. In 2019, onsemi acquired all assets of Quantenna Communications and became Kvantenna’s wholly-owned parent company. After the equity change, Kvantenna is mainly engaged in the development of chips based on 45 and 28 nanometer processes.

According to insiders, the closure of Kvantenna was not due to US sanctions against Russia. The main reason, similar to the former Quantenna Communications' Australian office, is that ON Semiconductor is liquidating the assets it merged with Quantenna Communications.

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