Nova to Unveil a New Strategy Aimed to Reach $1B Sales

Nova Ltd. is planning to introduce a growth initiative planned to achieve $1 billion annual sales within a few years. According to Eitan Oppenhaim, President and Chief Executive Officer of Nova, the plan will be introduced during during upcoming Virtual Analyst Day on September 21. “With the company revenues exceeding $500 million in the last four quarters, we mark the realization of our Nova 500 strategic plan. As we aspire to continue our strong momentum in the market, we will announce a new strategic plan, charting a course towards the $1 billion company in annual revenues.”

Nova provides material, optical and chemical metrology solutions for advanced process control in semiconductor manufacturing. The company announced record quarterly revenue of $141.6 million in Q2 2022. Up 45% year over year, and a total of $510 million in revenues during the last 4 consecutive quarters.

Oppenhaim said during the Earnings Conference Call last week that the new growth plan is based on the company’s own backlog levels, and general industry trends: “If we can see the process control growth this year versus process tools, we can see the process control is growing in a higher pace because of the complex transition in the technology nodes. The logic intensity grows at around 80% to 100% from node to node and memory is around 50%. So definitely when customers are moving to new node, we see a growth in intensity.”

US China Trade War Effect

“Regarding the U.S. deliveries and the CHIPS Act programs, I think that we started to see the development lines for those fabs already this year. And we expect that next year we’ll probably see more of those deliveries happening in both Arizona and Austin and maybe later on in the East as well. And definitely, we see also the other CHIPS Act programs that were established in other places like Europe, mainly for the automotive in Germany with some of the new joint venture that’s starting to invest in chip manufacturing, also in Japan, in Korea, Taiwan and definitely in China.

“Regarding the political issue – Nova is an Israeli company. So therefore, we are – continue to ship regularly to China. The only effect that we have is by the XPS tools (X-Ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy) that has been shipped from the U.S. Over there, we are working to get the export license for new products. We got the licenses for services. And if we want to talk about impact, it’s just limited to SMIC in Shanghai, which, in any case, is not large volume of the business for the XPS.”

Nova is Aiming the Emerging Market of GAA Transistors

Nova from Rehovot, Israel, announced a series of updates to its metrology solutions for semiconductor fabrication, that prepares them for the production of the newly gate-all-around (GAA) technology. “To address GAA needs, process control solutions must be more accurate and applicable for complex 3D structures and new materials, applied to more layers and utilized to more physical and chemical inline parameters.”

Gate-all-around, or GAA transistors, are a modified transistor structure where the gate contacts the channel from all sides and enables continued scaling. Unlike finFETs, where higher current requires multiple side-by-side fins, the current-carrying capacity of GAA transistors is increased by stacking several nanosheets vertically, while the gate is wrapped around these channels. GAA transistors are generally considered as successors to FinFETs, because they can be scaled to the specific performance required, and allows the creation on 3nm transistors.

The updates were added to all its mainstream systems: spectral interferometry system Nova PRISM, the integrated metrology platform Nova i570, providing high-volume profiles of the materials composition through Nova METRION system, the Raman spectroscopy system Nova ELIPSON and the in-die X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy system Nova VERAFLEX IV. Above all Nova announced that all these systems are are unified by the new machine learning software suite, Nova FIT 2.0.

As part of its GAA strategy, Nova recently added chemical metrology capability by acquiring ancosys GmbH, a privately held company headquartered in Germany. The transaction is valued at approximately $90 million, which is paid in cash, and includes a performance-based earnout of approximately $10 million. “Nova’s portfolio is built to meet the challenges of next-generation device fabrication,” said Eitan Oppenhaim, President and CEO.

Tower and Juniper Announced SiPho with III-V Lasers

Tower Semiconductor and Juniper Networks announced the first silicon photonics (SiPho) foundry-ready process with integrated III-V lasers, amplifiers modulators and detectors. Th process addresses optical connectivity in datacenters and telecom networks, and new emerging applications such as artificial intelligence and LiDAR sensors.  The new platform co-integrates III-V lasers, semiconductor optical amplifiers (SOA), electro-absorption modulators (EAM) and photodetectors with silicon photonics devices, on a single chip.

“Our mutual development work with Tower has been extraordinarily successful in qualifying this innovative silicon photonics technology in a high-volume manufacturing facility,” said Rami Rahim, CEO of Juniper Networks. The new process will be available to customers via Tower’s foundry services. Process design kits (PDK) are expected to be available by year end and the first open multi-project wafer (MPW) run are expected to be offered early next year.

Tower’s Multi-Project Wafer (MPW) Shuttle Program enables customers to tape-out their designs for rapid prototyping and helps reduce costs by sharing the expense of masks and wafers with other MPW shuttle program participants. This can all be done using Tower Semiconductor’s standard manufacturing process technologies. First samples of full 400Gb/s and 800Gb/s PICs reference designs with integrated laser are expected to be available in Q2 of 2022.

Nova to acquire ancosys GmbH for $100 million

Nova has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire ancosys GmbH in an all-cash transaction valued at approximately $100 million, including a performance-based earnout of $10 million. The acquisition is expected to close within the first quarter of 2022. ancosys provides chemical analysis and metrology solutions for semiconductor manufacturing. Based in Rehovot, Isreal, Nova provides X-ray and optical metrology solutions for semiconductor’s advanced process control. Among its costumers: TSMC, GlobalFoundries, Micron, Samsung, Hynix and Huali.

“Acquiring ancosys will support our long-term strategy to broaden our portfolio of key technologies for a wider range of process control applications in different semiconductor markets,” said Eitan Oppenhaim (photo above), President and CEO of Nova. Based in Pliezhausen, Germany, ancosys provides modular systems to measure physical, chemical, and electrochemical properties of materials, based on its open architecture.

According to Oppenhaim, “The next-generation devices require a better approach to control different materials’ properties, along with the ambitious architectural design”. Lately, Nova reported record quarterly revenue of $112.7 million, up 62% compared with Q3 2020. “We now forecast the company revenue for the year to surpass $412 million in revenues. This forecast indicates growth of more than 50% year-over-year.”

University Program Nurtures Next Generation of Engineers

By Patrick Haspel, Global Program Director, Academic Partnerships and University Programs, Synopsys

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated our digital migration, moving more of our activities online. Ajit Manocha, president and CEO of SEMI, has discussed how critical it will be for the industry to close the talent gap. Investing in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education is one way to nurture the interests and skillsets that are needed to bring more engineers into the workforce.

Collaborative business/university relationships, where businesses provide resources that complement or augment educational programs, provide a nice bridge between the two worlds. One such example is the Synopsys Electronic Design University Program, which provides academic and research institutions with access to electronic design automation (EDA) software, technical support, curriculum, and more.

The university bundle consists of more than 200 tools for a nominal fee and licensing agreement in support of fundamental research and education efforts. In this article, which was originally published on the From Silicon to Software blog, I’ll highlight some key examples that illustrate the mutually beneficial outcomes that are resulting from close collaboration between the business and academic worlds.

VLSI Training Course at Tel Aviv University

Creating the next generation of chip design engineers needs to start at the university level. Consider a project involving a complex 5nm design, which would require a team for implementation, verification, software design, and more. Such an endeavor could involve more than 100 people who have the latest skills. However, it’s not always easy to find the right mix of engineers.

Israel, for example, is in a region of the world where the dearth of electronic design talent is extremely high. To help create a pipeline of engineers, Zvi Webb, a retired applications engineering director from Synopsys, is serving as VLSI lab manager at Tel Aviv University and is developing an introductory very large-scale integration (VLSI) course based on the latest chip design tools. Students there, Webb noted, hadn’t been exposed to a digital design workflow and tool chain. Instead, they were building their designs manually.

Webb’s course will be offered in the spring of 2022 and will cover topics such as Verilog, logic synthesis, static timing analysis, and placement and routing, providing students with real-world expertise that can help open doors once they’re ready for the workforce. The training outline was derived from material prepared by Professor Adam Teman from Bar Ilan University. “The new course will bring student engineers more knowledge – they will gain an understanding of what VLSI means, what the steps are, how to perform checks,” Webb said.

NC State University Creates PDK for Physical Verification at 3nm

What constitutes an effective 3nm node? According to research conducted by the Electrical & Computer Engineering Department at North Carolina State University, which based its examinations on several IMEC papers, the 3nm node is marked by a gate length of approximately 15nm, cell track height of 5.5T, and contacted poly pitch of 42nm. Scaling has been enabled by design technology co-optimization to achieve the desired benefits; however, as Moore’s Law slows down, it’s now also important to look at system technology co-optimization, examining ways to reengineer the power grid and utilize new device structures (such as gate all-around FETs).

Dr. Rhett Davis, a professor at the university’s Electrical & Computer Engineering Department, has teamed up with graduate students, other faculty, and the Synopsys University Program to create an open-source 3nm process design kit (PDK) for education and industry research. Specifically, the team wanted to explore the impact of new structures like gate all-around FETs and scaling boosters like buried power rails and 5.5T height metal pitch.

A cross-section of a single transistor in the FreePDK3's vision of a 3nm process (front and side views)
A cross-section of a single transistor in the FreePDK3’s vision of a 3nm process (front and side views)

“What we found when making this kit is that transistors aren’t really shrinking anymore. Instead, they’re getting taller. That is, foundries are finding economical ways to stack them. Our kit compiles the best available public data into a set of rules that show us how to work with this new technology,” explained Davis.

To create the resulting FreePDK3, the team used Synopsys IC Validator for physical verification, Synopsys Custom Compiler for layout and schematic entry, Synopsys StarRC for parasitic extraction, and HSPICE® technology for circuit simulation. The FreePDK3 is published on the GitHub repository.

Engaging the Next Generation of Engineers

These examples illustrate the work that academia is engaging in with the business world. Through our Electronic Design University Program, Synopsys provides full-semester coursework for undergraduate and graduate programs in IC design and EDA development; teaching resources such as libraries and PDKs, and technical support and training. In addition, Synopsys also offers academic programs in the areas of optical design and static analysis software.

The Synopsys Foundation is committed to advancing STEM education opportunities that contribute to the growth and development of our future technology leaders. Through close collaboration, businesses and universities can help nurture the next generation of engineers for semiconductor and electronics industries that are continuing to embark on new innovations that are fueling our smart, connected world.

China-Taiwan Conflict May develop into a Chip-war

US Navy ships sail in formation with Japanese, Australian and Canadian ships in the Philippine Sea. Credit: US DoD

The growing tension between China and Taiwan in the last months raises fears of a coming war and possible takeover of Taiwan’s semiconductor’s capacity, which may reshape the Global Semiconductor Industry. With small population of 24 million people, Taiwan is one of the most important hubs of the semiconductor supply chain. According to IC Insights, in 2020 Taiwan held the largest share of IC industry capacity of any country or region in the world.

Led by TSMC, Taiwan by far holds the largest share of leading-edge (small nodes of less than 10nm) IC capacity (63%) of any country in the world. South Korea, represented by Samsung, holds the remaining 37%. Taiwan holds 22% of the world’s 300mm IC capacity, second only to South Korea, which holds a 25% share.  North America possesses only an 11% share of global 300mm IC capacity. ICs are all semiconductor devices, excluding computer processors.

Taiwan is a Global powerhouse of foundry services: About 80% of Taiwan’s total IC capacity is dedicated to foundry production. Taiwan’s pure-play foundries (TSMC, UMC, Powerchip, Vanguard, etc.) are forecast to represent almost 80% of the total worldwide pure-play foundry market in 2021.

37% of Global IC capacity

A special report by IC Insights, suggests that China is determined to take hold of the Taiwanese semiconductors assets. “If combined, the share of IC capacity within the borders of China and Taiwan would represent about 37% of global IC capacity, about 3x the amount of IC capacity located in North America.”

IC Insights analysts believe that the US sanctions, especially with regard to IC technology, caused China to question how it will be able compete in the future IC and electronics industries.  “It is increasingly apparent that China’s answer to that question centers on its reunification with Taiwan. Currently, there is no more important base of IC capacity and production than Taiwan. China has a huge problem with its inability to produce leading-edge IC devices —a problem that it believes can be solved through reunification with Taiwan by whatever means necessary.

Short term Pain, Long term Gain

What will be the price of a possible war? “While the Taiwanese economy would crater if China attempted a military takeover of the island nation, China’s economy would also suffer greatly.  The question is whether China is willing to accept relatively short-term economic pain for the long term benefit of having the largest amount of the world’s leading-edge IC production capacity under its control for many years to come.”

It is important to mention that IC Insights does not bring evidence to support this conclusion. It also does not mention the deterrent effect of the US forces in the Pacific (photo above). Maybe it is more a warning than a prediction. However, it expresses a real concerns that geopolitical tension in the Taiwan Strait may develop, any moment, into a huge disruption of the entire Global semiconductor supply chain.

NeuroBlade Raises $83 Million in Series B Funding to Accelerate Data Analytics

NeuroBlade, the next generation of data acceleration solutions, announced today that it has secured $83 million in Series B funding, bringing total invested capital to $110 million. The investment was led by Corner Ventures with contribution from Intel Capital, and supported by current investors StageOne Ventures, Grove Ventures and Marius Nacht. Additionally, technology companies including MediaTek, Pegatron, PSMC, UMC and Marubeni also provided funding during this round. The financing will be put to work as the company expands its engineering teams in Tel Aviv and builds out its sales and marketing teams globally.

NeuroBlade has developed a new data analytics architecture that eliminates major data movement bottlenecks by integrating the data processing function inside memory, better known as processing-in-memory (PIM). PIM has been a pipe dream for decades, and according to NeuroBlade, it is the first company to successfully bring this innovation to production. NeuroBlade accelerates data analytics and unclogs traditional bottlenecks by integrating its technology into a full system-level easy-to-deploy appliance.

With more than 100 employees and growing, NeuroBlade has begun shipping its data accelerator to leading-edge customers and partners worldwide. This has seen these partners starting to integrate and deploy NeuroBlade into the world’s biggest data centers.

“We invented a new building block in computer architecture so organizations can quickly answer critical problems facing society and vastly improve business opportunities,” said Elad Sity, CEO and co-founder of NeuroBlade. “Our team is at the core of this success. Together, we built a data analytics accelerator that speeds up processing and analyzing data over 100 times faster than existing systems. Based on our patented XRAM technology, we provide a radically improved end-to-end system for the data center.”

Existing system architectures show that the constant shuffling of data between storage, memory, and central processing is the primary cause of poor application performance and slow response times. NeuroBlade recognized that current architectures cannot scale to meet future data analytics needs, which led them to build a computational architecture that eliminates the data movement requirements and massively speeds data analytics performance.

“Despite being tested like never before this past year, the data center kept the world operating at a critical time. We think that this market is poised for explosive growth and NeuroBlade looks to have a promising journey ahead,” said Lance Weaver, vice president and general manager of Data Center & Cloud Strategy at Intel. “Intel is proud to power NeuroBlade’s platform with our portfolio of products. We look forward to our continued collaboration with NeuroBlade to optimize end-to-end performance.”

“SAP looks forward to continuing to work with NeuroBlade on their new PIM-based data analytics acceleration solution,” said Dr. Patrick Jahnke, head of the innovation office at SAP. “The performance projections and breadth of use cases prove great potential for significantly increased performance improvements for DBMS at higher energy efficiency and reduced total-cost of ownership on-premises and in the cloud. Through this exciting collaboration with NeuroBlade, SAP will unlock new possibilities to build the data center of the future.”

“Organizations run at the speed of their data. NeuroBlade is here to alter the pace of the race. Such is the impact that this technology will have on the global data center market. We fully expect NeuroBlade to be a major player in a very short time and why we are excited to join them at this critical moment in their growth,” said Corner Ventures partner Jonathan Pulitzer.

“In an increasingly digitized world, data empowers businesses to make more informed and precise decisions than ever before,” said Roi Bar-Kat, Head of Intel Capital Israel. “With NeuroBlade’s scalable solution, organizations are better equipped to quickly extract insights needed to make key decisions. Intel Capital is looking forward to supporting the NeuroBlade team as they work to bring increased efficiency and scale to data processing.”