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Chip Shots

The Chip Shots blog channels the observations of Fabtech's and PV-Tech/Photovoltaic International's Senior Contributing Editor--USA, Tom Cheyney, a 20-year veteran of semiconductor, advanced micro/nanoelectronics, and solar manufacturing trade journalism. For 15 years, Tom was editor in chief of MICRO (the original home of Chip Shots) until it ceased publication in July 2006. Tom calls Los Angeles home. View MICRO Magazine archive.

Cross-pollinator: Ascent SolarÔ??s new boss Farhad Moghadam gets his geek back on

26 October 2009
Farhad Moghadam loves to make semiconductor analogies when he talks about his corner of solar photovoltaics. The former Applied Materials and Intel exec is wearing a new hat these days as he marks his third month as president/CEO of Ascent Solar. The company just announced its latest conversion efficiency numbers for its copper-indium-gallium-(di)selenide thin-film PV cells (14.1% peak) and modules (11.7% peak, 10.5%-plus median) and will be ramping its roll-to-roll CIGS-on-polyimide process to volume scale in its Thornton, CO, factory early next year. Read more >>

Rudolph likely to leverage Adventa process control IP into solar space

04 August 2009
adventa_logoRudolph Technologies' acquisition of Adventa Control Technologies for an undisclosed wad of cash has immediate implications for those trying to keep their semiconductor manufacturing processes, equipment, and factories under tight control. ACT's software lurks in some 80% of those fabs, with somewhere upwards of 18,000 of its systems installed. The buy certainly won't hurt Rudolph's bottom line either, as the addition of ACT should double the revenues of the company's data analysis and review biz unit. But the move by Rudolph, which launched its own photovoltaic-specific Solar Discover process control and yield management package earlier this year (and which is already an option on Spire's turnkey cell lines), may also end up benefitting the PV production crowd. To read the rest of the blog, click here to go to Read more >>

A few words from Lehman on why DRAM, solar industries don’t compare, but polysilicon does

10 September 2008 | Comments (2)
lehmanbldgThe news has been grim for Lehman Brothers today, but one part of the giant investment bank that's doing yeoman work is its solar energy equity research group, led by analyst Vishal Shah. His daily email newsletter and periodic reports are some of the most informative and cogent in the space. Read more >>

SMIC plows ahead with process migration plans, but will chip foundry ever make money?

09 September 2008 | Comments (1)
Since its inception, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp., better known as SMIC, has pursued an aggressive plan to join the elite chip foundry companies. During the Chinese firm's chase of the big two--TSMC and UMC--it passed Chartered to ascend to the number-three slot a couple of years ago, although it has been nip and tuck with the Singaporean concern since then, alternating between third and fourth place. But the one cornerstone of SMIC's gameplan where it has failed miserably is one of the most basic to any business model--profitability. Read more >>

National Semiconductor execs are all smiles when it comes to SolarMagic

08 September 2008
halla_nationalNational Semiconductor may have seen net income slip a bit in its latest quarterly results, but Brian Halla and his team have shown no erosion in their excitement over the company's initial product foray into the photovoltaics market space, launched in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2008: SolarMagic. Read more >>

Oberai discusses Magma’s move into solar PV yield management space

29 August 2008 | Comments (1)
The semiconductor industry has long had its eye on improving yields in the fabs, developing an ever-more sophisticated array of software and hardware tools to detect defects and faults, monitor and analyze process and design variations, zero in on the root causes, and crunch the giga-reams of resultant data to try and make sense of the perturbations of the production flows. As the solar photovoltaics manufacturing industry ramps up and seeks ways to improve its own best practices on the factory floor while reducing costs, the need for a comprehensive, PV-specific yield enhancement strategy has become more acute. One company familiar to the design and yield communities in the chipmaking realm, Magma Design Automation, announced earlier this week that it is developing a new solar-specific software system based on its proven YieldManager platform. Read more >>

Solar start-up Suniva sees plenty of efficiency, cost innovations left in crystalline silicon PV

21 August 2008 | Comments (1)
Spun out of the Georgia Institute of Technology's Center of Excellence in Photovoltaics (UCEP) last year, Suniva has emerged as one of the most intriguing start-ups in the solar PV space. Over the past six months, the Atlanta-based company has raised $50 million in Series B funds; started to build, outfit, and ramp its first solar-cell production line; and struck big-ticket, nine-figure, multiyear deals with its supply chain (REC for wafers) and customer base (Solon for modules). Suniva's goal is not to bring yet another "disruptive" thin-film or concentrator PV technology to market, but to harness the high-efficiency, low-cost potential of solar's workhorse starting material--crystalline silicon. Read more >>

While First Solar keeps on trucking, others in CdTe thin-film PV pack keep on muddling

21 August 2008 | Comments (12)
How does that additional 72 MW of cadmium-telluride thin-film PV module-making capacity planned by First Solar for its Perrysburg, OH, facilities stack up against the rest of the CdTe competition's current production levels? According to recent data compiled by NREL and presented at Intersolar North America/Semicon West, First's extra chunk of factory output would exceed the total megawatt-nameplate of AVA Solar, PrimeStar, Calyxo/Q-Cells, Antec, Avendi, and ASP combined. The same data show the CdTe Gang of Six Followers projected to reach 280 MW by 2010--by which time First will have passed the gigawatt mark. Read more >>

Taking the silicon shipment area numbers, semiconductor sales figures to the woodshed

15 August 2008 | Comments (1)
The latest numbers from the SIA and SEMI's silicon manufacturers group (SMG) have come out in the past two weeks, so it's time for Chip Shots' quarterly metrification-and-comparison woodshed exercise. Read more >>

VLSI Standards’ Tortonese talks about company’s move into solar PV cell/module calibration

14 August 2008
When the term "traceable calibration standards" gets mentioned, it's not likely to trigger a giddy rush of excitement among most professionals in the semiconductor, flat-panel display, and related micro/nano industries. Read more >>