Emerging Technologies


[Insights] Quanta Teams Up with Vuzix, Aiming for Mass Production of AR Glasses in 2024 with Expanded Applications

In November 2023, Quanta, a Taiwanese electronics manufacturer, has announced a collaboration with the U.S. AR glasses technology provider Vuzix. Through the adoption of Vuzix’s waveguide technology and optical display components, Quanta is set to engage in mass production for smart glasses, with shipments expected to commence in 2024.

The contract manufacturer like Quanta has been strengthening its technical capabilities in the VR and AR domains in recent years, aiming to possess the capacity to provide comprehensive product solutions and seize opportunities in the flourishing virtual market.

TrendForce’s Insights:

  1. Quanta Continues to Explore AR Glasses, Collaboration with Vuzix Aims for Expanded Applications

In recent years, Quanta has actively invested in the AR glasses sector, including collaborative efforts with STMicroelectronics in late 2020 to develop a reference design for AR glasses and a $20 million investment in the Israeli AR startup Lumus in 2021.

The ongoing partnership with Vuzix, planning for complete device shipments, underscores Quanta’s optimistic outlook on the application development and future business opportunities for AR glasses.

Given Quanta’s key product and service areas spanning mobile computing, home entertainment, IoT, and smart manufacturing, the current trend of the metaverse positions VR and AR devices as crucial gateways to enter and add value to these domains.

With Quanta transitioning from a device supplier to a platform service provider and implementing a comprehensive development strategy of hardware-software integration, the continued focus on AR glasses holds the potential to expand profit margins for Quanta.

Vuzix, in collaboration with Quanta, has secured a prominent position in the VR and AR device market through its wearable display technology. Notably, Vuzix has developed the world’s first Micro LED AR glasses and consistently received CES Innovation Awards from 2020 to the present year.

Their product highlights encompass AR technology for swim goggles, the establishment of a comprehensive smart glasses platform featuring microLED and waveguide technologies. The recently unveiled Ultralite S, focused on sports and fitness scenarios, seamlessly integrates with smartphones or smartwatches to display real-time activity data and information on the glasses, earning it the CES 2024 Innovation Award.

With Vuzix possessing critical optical technology and components across a broad product range, the collaboration aligns well with Quanta’s AR transformation, particularly enhancing Quanta’s QOCA telemedicine cloud platform in the medical field. The synergy between the two marks a harmonious and mutually beneficial partnership.

  1. Contract Manufacturer Actively Strengthen VR and AR Tech Capabilities Through Collaboration and Investment to Seize Virtual Opportunities

In addition to Quanta, various contract manufacturers have been actively enhancing their technological capabilities in the VR and AR industry through collaborations, mergers, and investments. Notably, Foxconn has been investing in and collaborating with key players in the VR and AR device market since 2022, including XRSPACE, Varjo, and the early part of 2023 with Jorjin.

Looking at other contract manufacturers, GoerTek works with major clients like Meta, Sony, and PICO, Luxshare has Apple Vision Pro assembly orders, and Pegatron has handled products for Microsoft HoloLens and Oculus, while Quanta has been involved with Microsoft Mixed Reality Headset.

Therefore, for Foxconn and other companies aiming to enter this field, adopting more investment and collaboration strategies, or even directly acquiring key tech firms, will be the fastest way to rapidly strengthen their competitive position in the VR and AR market.

Looking at the overall supply chain of the VR and AR virtual device industry, the efforts of assembly plants to strengthen their technical capabilities go beyond providing assembly outsourcing. To a certain extent, this is also aimed at developing the ability to offer complete product solutions, catering to a broader customer base.

Given that these devices prioritize image precision and real-time capture, high-end products require more components and sensors. Moreover, the non-uniform design of head-mounted devices adds complexity to the assembly of VR and AR devices.

Additionally, not all companies have the resources and industry competitiveness, as in the case of Meta and Sony, to independently develop head-mounted devices from scratch. For many, obtaining a more comprehensive product solution and then making adjustments is a more practical approach. This necessitates contract manufacturers to have enhanced VR and AR technology and ODM capabilities. This way, amidst the flourishing opportunities in the virtual market, they can offer complete head-mounted device solutions.

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[News] Samsung Reportedly Organizing Next-Gen Chip Fabrication Team, Aiming to Seize the Initiative in the AI Field

According to the South Korean media The Korea Economic Daily’s report, Samsung Electronics has established a new business unit dedicated to developing next-generation chip processing technology. The aim is to secure a leading position in the field of AI chips and foundry services.

The report indicates that the recently formed research team at Samsung will be led by Hyun Sang-jin, who was promoted to the position of general manager on November 29. He has been assigned the responsibility of ensuring a competitive advantage against competitors like TSMC in the technology landscape.

The team will be placed under Samsung’s chip research center within its Device Solutions (DS) division, which oversees its semiconductor business, as mentioned in the report.

Reportedly, insiders claim that Samsung aims for the latest technology developed by the team to lead the industry for the next decade or two, similar to the gate-all-around (GAA) transistor technology introduced by Samsung last year.

Samsung has previously stated that compared to the previous generation process, the 3-nanometer GAA process can deliver a 30% improvement in performance, a 50% reduction in power consumption, and a 45% reduction in chip size. In the report, Samsung also claimed that it is more energy-efficient compared to FinFET technology, which is utilized by the TSMC’s 3-nanometer process.

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(Photo credit: Samsung)


[News] NVIDIA Expands Autonomous Driving Team in China, Actively Recruiting Talent

According to Chinatimes’ report, NVIDIA, the powerhouse in the AI domain, has recently announced recruitment initiatives in China, signaling an expansion of its autonomous driving team to propel the arrival of the AI-defined automotive era.

With a total of 25 positions across five departments, the focus is primarily on fields such as autonomous driving software, algorithms, and more, with job locations spanning Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen.

The five departments open for recruitment at NVIDIA encompass the Autonomous Driving Software Group, Autonomous Driving Platform Group, System Integration and Testing Group, Map and Simulation Group, and the Product Group.

While each department has a varying number of open positions, the collective count reaches 25. Notably, within less than a day of posting the recruitment information on LinkedIn, NVIDIA has received over 100 resumes, indicating significant interest in the roles.

According to NVIDIA’s introduction, the mission of their autonomous driving team is to design, create, and deploy the safest and most advanced artificial intelligence-driven systems for automation and autonomous vehicles.

The scope of their work spans various modes of transportation, ranging from passenger cars to commercial vehicles and robot taxis. Safety is their top priority, whether it involves simultaneously training and testing AI in data centers or performing real-time data processing in vehicles.

NVIDIA asserts that as a leader in AI and accelerated computing, their autonomous driving solutions are global in scope. They aim to collaborate with automotive manufacturers to create value for users worldwide on the journey from L2 to L4 autonomy levels.

On the other hand, the team is led by Wu Xinzhou, who resigned from his position as Vice President of Autonomous Driving at XPeng Motors in August of this year.

Wu aspires for the Chinese autonomous driving team to become a core force propelling NVIDIA’s autonomous driving products to commercialization. He envisions leveraging China’s talent pool and experience to collaboratively create globally competitive autonomous driving products.

Wu also outlined specific requirements for prospective candidates, emphasizing the need for a solid professional background, strong self-motivation, a relentless pursuit of excellence in technology and product development, alignment with NVIDIA’s diverse work environment, and excellent communication skills to engage effectively with colleagues from different backgrounds.

(Photo credit: Nvidia)


[Insights] Significant Impact of Chinese Export Restrictions, Material Alternatives Yet to Yield Immediate Results

With China intensifying export controls, Japanese companies relying on crucial battery and semiconductor materials manufactured in China are contemplating alternative solutions. They are actively seeking materials sources to achieve supply diversification.

TrendForce’s insight:

1. Alternative Solution Cannot be Translated into Immediate Success

While countries like Japan and South Korea have swiftly initiated strategies to find alternative solutions, the majority are still in the evaluation, research, or testing stages, unable to provide immediate assistance.

Even if alternative graphite production sources outside of China, such as in North America or Australia, are identified, it is likely to increase manufacturing costs, thereby impacting the selling price or profit performance of electric vehicles.

2. Back to Negotiation with Chinese Manufacturers

The post-export control scenario may accentuate the cost advantage of Chinese battery manufacturers, influencing the effectiveness of various protective measures taken by Europe and the United States to counter Chinese electric vehicles.

Consequently, countries may ultimately realize that returning to the negotiation table with China is more practical than going through a prolonged process, aligning with China’s primary objective.

3. Material Edge Won’t Last Forever

The continuous export restrictions on critical materials by China may encourage countries to persist in developing alternative solutions. For instance, OEMs like Tesla, GM, and Stellantis are actively investing in research on rare-earth-free motors to reduce dependency on Chinese rare earths.

While currently constrained by battery material technology, graphite remains the highest-value anode material. Yet, numerous companies are also exploring anodes with higher energy density, such as silicon oxide (SiO) and lithium metal (Li Metal).

Therefore, China must recognize that material advantages may not be permanent, and the core lies in the ability for technological iteration.

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(Photo credit: Pixabay)


[News] Japanese Companies Seek Battery and Chip Materials Outside China

According to IJWEI’s report, Japanese companies heavily reliant on key battery and semiconductor materials manufactured in China are expanding their sources as China intensifies export controls.

On October 20th, China announced that certain graphite items, including high-purity, high-strength, and high-density synthetic graphite materials and their products, cannot be exported without permission.

This regulation officially takes effect on December 1st of this year. Graphite is crucial for manufacturing the negative electrode of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles. While the permit requirements do not constitute a ban, they may lead to a reduction in China’s graphite exports.

Over 80% of the natural graphite used in Japan comes from China. In case of a disruption in graphite imports, Mitsubishi Chemical Group in Japan is considering strengthening its production of electrode materials in Shandong. The company is also exploring partnerships in Australia and production in Mozambique and Norway to diversify the supply.

Representatives from Nissan Motor Company have stated that they will consider sourcing graphite and other key electric vehicle materials from alternative regions.

Panasonic’s battery subsidiary, Panasonic Energy, is collaborating with a Canadian graphite company on research for large-scale production of electrode materials. In September of this year, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) and the Canadian government signed an agreement to strengthen the battery supply chain.

According to data from the United States Geological Survey, the global graphite production reached 1.3 million tons in 2022, experiencing a 15% year-on-year growth due to the popularity of electric vehicles. China contributes to 70% of the graphite production and is a major producer of synthetic graphite. China serves as the primary low-cost exporter for both types of materials.

“The costs of procuring graphite will inevitably rise, the focus will be on how companies maintain their competitive advantage while bearing the costs.” as stated by Noboru Sato, visiting professor at Nagoya University.

Graphite is not the sole crucial mineral for China. In August of this year, China intensified export restrictions on gallium and germanium, vital rare metals used in the manufacturing of electronic components and semiconductors. Customs data indicates a significant decrease in the export of these two metals.

Japanese manufacturers are also exploring materials sources unaffected by China’s export controls. Kanto Denka Kogyo, a chemical producer, is testing lithium compounds from regions like South America to manufacture battery electrolytes. The company is also collaborating with Sumitomo Metal Mining to test technology for lithium recovery from discarded electric vehicle batteries.

At the same time, Japan is using diplomacy and foreign aid to ensure a stable supply of critical materials. Both China and Japan have confirmed the establishment of new bilateral export control dialogues. Senior trade officials from both sides will engage in regular consultations on export restriction issues.

The Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry is seeking JPY 260 billion (approximately USD 1.74 billion) in the supplementary budget proposal for this fiscal year to support Japan’s battery manufacturing. Some of the funds may be allocated for investing in companies producing synthetic graphite in Japan.

Last year, Japan’s additional budget provided approximately JPY 200 billion to support the extraction, refining, and processing of critical minerals. Companies investing overseas in the production of rare metals will receive subsidies of up to half.

Companies outside Japan are also taking action to mitigate the impact of Chinese supply restrictions. According to Business Korea’s report, South Korea’s company Posco Future M, which produces battery materials, has preemptively planned to manufacture synthetic graphite using coal tar, a byproduct that can be sourced domestically in Korea.

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(Photo credit: Pixabay)

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