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No. 364, January 2000

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American Companies in Japan


Effective January 1, TEXAS INSTRUMENTS INC.'s subsidiary absorbed the Texas Instruments Tsukuba Research & Development Center in Ibaraki prefecture. Headquarters in Dallas previously had owned and operated the facility. .....TEXAS INSTRUMENTS INC. is sampling in Japan and elsewhere four additions to its MSP430 line of low-power, embedded flash memory microcontrollers. Two of the products are extensions of TI's existing MSP430 family of 16-bit RISC (reduced instruction-set computing) MCUs. They feature 4 kilobytes of flash memory and have an operating range of 1.8 volts to 3.6 volts and 2.2 volts to 3.6 volts, respectively. Performance runs up to 8 million instructions per second. The other two devices offer the same functionality, but they have only 1 KB of flash memory. These parts are sampled-priced in volume at the equivalent of just 99 cents each.

It might be the world leader in programmable logic devices, but in Japan, San Jose, California-based XILINX, INC. trails crosstown rival ALTERA CORP. In an effort to reverse these rankings, Xilinx's subsidiary plans to double its marketing and engineering staff to 60 people by the end of its 2000 business year. This increase, the company figures, should help it boost sales of PLDs, which now run around $126.2 million a year, by at least 20 percent annually. Much of Xilinx's marketing strategy focuses on its year-old Virtex series of field-programmable gate arrays. This line currently consists of 20 members that range from 50,000 system gates to 3.2 million. According to Xilinx, these products deliver a performance that previously was achievable only with an ASIC (application-specific IC) solution.

INTERNATIONAL RECTIFIER CORP. also has its sights set on higher sales in Japan. In fact, the El Segundo, California manufacturer has mapped out plans to double sales, which totaled $63.1 million in the year through June 1999, within three years. One fundamental change underway is to switch marketing strategy from sales exclusively through distributors to direct sales supplemented by agent sales. IR also will put more emphasis on sales of high-efficiency power semiconductors, one of its strengths, and other value-added products. The third part of its plan calls for boosting the share of sales generated by devices that are less than a year old to 45 percent by June 2001 from under 20 percent at present. .....One part that could help INTERNATIONAL RECTIFIER CORP.'s subsidiary shift its sales mix is the IR2171 linear current-sensing IC. Designed for motor-drive applications, this power-conserving device senses the motor phase current through an external shunt resistor, converts the signal from analog to digital and then transfers the signal to the low side. Expected uses of the IR2171, which is sample-priced at $3.90, are inverter power sources and AC servos.

Two integrated, high-voltage CRT driver circuits are on the market from NATIONAL SEMICONDUCTOR CORP.'s subsidiary. The LM2412, which costs $5.10, and the $4.10 LM2413 are both designed for color monitors that have a resolution of up to 1600 x 1200 pixels. That technology exceeds today's mainstream high-end resolution of 1280 x 1024 pixels (SXGA or super extended graphics array) and even the coming generation of 1400 x 1050 pixels (SXGA+). The primary difference between the pair of devices is the speed at which they operate.

LINEAR TECHNOLOGY CORP.'s marketing arm has introduced a trio of operational amplifiers. The LT1782 is a 200-kilohertz device that operates in the range of 2.5 volts to 18 volts. For applications requiring higher power — 1.2 MHz — but the same voltage range, there is the LT1783. The third product, the LT1637, has a gain-bandwidth of 1.1 MHz but draws little current; it works with power supplies with a total voltage of 2.7 volts to 44 volts. New to the market as well from the subsidiary of the Milpitas, California manufacturer is a 12-bit sampling analog/digital converter. The LTC1420 draws only 250 milliwatts from either single or dual 5-volt power supplies. It is priced at $6.95 per unit.

COMPETITIVE TECHNOLOGIES, INC., which specializes in identifying promising technologies in such fields as digital electronics and then developing and commercializing them, licensed MATSUSHITA ELECTRONICS CORP. to use on a nonexclusive basis its high-powered laser diode know-how. According to the Fairfield, Connecticut company, this technology increases the performance and the durability of lasers used in DVD drives and other optical storage equipment, thereby obviating the common problem of low reliability during long-term operation.

The world's largest maker of semiconductor production equipment sees money to be made in helping Japan's big IC manufacturers integrate the various types of machines they buy from different suppliers. This job has become more time-consuming as the complexity of chip production has increased. APPLIED MATERIALS, INC.'s subsidiary offers integration packages that cover a wide variety of processes. Obviously, though, AMI hopes to persuade semiconductor producers that they can avoid many of their integration headaches by purchasing its equipment, which includes not only deposition equipment but systems for a number of other production steps.

With device geometries now down to 0.18-micron on high-speed processors and headed lower, industry experts project a switchover to copper from aluminum for interconnections. That prospect, SEMITOOL, INC. believes, could help it roughly double sales in Japan to $58.3 million in the year through September 2000. Among its products, the Kalispell, Montana company supplies electrochemical copper deposition tools that are said to produce high-purity copper films with superior uniformity. Semitool's Tokyo subsidiary began direct sales in October 1998 after using a distributor for 11 years.

One company that can attest to the fact that investment in semiconductor production equipment is on the upswing again in Japan is ASYST TECHNOLOGIES, INC. Among the Fremont, California supplier's latest contracts are two multimillion-dollar orders for standard mechanical interface-based automation equipment for wafer fabrication facilities. One of the deals involves SMIF-based equipment for a fab under construction that will produce digital and analog devices with geometries as narrow as 0.15 micron. The other is for a facility that is migrating its production process from 150-mm (6-inch) wafers to 200-mm (8-inch) wafers and also moving from open cassettes to SMIF technology. Asyst is convinced that as design rules shrink, demand for SMIF automation technology will expand because of its ability to reduce contamination-related yield loss and due to its productivity benefits. To ensure that it fully capitalizes on these opportunities, the company is on its way to acquiring a majority position in a Nagoya manufacturer of robotics systems used to automate chip and flat-panel display manufacturing tools (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 361, October 1999, p. 24).

FEI CO. has teamed with TOKYO ELECTRON LTD., Japan's top maker of semiconductor manufacturing equipment, for sales of its focused ion beam and DualBeam scanning electron microscopes. The Hillsboro, Oregon firm's products provide accurate 3D measurements of critical dimensions and deliver feedback on process defects early in the manufacturing process. FEI, too, believes that as device geometries shrink and make production inherently more difficult, demand will expand for its broad range of metrology, analysis and structural process control equipment since these tools can boost yields and, thereby, lower overall costs. TEL is of the same mind. It is forecasting annual sales of $97.1 million for FEI's equipment in three years.

Another supplier of metrology equipment also has moved into the Japanese market. BOXER CROSS INC. of Menlo Park, California signed HAKUTO CO., LTD. to distribute its BX-10 Advanced Implant Monitor. This $970,900 automated tool can be used not only for monitoring the depth uniformity of shallow doped layers over the full area of a wafer but also for measuring surface roughness at the micro level. Unlike most other characterization techniques, the BX-10 is designed for in-line production use. Moreover, the measurements are noncontact and, thus, nondestructive and can be performed directly on both 200-mm and 300-mm production wafers. Hakuto forecasts that it can sell five of Boxer Cross' systems in the first year of marketing and 15 annually after three years.

Big automatic test equipment supplier TERADYNE, INC. sold a 1,024-pin configuration of its J973 VLSI Test System to the Kumamoto prefecture manufacturing affiliate of MITSUBISHI ELECTRIC CORP. for commercial testing of complex logic devices. The MELCO unit had been using the tester in engineering development and for trial output of high-performance ASIC devices for computing and networking applications. Boston- headquartered Teradyne says that one advantage of the system, which cost a reported $5.8 million, is that it can economically test low-pin-count very large-scale integrated devices in parallel with cutting-edge, high-pin-count VLSI circuits. .....TERADYNE, INC. will be going head-to-head with Japanese market ATE leader ADVANTEST CORP. when it begins full-scale marketing within 2000 of test systems for flash memories and CCDs. Both testers are derived from Teradyne's high-performance, general-purpose J750 VLSI Test System.

The marketing unit of AGILENT TECHNOLOGIES INC. has on the market a system designed specifically to reduce the cost of testing radio-frequency power amplifiers used in digital cellular and PCS or PHS (personal handyphone system) handsets. The Agilent 84000 Series Model A20e, the Palo Alto, California parent claims, enables manufacturers of power amplifier ICs to maximize throughput, minimize floor space and cut time to market. The dedicated function of this model makes it unique among the members of the Agilent 84000 family, which can test a variety of devices.

SUMITOMO 3M LTD. is projecting first-year sales of $1.5 million for a pair of sockets used to test direct Rambus DRAMs and other cutting-edge memories. One product tests these devices in quad flat packs at up to 6 GHz. It lists for $4,900. The other, priced at $8,700, tests chips in ball grid array packages at speeds as high as 10 GHz.

With the acquisition of several U.S. producers of semiconductor wafer-processing components made from ceramics, COORSTEK, INC. (formerly Coors Ceramics Co.) has decided to expand its business into Japan. The Golden, Colorado manufacturer tapped the subsidiary of GREENE, TWEED & CO. to handle marketing of ceramic components for such applications as sputtering, implant, etch, chemical and physical vapor deposition and thin-film deposition. Sales are forecast at a modest $970,900 the first year but are expected to reach $9.7 million in 2005. Kurpsville, Pennsylvania-based Greene, Tweed manufactures speciality seals, including ones used in various semiconductor production processes, and engineered plastic components.

An exchange rate of ¥103=$1.00 was used in this report. aaaaa

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