Japan-US Business Report LogoJapan-U.S. Business Report

No. 343, April 1998

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Japanese Companies in the US


The dive in the prices of dynamic random access memory chips continues to reverberate through Japanese-affiliated semiconductor plants in the United States (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 342, March 1998, p. 6). MATSUSHITA SEMICONDUCTOR CORP. OF AMERICA has indefinitely delayed opening a wafer fabrication facility at its Puyallup, Washington production complex that was built at a cost of $600 million. The new front end has the capacity to produce 12,000 8-inch wafers a month for microcontrollers as well as DRAMs. An older fab at the site continues to turn out these products. MASCO is an affiliate of MA-TSUSHITA ELECTRIC INDUSTRIAL CO., LTD. .....Meanwhile, Irving, Texas-based HITACHI SEMICONDUCTOR (AMERICA) INC. is restructuring operations, putting more emphasis on products other than mainstay DRAMs. By the end of 1998, executives of the HITACHI, LTD. subsidiary project, microcontrollers, ASICs (application-specific integrated circuits) and other nonmemory components will represent 40 percent of output versus 18 percent now. In the process, though, roughly 200 employees will lose their jobs, leaving around 500 people on the payroll.

NEC CORP. has opened its seventh semiconductor design center in the United States. The new facility, located in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, is charged with design and development of NEC ELECTRONICS, INC.'s microcontroller products. That mission sets it apart from the company's other design centers, all of which are dedicated to ASICs. These facilities are in Santa Clara, California; Chicago; Natick, Massachusetts; Raleigh, North Carolina; Portland, Oregon; and Dallas.

The first NEC CORP. chip designed entirely in the United States is on the market worldwide. The MIPS-compatible Vr5400 Series of microprocessors also has the distinction of being the first MIPS devices with on-chip multimedia instructions, making them similar to INTEL CORP. processors with the MMX instruction set. The series spans the Vr5432, a 167-megahertz device that is said to consume just 2.5 watts of power but generates up to 347 million instructions per second using a 32-bit input/output bus; the 200-MHz Vr5464, which uses a 32-bit/64-bit I/O bus; and the 250-MHz Vr5466, a 519-MIPS device that also features a dual I/O bus. The parts are priced at $45, $70 and $95, respectively, in quantities of 10,000 units.

The world supply of silicon-on-insulator wafers produced by a process known as SIMOX (short for separation by implantation of oxygen) will expand as a result of the latest phase of a 1994 business relationship between MITSUBISHI MATERIALS CORP. and IBIS TECHNOLOGY CORP., a supplier of SIMOX-SOI wafers. The big Japanese maker of standard silicon wafers, which has exclusive rights to sell the Danvers, Massachusetts company's SIMOX-SOI wafers in Japan, will purchase an Ibis 1000 oxygen implanter and launch production via subsidiary MITSUBISHI MATERIALS SILICON CORP. of SIMOX-SOI wafers for the home market and elsewhere in Asia. Mitsubishi Materials also is discussing with Ibis a licensing agreement covering the U.S. firm's new ADVANTOX process for making SIMOX-SOI wafers. In addition, MITSUBISHI SILICON AMERICA CORP., a Salem, Oregon maker of silicon wafers, will work with Ibis to develop the market in the United States and Europe for SIMOX-SOI wafers.

Production of metal CVD (chemical vapor deposition) and PVD (physical vapor deposition) or sputtering equipment has started at TOKYO ELECTRON ARIZONA, INC. in Gilbert Arizona with a staff of 240 people. Parent TOKYO ELECTRON LTD. acquired the plant in December from SONY CORP. subsidiary MATERIALS RESEARCH CORP. (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 340, January 1998, p. 7). The factory has the capacity to turn out monthly four CVD systems and 10 PVD machines.

Collaborators for a decade-plus on deep ultraviolet technology for photolithography equipment, CANON INC. and CYMER, INC., the world's top supplier of excimer laser illumination sources for DUV photolithography, have signed an agreement to provide worldwide support to their joint DUV stepper customers. A key feature of the arrangement is to ensure that all Canon service personnel are trained on the Cymer lasers used in the company's DUV systems.

Meanwhile, CANON INC. is taking orders for its latest i-line wafer stepper. The FPA-3000i5+ offers an enhanced optical performance, better overlay and higher throughput. Based on the FPA-3000i5 platform, which is in use at WHITE OAK SEMICONDUCTOR INC. among other places (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 341, February 1998, p. 7), the new stepper can print features smaller than 0.35 micron. That makes it suited to volume production of 64-megabit and higher DRAMs. It also can handle more than 100 200-millimeter (8-inch) wafers an hour, a 25 percent improvement on its predecessor. Canon said that it designed the FPA-3000i5+, which is priced around $3.7 million, as a mix-and-match companion to its FPA- 3000EX5 DUV stepper.

A tie-up between SHARP CORP., said to be the world's largest producer of chip-scale packages, and AMKOR ELECTRONICS INC., the top semiconductor assembly subcontractor, aims to lower the cost of film-based, wire- bonded CSPs. This technique is designed for cellular telephones, laptop computers, digital cameras and other portable electronics products that require a thin package with a reduced ball pitch. As part of the agreement, Sharp and West Chester, Pennsylvania-headquartered Amkor will serve as second sources for each other's wire-bonded CSPs. Amkor's product, known as fleXBGA, will be in volume production by early fall.

An exchange rate of ¥129=$1.00 was used in this report.

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