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

No. 347, August 1998

Issue Index

Japanese Companies in the US


Recognizing the advantages that silicon carbide semiconductors offer for high-voltage, high-power switching devices, KANSAI ELECTRIC POWER CO., INC. is prepared to spend up to $3 million over the next 32 months to help CREE RESEARCH, INC. develop SiC power devices with a blocking voltage in excess of 5 kilovolts for use in power transmission systems. The Durham, North Carolina company is the world's leading manufacturer of SiC-based semiconductors. SiC devices are expected to yield substantial power savings because of reduced losses due to their efficiency. They also should ease the complexity of power transmission switching systems. SiC has the ability to withstand high temperatures and power levels, which means that substantially fewer devices are required in a system.

In a technology-sharing arrangement that some analysts found surprising, SANYO ELECTRIC CO., LTD. will have access to INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES CORP.'s 0.18-micron semiconductor process technology as well as its core library for system-on-a-chip integration and other technologies, including the PowerPC. That access is part of a wide- ranging agreement between the two to design, produce and market custom integrated circuits for consumer electronics products like digital televisions, digital cameras and digital video discs. The deal, however, is not one-sided. It gives IBM the opportunity to expand its custom chip business into the ready-for-takeoff consumer digital device market. The arrangement also expands IBM's role as a chip supplier in Japan since the company will provide foundry services for Sanyo Electric. The partners will work together in 10 product areas, with marketing of the resulting ASIC (application-specific IC) and custom logic chips occurring over the next two years.

FUJITSU COMPOUND SEMICONDUCTOR, INC., the San Jose, California marketing unit of FUJI-TSU QUANTUM DEVICES, LTD., has ambitious near- term sales goals for the North American market, particularly for gallium arsenide devices used in the data communications and telecommunications industries. The company is aiming for yearly sales of $212.8 million, or about one-third of its parent's projected worldwide total. To support this expansion, Fujitsu Compound plans to double the number of engineers on staff to 100 within the next year. That will give the company greater depth to work with U.S. communications firms to design products that take full advantage of the very low power consumption and the very high switching speeds of semiconductors fabricated from GaAs materials. Fujitsu Compound also markets HEMTs (high-electronic mobility transistors) for satellite and mobile communications, laser diodes, photodetective diodes and monolithic microwave ICs.

In a unique relationship, general contractor FUJITA CORP. has teamed with SYMETRIX CORP., the developer of the Y-1 fabrication process for ferroelectric random access memories, to supply Ferro-Fab turnkey FeRAM back-end fabrication facilities. The Colorado Springs, Colorado company claims that the Ferro-Fab technology optimizes the cost advantages of the FeRAM process compared with simply converting existing wafer fabrication plants to FeRAM production. The partners are building the first Ferro-Fab facility at Symetrix's campus. The highly automated plant will be capable of producing parts with 0.35-micron to 0.25-micron processing techniques. Capacity will be adequate for Symetrix's initial product lineup, including embedded microcontrollers for contactless IC cards, stand-alone memories and ferroelectric ASICs. The Y-1 process has been licensed to MATSUSHITA ELECTRIC INDUSTRIAL CO., LTD. and NEC CORP.

New to CANON INC.'s U.S. wafer stepper line is the FPA-5000ES2 scanning stepper. It is described as the industry's first 248-nanometer, deep- ultraviolet, step-and-scan system capable of achieving 0.18-micron line processing on either 200-millimeter (8-inch) or 300-mm (12-inch) wafers. Canon expects a primary selling point of the new scanner to be its field-upgradability to 300-mm wafers. Deliveries of the FPA-5000ES2 will start in October.

In the latest reorganization of its U.S. operations, KOKUSAI ELECTRIC CO., LTD. has merged North Billerica, Massachusetts-based KOKUSAI BTI CORP., a manufacturer of horizontal diffusion furnaces, into KOKUSAI SEMICONDUCTOR EQUIPMENT CORP. That San Jose, California company was formed in the spring of 1997 to handle marketing and service.

An exchange rate of ¥141=$1.00 was used in this report.

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