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

No. 347, August 1998

Issue Index

American Companies in Japan


Late this year, FUJITSU-AMD SEMICONDUCTOR LTD. will launch production of 64-megabit flash memories at its wafer fabrication complex in Aizu- Wakamatsu, Fukushima prefecture. In the process, it will switch to 0.23- micron fabrication techniques from the 0.35-micron technology now used to make 16-megabit flash devices. This advancement allows a 40 percent shrinkage in the size of the chips as well as a 10 percent or so increase in the memory's data transfer rate. Output is scheduled to hit 1.2 million 64- megabit flash memories a month during the second half of 1999. If all goes according to current plan, FASL will start making 128-megabit flash memories at the end of 1999 and 256-megabit parts a year later. Equally owned by ADVANCED MICRO DEVICES, INC. and FUJITSU, LTD., the company inaugurated its second fab early last spring (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 343, April 1998, pp. 16-17).

Add FAIRCHILD SEMICONDUCTOR CORP. to the list of U.S. semiconductor manufacturers with local subsidiaries. The South Portland, Maine supplier of logic, analog, mixed signal and nonvolatile memory chips and discrete power and signal devices for the communications, computer, consumer electronics, automotive and industrial markets opened a regional headquarters in Tokyo and a sales office in Osaka. Its Japanese operations currently are supported by 36 people in sales, marketing, logistics, quality control and administration.

To provide applications support to customers in Japan, ELANTEC SEMICONDUCTOR, INC. established a technical center in Yokohama. The Milpitas, California company makes and markets analog ICs mainly for video/multimedia, data processing, instrument and communications applications. In addition to its direct presence in Japan, Elantec has sales and technical support offices at its headquarters and in Boston and London.

The Pentium II Xeon processor, the first engine INTEL CORP. specifically developed for midrange and higher servers and workstations, has arrived in Japan. Operating at 400 MHz, the part is designed to help manufacturers of servers and workstations running both the Unix and the Windows NT operating systems to deliver scalability and high availability. The 400- MHz Pentium II Xeon with 1 megabyte of Level 2 cache is priced at $2,900 in quantities of 1,000. .....In a concurrent release, INTEL CORP.'s subsidiary put on the market the performance-enhancing 450 NX PCIset, a second-generation peripheral component interconnect chipset, and the 440 GX AGPset, a new accelerated graphics port chipset.

For $10.85 each in quantities of 100 or more, the subsidiary of Tucson, Arizona-based BURR-BROWN CORP. is selling the VSP2000 chip. A CCD (charge-coupled device) signal processor, the part is a complete digital camera IC suitable for video cameras, digital still cameras, PC cameras and security cameras.

Campbell, California start-up INVOX TECHNOLOGY has signed up a pair of heavyweights — KANEMATSU SEMICONDUCTOR CORP. and INNO MICRO CORP. — to distribute its IVMI1700 line of flash-based, single-chip recording and playback chips, which can accept and store either analog voice and/or digital data. The products are said to store more information within a single standard flash memory than competing devices by using analog storage techniques rather than conventional digital storage. The first member of the IVMI1700 family, which will be targeted at such applications as portable voice recorders, cellular phones, telephone answering devices and personal digital assistants, has up to eight minutes of recording time. The IVMI1708 is sampling now. Once volume production starts, fabless Invox expect the chip to be priced at $5.90 in quantities of 500,000 units.

Voice compression specialist DIGITAL VOICE SYSTEMS, INC. also has gained the help of an experienced technology distributor, INTERNIX, INC., to market its AMBE-1000 Vocoder Chip. The integrated voice coder/decoder chip operates at data rates from 2.4 kilobits per second to 9.6 kbps and is said to provide near toll-quality speech. Scalable in 50-bit increments, the Burlington, Massachusetts developer's product is suited to a number of voice applications. The AMBE-1000 is sampling at $105 apiece.

Thanks to the Voice Dialer IC from SENSORY, INC., telephone equipment soon should be on the market in Japan that allows users to dial any one of 60 numbers simply by saying the name of the person they want to call. The Sunnyvale, California company has tapped MICROTEK INC. to distribute the ASSP (application-specific standard product) part, which is designed for use as a slave chip controlled by an external host processor. The key to the Voice Dialer IC's capabilities is its use of a sophisticated neural network to recognize trained names with a high degree of accuracy. The product costs $5.30 per unit in lots of 100,000.

New distributor KAWASHO CORP. is projecting first-year sales of $3.5 million-plus for VERIDICOM, INC.'s FPS100 digital fingerprint sensor. Designed for such applications as information security, retail point-of- sale identity verification and physical access control, the product acquires fingerprint images using solid-state capacitance sensing. The FPS100 is sampling for $140 each, a price that includes the Santa Clara, California company's proprietary software.

July was an extremely busy month for NATIONAL SEMICONDUCTOR CORP.'s subsidiary as it rolled out one product after another. It started off with the release of the LM3621, a highly integrated, full-function off-line controller for charge and end-of-charge control of a single-cell rechargeable lithium-ion battery, and the system hardware monitoring LM80, a tightly integrated monolithic data acquisition system that continuously checks key analog functions and many crucial digital system signatures. Next came a new family of communications interface ICs that extends the Santa Clara, California company's LVDS (low voltage differential signaling) technology to bus and backplane systems. The Bus LVDS line's initial five devices combine high speed (anywhere from 155 megabits per second to 400 Mbps), low power and low noise/EDI (electromagnetic interference). Then National Semiconductor's affiliate introduced a high-efficiency power controller billed as the industry's smallest. Designed for use in portable PCs, the LM2640 integrates all the functions needed for a precision-reference voltage source, including a power controller and a linear regulator, onto a single chip.

The flurry of new product introductions from NATIONAL SEMICONDUCTOR CORP.'s unit continued with the release of the LM3351, a switched capacitor voltage converter for products like laptop computers and PDAs that provides a 3.3-volt to 5-volt step-up or a 5-volt to 3.3-volt step- down. Finally, the company added the LM4873, a high-performance, space- saving audio amplifier for multimedia laptops to its family of Boomer audio amplifiers, and put on the market the LM4545, a fully integrated stereo audio codec that responds to the demand for quality PC sound in multimedia designs.

Two American companies separately have brought to the Japanese market a new type of semiconductor laser diode known as a vertical cavity surface emitting laser. Developed for use in data communications, high- speed optical interconnect systems for computers and switching gear, optical data storage products and laser printers, VCSELs can be fabricated and tested in wafer scale using established chip processes. They also emit a circular beam rather than the horizontal beam of conventional laser diodes and use less power than these devices. SPIRE CORP., which recently started to make single VCSELs and VCSEL array devices after mastering production of the necessary GaAs epitaxial wafers, teamed with SHIMADZU CORP. to bring its VCSEL products to Japan. The maker of analytical instruments initially will distribute the Bedford, Massachusetts company's products, which currently are designed for data communications applications like Gigabit Ethernet and Fibre Channel. However, it will install production facilities for VCSEL parts at its optoelectronics plant in Atsugi, Kanagawa prefecture, where it will make devices sought by Japanese manufacturers using Spire-supplied wafers. Spire and Shimadzu also will collaborate to extend the wavelength and the power range of VCSELs for additional applications. The partners are looking for sales of $35.5 million in FY 2001.

For its part, EMCORE CORP. is working with HAKUTO CO., LTD., one of the Somerset, New Jersey firm's Asian distributors, to introduce its Gigalase 850 nm VCSEL device. The first commercially available 850 nm VCSEL designed specifically for the merchant optical communications market, Gigalase is intended for fiber-optic communications applications. It, too, is produced from GaAs epitaxial wafers. Hakuto, a Tokyo wholesaler of electronics parts, has a minority interest in Emcore.

In a worldwide release, APPLIED MATERIALS, INC., the leader in wafer fabrication equipment for the semiconductor industry, announced a new system for depositing blanket dielectric films on sub-0.18-micron devices. Producer is described as combining the productivity benefits of twin wafer handling with the advantages of single-wafer process technology. It uses a central transfer chamber enclosing up to three Twin Chamber chemical vapor deposition modules to achieve a throughput of more than 110 wafers an hour. At the same time, each Twin Chamber set uses the same pumps, mass flow controllers and gas delivery systems so that the flexibility and control of single-wafer processing is retained. Built to support multiple device generations, Producer is capable of processing both 200-mm (8-inch) and 300-mm (12-inch) wafers using the same platform. Shipments in Japan, where Producer is priced from $1.4 million, will start in the fourth quarter. Santa Clara, California-based Applied Materials already has orders from customers there.

Plasma etch equipment manufacturer TEGAL CORP. is in the process of shipping a Tegal 6500 series etch system for the production of nonvolatile FeRAM devices to an unnamed customer in Japan. The contract, valued somewhere between $1.8 million and $3 million, represented a follow-up order for the Petaluma, California company's 6500 system.

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

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