The long and deep slump in the worldwide market for dynamic random access memories has claimed another Japanese-affiliated production venture in the United States. Effective September 30, OKI ELECTRIC INDUSTRY CO., LTD. closed its back-end facility in Tualatin, Oregon. Opened in 1990, the plant was assembling and testing 1 million 16-megabit DRAM chips a month at the time of the shutdown, plus 50,000 microcontrollers for the automotive industry. The move cost about 130 people their jobs. The assembly and test work done in Oregon is being transferred to a plant in Thailand. Oki Electric's sales, marketing and design operations in Sunnyvale, California are unaffected by the end of the Oregon operation. Earlier this year, MITSUBISHI ELECTRIC CORP. announced that it was ending DRAM wafer fabrication in Durham, North Carolina (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 341, February 1998, p. 7), and HITACHI, LTD. and TEXAS INSTRUMENTS INC. said that they were dissolving a partnership to make 16-megabit and later 64-megabit memories in Richardson, Texas (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 342, March 1998, p. 6).
Amid the upheaval in the international DRAM market, FUJITSU, LTD. affirmed its commitment to continued U.S. semiconductor production by announcing that the next generation of computer memories, 256-megabit parts, would be made exclusively at the company's Gresham, Oregon wafer fabrication facility. Volume production of these chips now is scheduled to begin in 2001. Fujitsu makes current-generation 64-megabit DRAMs at its FUJITSU MICROELECTRONICS, INC. unit's plant (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 337, October 1997, p. 7) as well as at a front-end in Iwate prefecture. Centralizing production of 256-megabit DRAMs in Oregon will save the company the huge cost of equipping both plants for production of the high-density memories. NEC CORP. disclosed recently that it would make future DRAM generations and other cutting-edge semiconductors at the NEC ELECTRONICS, INC. wafer fab in Roseville, California (see Japan- U.S. Business Report No. 346, July 1998, p. 7).
Meanwhile, NEC ELECTRONICS, INC. has teamed up with ADVANCED RISC MACHINES of Los Gatos, California to develop a memory controller that will enable system-on-a-chip devices powered by ARM processors to interface with NEC CORP.'s 64-megabit virtual channel synchronous DRAMs. By tapping into the virtual channel memory technology, the partners say, the linkage will result in a 50 percent increase in system performance and a 30 percent reduction in memory power consumption. Volume production of NEC's VC SDRAM is set to begin in October. The memory controller, which will be targeted at applications that demand higher performance memory, will appear later in the fourth quarter. .....NEC CORP. also is working with QUICKTURN DESIGN SYSTEMS INC., a Mountain View, California electronic design automation company, to provide the hardware and the software for fast and accurate verification of complex designs based on the chipmaker's 32-bit RISC (reduced instruction-set computing) V800 Series of microcontroller cores. As part of the deal, NEC ELECTRONICS, INC. joined Quickturn's Affinity Partnership Program.
At a cost of $3 million, GUNZE SANGYO, INC. increased its stake in MOORE TECHNOLOGIES INC. to 14 percent from the 2 percent acquired in 1996. The San Jose, California company manufactures epitaxial reactors for silicon wafers and provides epitaxial services at its Class 10 cleanroom facility. It employs about 80 people and had revenues of $11 million in the year through September 1997. Gunze Sangyo, a textile trader and clothing manufacturer that has interests in several U.S. high technology ventures, has served as Moore Technologies' distributor in Japan and the People's Republic of China since 1991.
With input from semiconductor production equipment trader and manufacturer TOKYO ELECTRON LTD. and test company W.L. GORE ASSOCIATES INC., MOTOROLA INC. has developed a method for testing semiconductors that it believes could cut production costs by 15 percent and manufacturing time by 25 percent. The burn-in technology allows the company to test chips in wafer form rather than after they have been sliced and packaged. Accordingly, the usually significant number of defective parts on a wafer can be identified before they are packaged. Motorola expects to deploy the new process at one of its Austin, Texas fabs in the first quarter of 1999. The three companies worked on the testing breakthrough for 18 months.
An exchange rate of ¥145=$1.00 was used in this report.