Through a $23 million capacity expansion, KOBE PRECISION, INC. is running what it says is the largest silicon wafer reclamation facility in North America. Semiconductor manufacturers use recycled wafers as test wafers to optimize and monitor their manufacturing processes. The KOBE STEEL, LTD. subsidiary's Hayward, California plant now can process 90,000 wafers per month based on 8- inch wafer equivalents. It has the capability to handle 150-millimeter (6- inch), 200mm (8-inch) and 300mm (12-inch) wafers. In each case, it removes films and layers from used wafers and then repolishes and cleans them. Surprisingly, given the troubled state of the semiconductor industry over the last three years, KPI has more than doubled reclaimed wafer sales every year since it went into this business in 1996. The 450-employee company, which Kobe Steel bought 10 years ago, also is one of the world's biggest manufacturers of aluminum substrates for hard disk drives. It now has the capacity to make 6 million units a month compared with 600,000 in 1988.
For $15 million, NEC CORP. acquired roughly 13 percent of VADEM, LTD. The San Jose, California company is a developer and marketer of Windows CE handheld PCs and software. However, under a November 1996 strategic partnership, Vadem has been working with NEC on the development of RISC (reduced instruction-set computing) processors for Windows CE devices. NEC's recently announced VR4100 Series of chips for a new generation of Windows CE machines is a product of that collaboration. The big semiconductor maker sees its equity tie to Vadem as a way to expand chip sales. Its affiliate has a contract to supply VR4100- equipped Windows CE terminals to SHARP CORP. on an OEM basis.
ZUKEN INC., a provider of electronic design automation services for printed circuit boards, is moving into the semiconductor business. Its vehicle is an alliance with LIGHTSPEED SEMICONDUCTOR CORP. Zuken acquired for $1.5 million about 5 percent of the Sunnyvale, California company, the developer of the so- called module-based array ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) architecture. This technology is said to significantly reduce design and production cycle times for complex, high-performance ASICs. As part of their tie-up, Zuken gains exclusive rights to distribute Lightspeed's MBA ASICs in Japan. These products are manufactured by TAIWAN SEMICONDUCTOR MANUFACTURING CO. Zuken believes its new business will produce annual sales of $24.8 million in three years.
Add-on memory maker ADTEC CO., LTD. of Hiroshima prefecture will open an office in Silicon Valley in January. The main purpose of the move is to develop new marketing channels for the company's products, both among PC manufacturers and retailers. The office also will track technology developments.
The Santa Clara, California Semiconductor Equipment Division of CANON U.S.A., INC. is taking orders for CANON INC.'s latest excimer laser scanning wafer stepper. The FPA-5000AS1 can achieve 0.13-micron line widths for 1-gigabit and higher DRAMs as well as for the development of process technologies for microprocessors in the 1-gigahertz class. Just as important, a field conversion kit allows the system to be used with both 200mm and 300mm wafers. Canon will start worldwide deliveries of the scanning stepper by the second quarter of 1999.
An exchange rate of ¥121=$1.00 was used in this report.