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No. 353, February 1999

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Japanese Companies in the US


In a huge boost for its business prospects, the Salem, Oregon subsidiary of MITSUBISHI MATERIALS CORP. will be the primary supplier of silicon wafers to MOTOROLA INC. For 40-odd years, the big semiconductor maker has made many of its own wafers, but as part of a restructuring, it decided to outsource this operation. The transfer could take place at midyear, when Motorola plans to shut down its wafer production facilities, but no later than the end of 1999. Under what is said to be a three-year contract, MITSUBISHI SILICON AMERICA CORP. will supply 3.1 million wafers a year to Motorola, split between 1.4 million polished wafers and 1.7 million epitaxial wafers. This volume is estimated to translate into annual sales on the order of $53.1 million. MSA's sales and marketing offices are located in Palo Alto, California.

With an equipment investment of $177 million, TOSHIBA CORP. reportedly will start production of 128-megabit DRAM chips by the end of 1999 at DOMINION SEMICONDUCTOR LLC as well as at its big Yokkaichi, Mie prefecture complex. Both wafer fabrication facilities will employ 0.18-micron processing technology. The part, claimed to have the smallest cell size of any DRAM, was codeveloped by Toshiba and longtime DRAM R&D partners INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES CORP. and SIEMENS AG. IBM is an equal owner with the Japanese company in Manassas, Virginia-located Dominion, which launched volume production of 64-megabit DRAMs in the fourth quarter of 1997. Toshiba hopes that by switching output to the next- generation product, it can avoid the pricing pressures that have played havoc with profitability in the 64-megabit DRAM market.

NEC CORP. and TEXAS INSTRUMENTS INC. have codeveloped a very high bit-rate digital subscriber line module for applications that can benefit from far faster data transmission speeds than are available with conventional telephone lines. These include extremely high-speed Internet access, multimedia data transmission and simultaneous multiple-channel video-on-demand. Both companies have an early second-quarter volume production launch date for the module, which is a printed circuit board containing a four-part VDSL chipset. The VDSL module will be deployed in the metallic part of fiber-to-the-home/building/curb/cabinet access systems to support FSAN (full-service access network) applications. As part of their joint development agreement, NEC and TI will work to ensure that their future VDSL solutions are interoperable and robust.

In the hope of expanding its automotive-related semiconductor business, SANKEN ELECTRIC CO., LTD. has teamed with ANALOG DEVICES, INC. and INTERNATIONAL RECTIFIER CORP. to develop and market electronic control system solutions tailored to specific makes and models of vehicles. The transpacific work will focus on control components for air bags, antilock brakes and other vehicle safety systems, power systems, including engines and transmissions, and VICS (vehicle information and communication system) and ITS (intelligent transportation system) systems.

Six months into a 32-month development agreement, KANSAI ELECTRIC POWER CO., INC. and Durham, North Carolina-based CREE RESEARCH, INC. have succeeded in designing a silicon carbide power diode with a blocking voltage of 6.2 kilovolts for use in power transmission systems (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 347, August 1998, p. 6). Cree is the world leader in SiC-based semiconductor products. Designed for high-voltage, high-power switching applications, SiC devices are expected to produce substantial savings due to the reduced power loss made possible by these parts. Cree now will make prototypes of the codeveloped SiC power diode for testing while the partners continue their development program.

The wafer steppers required to fabricate 16-gigabit DRAMs moved closer to commercialization, thanks to a technical collaboration between NIKON CORP., the world leader in photolithography step-and-repeat tools and scanners, and INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES CORP. Today's state-of-the-art steppers can print line widths of 0.15 micron. Given the density of 16-megabit memories, however, circuit geometries will have to be less than 0.1 micron. That is where the Nikon-IBM work comes in. They figured out a way to scale the mask pattern before it is projected, something not done now. Based on its current planning, Nikon will have 16- megabit DRAM-capable steppers available for R&D use in the 2002-2003 time frame.

An exchange rate of ¥113=$1.00 was used in this report. aaaaaa

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