Japan-US Business Report Logo

No. 355, April 1999

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American Companies in Japan


At a time when all of Japan's big semiconductor makers are restructuring their operations at home and abroad, TEXAS INSTRUMENTS INC. has committed to a major strengthening of its Japanese manufacturing capabilities. Over the next three to four years, the company will spend between $333.3 million and $416.7 million to build an 8-inch (200-millimeter) line at its Miho wafer fabrication facility in Ibaraki prefecture. This plant will become one of TI's worldwide bases for making DSP and analog system-level integration chips — the two products the big chipmaker has identified as key to its future. TI also will continue to invest in its Hiji plant in Oita prefecture, which will become a base for BiCMOS analog/mixed-signal products as well as for advanced packaging, assembly and testing. Part of TI's plans for Japan include, however, the closure at the end of 2000 of its Hatogaya plant in Saitama prefecture. The first fab the company built, the Hatogaya facility has been in operation since 1968. The main products made there, including LCD driver ICs, will be manufactured at either Miho or Hiji. The plant's 320 employees also will be transferred.

Big memory manufacturer MICRON TECHNOLOGY INC. and partner KOBE STEEL, LTD. also have broken ranks with Japanese semiconductor makers. Convinced that DRAM prices will continue to rebound, they announced an aggressive investment plan designed to transform KMT SEMICONDUCTOR, LTD. into the top producer of these parts in Japan. The Nishiwaki, Hyogo prefecture joint venture will invest $166.7 million by this summer to boost output of 64-megabit DRAMs to about 16 million units a month. The wafer fabrication facility started making these memories in February using Micron Technology's product and process know-how. Moreover, before the end of 2000, KMT Semiconductor expects to spend a similar amount to launch volume production of 128-megabit DRAMs using the Boise, Idaho company's 0.15-micron process technology. Monthly output of those chips is projected at 10 million units. All of KMT Semiconductor's production goes to Micron Technology, which acquired TEXAS INSTRUMENTS INC.'s 25 percent stake in the joint venture when it bought the Dallas company's DRAM business in June 1998.

Nine months after opening a regional headquarters in Tokyo (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 347, August 1998, p. 18), FAIRCHILD SEMICONDUCTOR CORP. teamed up with SHINSHO CORP. to form a marketing company. The 10-employee FAIRCHILD SHINSHO SEMICON CORP., in which the South Portland, Maine manufacturer of analog and mixed-signal chips has a 10 percent interest, is aiming for sales of $16.7 million in FY 1999. Shinsho, a KOBE STEEL, LTD. affiliate, markets DRAMs in Japan for MICRON TECHNOLOGY INC.

The 500-MHz Pentium III Xeon processor is on the market from INTEL CORP.'s subsidiary. Designed for midrange and higher servers and workstations used for demanding corporate computing needs, such as emerging Internet and data-intensive applications, the processor delivers two-, four- and eight-way scalability. It is available with 512 KB, 1 MB or 2 MB of L2 cache for prices ranging from $900 to $3,600 in quantities of 1,000 units. .....INTEL CORP.'s marketing unit also launched the Pentium III running at 450 MHz and 500 MHz for high-end desktop systems. The company claims that the 500-MHz version is 93 percent faster than a 450-MHz Pentium II processor on 3D calculations and 42 percent faster on multimedia applications. PC manufacturers are not advertising performance gains of those magnitudes, but they agree that the Pentium III family delivers, in Intel's words, a more visually rich Internet experience. In 1,000-unit quantities, the 450-MHz part costs around $500, while the 500-MHz version lists for approximately $700. Both have 512 KB of L2 cache.

A 400-MHz UltraSPARC version has been added to the SPARCengine Ultra AXmp family from SUN MICROSYSTEMS, INC. This four-way embedded multiprocessor board is said to be the first designed specifically for the OEM telecommunications and networking markets. Its key advantage, according to Sun, is the ability to deliver unparalleled computing power in one-third the space of traditional servers. The new SPARC-engine Ultra AXmp is priced close to $6,300.

Field-programmable gate array supplier XILINX, INC. is shipping the Real 64/66 PCI core, described as the first complete solution that enables customers to design fully compliant yet flexible single-chip 64-bit, 66- MHz PCI v2.2 bus interface systems. Verified for the San Jose, California company's Virtex 300,000-gate and 1 million-gate FPGAs, the core is targeted at networking and communications products. The Real 64/66 PCI solution is priced at $15,000.

VIVID SEMICONDUCTOR, INC. and manufacturing partner OKI ELECTRIC INDUSTRY CO., LTD. (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 345, June 1998, p. 16) expect to have on the market by May TFT LCD column driver ICs for 13.1-inch notebook computer displays. The Chandler, Arizona company's technology cuts by two-thirds the power consumption of energy-draining driver ICs while producing high-resolution images in 16 million colors. Oki Electric is projecting an initial monthly output of 100,000 chips and five times that amount by September. Vivid Semiconductor also hopes to be sampling by July column driver ICs for 22-inch PC monitors.

The DCAM-103 single-chip image processor that LSI LOGIC CORP.'s subsidiary will start shipping in June is billed as helping manufacturers make attractively priced, feature-packed digital cameras for the mainstream market. The chip, the second in LSI's family of digital camera solutions, previews, captures, compresses, stores and displays digital still images. Priced at $29 each in volumes of 1,000 units, the DCAM-103 reportedly processes high-resolution images at the fastest rate but lowest cost while offering a significant improvement over systems using software compression algorithms. Also, by integrating multiple components into a single device, the part cuts power, space and costs.

HEWLETT-PACKARD JAPAN LTD. is sampling a CMOS color image sensor for digital cameras that is said to provide the sensitivity and the image quality of a charge-coupled device but at a cost at most of $35 per unit, its sample price. The HDCS-2000 provides a VGA resolution of 640 x 480 pixels and consumes just 40 milliwatts of power.

The industry's first single-chip radio transceiver for wireless voice and data applications that use the high-performance 2.4-GHz frequency band is available from NATIONAL SEMICONDUCTOR CORP.'s subsidiary. The LMX3162, priced at $5.70 each in 1,000-unit quantities, contains all the transmit and receive functions needed for a complete radio front-end for such products as cordless phones. The 2.4-GHz frequency range is considered the next high-volume consumer wireless band.

The single-mode CDMA handsets that KYOCERA CORP. will supply to DDI CORP. and NIPPON IDOU TSUSHIN CORP. for their cdmaOne cellular services will incorporate D5421 WorldCDMA chipsets from DSP COMMUNICATIONS, INC. The Cupertino, California company's product enables the handsets to provide longer standby and continuous talk times and to weigh less than previous cell phones. DSP Communications has a long-running relationship with Kyocera, as it does with a number of other name Japanese companies that make wireless products.

NETLOGIC MICROSYSTEMS, INC., a Mountain View, California supplier of what are called content addressable memory components and modules, has tapped MCM JAPAN LTD. to distribute its products. These span the NCAM, SyncCAM and IPCAM families of chips, which, in simplified terms, provide high-speed network searches in telecommunications and data communications equipment. MCM Japan has estimated sales of NetLogic's CAMs at $833,300 in the first year.

With silicon germanium starting to show up on the semiconductor industry's technology road map for high-speed data communications and wireless devices, APPLIED MATERIALS, INC.'s subsidiary has released the Epi Centura epitaxial platform to help manufacturers develop SiGe process technologies. The world's largest supplier of wafer fabrication equipment says that the ultralow-pressure and low-temperature technology of the already-in-use Epi Centura make it especially well-suited for SiGe applications. SiGe is an attractive material to chip makers because it facilitates extremely high frequencies, low power consumption and miniaturization. It also is similar enough to today's mainstay silicon that wafer fabrication equipment requires minimal modification to produce SiGe-based chips.

In June, TEGAL CORP. is scheduled to deliver a 6500 Series etch system to a repeat customer described only as a major Japanese consumer electronics maker. The system will be used for nitride and gold/platinum processing on gallium arsenide substrates for high-speed, handheld communications devices. The Petaluma, California company's equipment will be configured with a 6510 etch chamber as well as a 6540 etch chamber. The former is designed for high-selectivity polysilicon, silicon trench and GaAs etch applications, while the latter was developed for emerging film etch applications. Industry sources put the cost of the system at between $2 million and $3 million.

The Enviro photoresist stripper developed by ULVAC JAPAN, LTD.'s Andover, Massachusetts subsidiary is on the market in Japan and elsewhere in Asia. Designed for high-throughput performance with both 150-mm (6-inch) and 200-mm (8-inch) wafers, the cluster tool provides dual-chamber, parallel-processing capabilities. Ulvac has priced the Enviro at $500,000 or $833,300, depending on configuration. It is projecting sales of 10 units a year in the Japan/Asia marketplace. ULVAC TECHNOLOGIES, INC. started development work on the Enviro in 1993. It has sold more than 40 units since 1995.

With six licensees of its Micro BGA (ball-grid array) chip-scale packaging technology headquartered in Japan (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 353, February 1999, p. 23), TESSERA INC. opened a sales and service office in Tokyo to better support these and future customers. The San Jose, California company's technology enables ICs to be housed in packages no larger than the chip itself.

To help semiconductor makers speed volume production of RAMBUS INC.'s high-bandwidth Direct RDRAM memories, the subsidiary of big automatic test equipment manufacturer SCHLUMBERGER LTD. will open in May a Rambus Satellite Characterization Center at its Tokyo headquarters. The technical center will house the company's recently introduced three- model RDX2200 series of test systems, which are designed specifically for design verification, device characterization and thermal characterization of RDRAM devices. Memory manufacturers will have access to RDX2200 test cells on an as-needed basis. They also can tap the expertise of the SABER (Schlumberger Advanced Business Engineering Resources) personnel staffing the RSCC. Schlumberger formed SABER in May 1998 to provide a full range of technical and business management services to the semiconductor industry in an attempt to boost customers' time to market, time to volume and profitability. By the end of 1999, the company's subsidiary expects to double to 40 the number of SABER specialists on staff.

HEWLETT-PACKARD CO. has a June ship date in Japan and elsewhere for what it says is the first comprehensive parametric test system to efficiently handle process verification for next-generation CMOS ICs at high throughput. The HP 4072A also delivers powerful flash memory testing capabilities, rapid wafer-level reliability assessment and precise ring-oscillator measurements. HEWLETT-PACKARD JAPAN LTD. believes that it can sell 100 testers in the first year, with much of this business coming from makers of system-on-a-chip devices. The HP 4072A starts at $375,000.

An exchange rate of ¥120=$1.00 was used in this report.aaaaaa

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