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No. 356, May 1999

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Japanese Companies in the US


In October, according to the current schedule, FUJITSU, LTD. will launch volume production of 128-megabit synchronous DRAMs at its Gresham, Oregon wafer fabrication facility (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 348, September 1998, p. 6). It currently is sampling the memory, designed for servers and workstations, at about $42 each. Fujitsu is employing a 0.2-micron process to make the part, which has a smaller surface area than any other 128-megabit device announced to date. It expects the Gresham factory to produce 300,000 chips a month initially.

At a time when much of the news about Japanese semiconductor makers in the United States concerns retrenchment, OKI ELECTRIC INDUSTRY CO., LTD. has reaffirmed its commitment to the American market. In effect, it made the Sunnyvale, California Oki Semiconductor division of OKI AMERICA, INC. a freestanding unit, solely responsible for the planning, development and design of chips, especially for the communications market, in addition to its original sales and marketing mandate. As part of the move to become a fabless semiconductor company, Oki Semiconductor is expanding its engineering staff, incorporating the people from its parent's Silicon Dynamics subsidiary and hiring others. Before the announcement of its new focus on the U.S. market, however, Oki Electric closed its assembly and test facility in Tualatin, Oregon (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 348, September 1998, p. 6).

A Camas, Washington sales and marketing subsidiary of SHARP CORP. has introduced its first single-chip white LED (light-emitting diode). Designed for instrument panels for motor vehicles, electronic signs, backlights in portable tools and instruments and general-purpose illumination, the imitation white light is produced through the integration of a blue InGaN (indium-gallium-nitrogen) die and a YAG (yttrium- aluminum-garnet) phosphor into a single package.

During a 27-month program starting July, HITACHI, LTD. will work with the international arm of Sematech, the Austin, Texas R&D consortium of semiconductor production equipment companies, to develop advanced tools for 300-mm (12-inch) processes, including some that bridge the next-generation wafer size and today's 200- mm (8-inch) wafers. Five systems are involved: (1) a 300-mm etching system configured to support both gate and dielectric etch processing to be delivered with a 200-mm bridge kit; (2) a scanning electronic microscope capable of measuring fine pattern geometries on both types of wafers; (3) an automatic wafer inspection system for detecting defects on patterned wafers that also is dual capable; (4) an optical shallow defect analyzer for detecting and measuring crystal defects in the wafer surface layer; and a catalytic decomposition system for the abatement of the various gases used in semiconductor production.

Building on a March 1997 technology development program, ULVAC JAPAN, LTD. and RAMTRON INTERNATIONAL CORP. have signed a three-year agreement to develop advanced plasma etching and metal organic chemical vapor deposition equipment and process technologies for ferroelectric RAM products. The goal of the new arrangement is to help Ramtron, the originator of the FRAM technology, and its licensees to develop and commercialize future FRAM memory products more quickly. During the fourth quarter of this year, Ulvac will install more processing equipment at its Colorado Springs, Colorado partner's R&D facility as well as station additional technical people there. FRAMs incorporate the high-performance characteristics of mainstream memory technologies, but they also have the ability to save data when power is lost or removed. Ramtron has licensed its FRAM know-how to FUJITSU, LTD., HITACHI, LTD., ROHM CO., LTD. and TOSHIBA CORP.

The Semiconductor Equipment Division in Santa Clara, California of CANON INC.'s U.S. subsidiary will start shipments in September of a deep-ultraviolet stepper that will allow wafer fabs to achieve 0,15-micron design rules while still using 200-mm wafers. Canon claims that the FPA-3000EX6 step-and-repeat system is the industry's first stepper to offer lithographic performance equivalent to the best step-and-scan tools. The standard configuration of the EX6, which can expose 117 200-mm wafers an hour, costs about $7 million.

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

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