Japan might be home to the world's biggest manufacturers of memory devices, but that has not kept INTEGRATED SILICON SOLUTION, INC. from setting up shop there. The Santa Clara, California company is marketing its static RAM product family of more than 25 parts that operate at 3.3 volts or 5 volts, including a fast (8 nanosecond) synchronous SRAM as well as asynchronous SRAMs, and 1-megabit and 2-megabit flash memories. Target markets for its products are networking, data communications and telecommunications products, plus office equipment and PCs. Fab-less ISSI pioneered the approach of codeveloping new process technologies with the foundries that it uses. In three years, it expects Japan to generate 20 percent of its sales, which totaled $108 million in 1997.
Through a licensing agreement with EXCELLENT DESIGN INC., an independent semiconductor design firm based in Yokohama, MOTOROLA INC. has gained a high- performance core compatible with object software code for its MC68000 embedded microprocessor family. The 32-bit processor core designed by Excellent Design delivers four times the processing power of a standard 16-bit/32-bit 68000 core operating at the same clock speed. It also is a low power consumer. These features make the new processor core well-suited for portable, battery-operated devices, including hand-held computers that use object software applications. Motorola plans to start production of the product this year.
Continuing its push to make digital signal processors a primary business, the subsidiary of DSP leader TEXAS INSTRUMENTS INC. will sample later this year four new devices in the TMS320 family designed for digital control systems as well as power conversion and motion control systems. These DSP controllers, an alternative to traditional microcontrollers in closed-loop motor control applications, are said to substantially reduce overall system cost and to boost performance. The TMS320F241 and the TMS320F243 give industrial motor designers 8 kilobytes of reprogrammable flash memory and control area networking, which allows electric motors of various sizes to be interconnected for smoother, more accurate motor driver control. The TMS320C241 offers 8 kilobytes of read-only memory and CAN, while the TMS320C242 delivers 4 kilobytes of ROM, a serial communications interface and dual 1-bit analog/digital converters. Sample prices will range from $5.00 to $11.55 per part in quantities of 100,000.
Building on an earlier agreement, DSP COMMUNICATIONS, INC. will develop and make IS-95 baseband processor chipsets for KYOCERA CORP. for use in its dual- mode CDMA/analog cellular telephones. The Cupertino, California company's product is expected to provide a cost-effective, compact solution for the subscriber units, which should ship to the Japanese market sometime this year. DPSC first tied up with Kyocera on chipsets for personal handyphone systems. It counts as customers a long list of other Japanese companies that make wireless equipment.
NEC CORP.'s new line of Pentium II-based Valuestar Nx and Mate Nx PCs for the home and the business markets, respectively, incorporate the SoundPort AD1819 audio coder/decoder chip from ANALOG DEVICES, INC. The Norwood, Massachusetts firm's SoundPort technology is said to bring audiophile-quality sound systems to PC buyers at attractive prices.
An 11-year collaboration between ZORAN CORP. and FUJIFILM MICRODEVICES CO., LTD. has led to the Santa Clara, California company's highly integrated Vaddis DVD decoder IC. The part brings together the decoding and presentation functionality required for full implementation of the DVD standard, including DVD content protection, program stream demultiplexing, MPEG-2 video, MPEG-1 video, Dolby Digital (AC-3) audio, MPEG audio, and audio and video synchronization. By dramatically reducing the number of chips and the size of the required memory (only a single 16-megabit synchronous DRAM chip is needed for full operation), the Vaddis decoder lowers the power consumption and the overall cost of a DVD system. SHARP CORP. already has selected the first member of the Vaddis family, the ZR36700, for a new line of compact DVD players.
A company described only as a leading Japanese manufacturer of semiconductors has ordered the new-generation QCO-4000 photomask inspection system from QC OPTICS, INC. The Wilmington, Massachusetts firm's recently appointed distributor, DAINIPPON SCREEN MANUFACTURING CO., LTD., handled the deal. QC Optics, a KOBE STEEL, LTD. affiliate, makes laser-based defect-detection systems for the semiconductor, flat panel display and computer hard disk markets.
Another unnamed but major Japanese semiconductor manufacturer took delivery of EQUIPE TECHNOLOGIES INC.'s first dual-arm atmospheric robot for 300-mm (12- inch) wafer handling. The DBM 2400 series of robots is designed to quickly and cleanly move 300-mm wafers into and out of wafer-processing equipment. It can swap this next generation of wafers in 3 seconds or less, the Sunnyvale, California firm claims. The customer already has placed a follow-on order for additional DBM 2400 units, which are said to achieve twice the throughput in a footprint that is 40 percent smaller than traditional double-paddle robots. Equipe's office in Iwakura City, Aichi prefecture will service and support the recently installed wafer-handling robot as well as the future ones. The firm also has an office in Yokohama.
With its Japan business up 300 percent in the last fiscal year, ASYST TECHNOLOGIES, INC. the top manufacturer of automation systems that combine state-of-the-art minienvironments with advanced robotics to create ultraclean processing environments established a subsidiary in Yokohama with minority partner and distributor INNOTECH CORP. The new unit will sell its Fremont, California parent's Asyst-SMIF System and software to OEMs and provide technical support to end-users. Innotech will continue to focus on end-user sales. Asyst's equipment is based on SMIF (standard mechanical interface), which enables wafers to be transferred to and from sealed SMIF environments without exposure to cleanroom ambient conditions. The company expects demand for its products in Japan to remain strong since semiconductor manufacturers adopt SMIF technology to help in the technically challenging transition to 300-mm wafers.
New on the market from YIELDUP INTERNATIONAL CORP. is the Omega series of wafer cleaning, rinsing and drying systems. The Omega2000 and the Omega4000 are designed to handle very large substrates, including 200-mm (8-inch) and 300-mm (12- inch) wafers and flat panel displays, while the Omega1000 is targeted at the big installed base of spin-rinse dryers. All the products feature YieldUP's CleanPOINT point-of-use deionized water-filtering system and its surface-tension-gradient cleaning and drying process. These technologies boost wafer yields by eliminating contamination from particles and bacteria down to 0.05 micron in wet processing; that is key to 300-mm wafers. They also limit surface roughness and improve oxide integrity. The elimination of water spots is another plus. KANEMATSU SEMICONDUCTOR CORP. is the Mountain View, California company's distributor.
A consortium of big Japanese semiconductor makers that is evaluating manufacturing equipment for 300-mm (12-inch) wafers SEMICONDUCTOR LEADING EDGE TECHNOLOGIES, INC. or SELECTE has under consideration the world's first chemical mechanical polishing system for planarizing 300-mm wafers. San Jose, California-based CYBEQ NANO TECHNOLOGIES and its parent, MITSUBISHI MATERI-ALS CORP., developed the IP9000. It employs a multihead arrangement for polishing three wafers at a time. Essential to that configuration is a Cybeq-designed floating head, which enables the polishing heads to maintain consistent pressure and uniform polishing across the entire surface of each wafer. The CMP system also features an in-line scrubber for cleaning wafers after polishing. Mitsubishi Materials will begin production of the IP9000 in the fall, aiming to sell 10 units in the year 2000. It currently makes and markets the IP8000 CMP system for 200-mm (8-inch) wafer. That equipment also was codeveloped with Cybeq.
Japan market newcomer LUXTRON CORP., a Santa Clara, California maker of endpoint detection systems that use noncontact optical sensors to determine precisely when a process or a step is completed, tapped KANEMATSU SEMICONDUCTOR CORP. to distribute its Optima 9300 endpoint control system for wafer planarization using CMP processing equipment.
APPLIED MATERIALS, INC., the world's top supplier of wafer fabrication equipment, simultaneously launched in the United States and Japan the first system for sequentially depositing the critical barrier and "seed" layers for copper interconnect circuitry. This technology will enable manufacturers of microprocessors and other logic devices to make smaller, higher-performing devices with expanded functionality. The Endura Electra Cu system is based on Applied Materials' Electra IMP (ion metal plasma) technology, which is used to deposit a tantalum or a tantalum nitride barrier layer, followed by a thin "seed" layer of copper. In effect, the Santa Clara, California company's IMP know-how extends PVD processing to device generations below 0.25 micron. Shipments of the Endura Electra Cu are expected to start in the second quarter. Pricing will be in the $3.1 million range.
The Yokohama subsidiary of KLA-TENCOR CORP. the world leader in yield management (inspection, film measurement and metrology) and process control for the semiconductor industry is taking orders for two new products. One is the 8100XP automated CD SEM (critical dimension scanning electron microscope) system for patterning processes. The San Jose, California company claims that the 8100XP delivers a 20 percent improvement in both image resolution and precision and faster throughput, thereby enabling large engineering tests to run twice as fast as comparable systems during process characterization. The other product is the ASET- F5 thin-film measurement tool. It is designed specifically for 300-mm (12-inch) wafers.
Another company that sees the transition to 300-mm (12-inch) wafers as a market opportunity for its thin-film measurement products is IPEC PRECISION, INC. of Bethel, Connecticut. It gave MITSUI & CO., LTD. marketing rights to the AcuFlat300HT system. Like the company's other products, this equipment employs the PACE process to achieve a wafer's target thickness by first generating a thickness map using appropriate metrology data and then placing the wafer in the PACE processing chamber where a plasma tool head removes the excess silicon. Mitsui has priced the AcuFlat300HT at $970,000. It is projecting sales of 50 units in FY 1998.
Willow Grove, Pennsylvania-based QUAD SYSTEMS CORP. named wire bonder manufacturer KAIJO CORP. to distribute its APS-1 Assembler and related products in Japan and to Japanese customers outside the country. This Advanced Packaging System product is a flexible, precise pick-and-place system that can be configured for a variety of advanced SMT (surface-mount technology) and semiconductor die-attach processes, including direct chip attach and flip-chip bonding, on numerous substrates. Flip-chip bonding is expected to be the primary use for the $307,700 APS-1 in Japan.
LTX CORP. is filling a multimillion-dollar contract from HITACHI, LTD.'s Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology Center for the recently announced Fusion system-on-a- chip tester and multiple Delta/STE test systems. The Fusion system combines on a single platform all the testing functions for the advanced mixed-signal, digital VLSI (very large-scale integration) and embedded memory found in system-on-a-chip products. Hitachi will use it for engineering analysis and characterization of its latest SH-4 microcontrollers. The Delta/STE systems, which are a 384-pin configuration, will be used for production testing of SuperH RISC microcontrollers incorporated into personal digital assis-tant products. The Delta/STE order represents a breakthrough. Until then, Hitachi only had bought production-level test equipment from Japanese suppliers. ANDO ELECTRIC CO., LTD., which also makes automatic test equipment, provides local support for Westwood, Massachusetts LTX's testers.
Several Japan-headquartered companies have ordered a new TERADYNE, INC. platform for testing high-bandwidth RAMs. The ARIES RAM test system, which operates at a data rate of up to 1 gigabit per second while testing as many as 16 devices in parallel, is designed for such cutting-edge products as Direct Rambus DRAMs. It tests the performance of the whole memory in a single pass at full operating speed, including the array, the interface and the complex interactions between them. The ARIES system leverages the Boston company's Marlin memory test platform and its J973 logic test systems. It is priced at $1.3 million and up. Initial deliveries are set for the first quarter of 1998.
CREDENCE SYSTEMS CORP. and its distributor, INNOTECH CORP., have a March release date for the Fremont, California firm's TRITON Series of integrated wafer probers and LSI test platforms. The TRITON Logic system is priced from $384,600, while the TRITON Memory platform starts at $230,800. By combining wafer prober and test functions into a single piece of equipment, the TRITON saves space on the production floor. It also cuts energy consumption by as much as one-third. Innotech expects to sell 50 TRITON systems in the first year.
A competing solution is on the market from HEWLETT-PACKARD CO. and TOKYO ELECTRON LTD. They codeveloped a system that improves testing of high-speed devices by directly coupling TEL's Model P8HF wafer prober to a HP 83000 digital test system. By linking the tester performance board and the probe card both mechanically and electrically, the partners were able to remove the previously required POGO ring from the prober. That enables wafer tests with direct probing on the performance board. HP and TEL are jointly marketing the new system.
HEWLETT-PACKARD CO. also has introduced two other IC production test systems. Both are designed to help manufacturers of radio-frequency IC devices lower their test costs and deliver higher-performance products more quickly. One platform, part of the HP 94000 mixed-signal test system family, is aimed at testing system-on-a-chip parts that include RF functionality. The other product builds on the HP 84000 Series of RFIC test systems. The new Model A20pa is a dedicated RFIC power amplifier test system. At $384,600 and up, it is about 30 percent less expensive than earlier systems. Shipments of both products will start in April.
An exchange rate of ¥130=$1.00 was used in this report.