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No. 354, March 1999

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Japanese Companies in the US


To mark the 10th anniversary of its ownership of MICROSI, INC., a Phoenix, Arizona semiconductor materials supplier, SHIN-ETSU CHEMICAL CO., LTD., the world's largest provider of materials to the semiconductor industry, renamed its subsidiary SHIN-ETSU MICROSI, INC. The fast-growing company's business includes photolithography products (pellicles, photoresists, quartz substrates for photomasks and contrast enhancement materials ) as well as thermal management materials, device packaging products and silicone polyamides for chip packaging. Shin-Etsu MicroSi also makes flexible copper laminates used in the production of flexible circuits.

In an example of extremely bad timing, KOMA-TSU ELECTRONIC METALS CO., LTD.'s big silicon wafer manufacturing plant in Hillsboro, Oregon became operational just as the slump in memories was nearing its depths in late 1997. As a result, KOMATSU SILICON AMERICA INC.'s liabilities, including a net loss of $83 million in 1998, nearly exceeded its assets. In addition to scaling back production and cutting employment, Komatsu Silicon as well as its parent have required financial help from KOMATSU LTD. First, the construction equipment maker bought Komatsu Electronic Metals' stake in Komatsu Silicon for a reported $30 million. Now, Komatsu is poised to inject $190 million into Komatsu Silicon to enable it to pay down its $280 million debt and to restructure the remainder.

The jobs of approximately 250 people will be affected by TOSHIBA CORP.'s decision to end by June the ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) design and trial production services provided by TOSHIBA AMERICA ELECTRONIC COMPONENTS, INC.'s Microelectronics Center in Sunnyvale, California. The company blamed the closure of the facility, which opened in 1980, on the shift in ASIC demand from gate arrays, the Microelectronics Center's strength, to cell-based designs, which exceeded its technical capabilities. The 0.6-micron gate array services performed in Sunnyvale will be transferred to two Toshiba plants in Japan.

Offering chip manufacturers investment protection, the Semiconductor Equipment Group of HITACHI AMERICA, LTD. introduced an etch system that works with today's 200-millimeter (8-inch) wafers but that can be reconfigured later on to handle 300-mm (12-inch) wafers. The M700 ECR etcher is designed for metal, polysilicon and oxide etching. The switchover to a 300-mm line will take only three to four days. The conversion kit will cost about 8 percent of the original cost of the M700 ECR etcher.

AERA CORP. has put on the market a vapor delivery system for use in chemical vapor deposition and diffusion processes as well as in etch operations. The Austin, Texas manufacturer, a NIPPON TYLAN CORP. company, is touting two related advantages of the GS-437. First, it takes up less floor space than competing equipment because the refill system is housed in the same cabinet as the vaporizer. Second and perhaps more importantly, that configuration provides safer delivery of chemicals to process chambers. The GS-437 is designed to vaporize a variety of liquids, including tetraethyloxiarsine and tetraethyloxisilane.

By the end of 1999, TOKYO ELECTRON LTD. hopes to have ready a prototype of a burn-in system that can identify defective chips while they still are in wafer form. The semiconductor production equipment manufacturer contributed to the development of this technology in a project spearheaded by test company W.L. GORE ASSOCIATES INC. and MOTOROLA INC. (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 348, September 1998, p. 6). The prototype is designed for 200-mm (8-inch) wafers and will be installed at one of Motorola's wafer fabrication facilities in Austin, Texas.

An exchange rate of ¥117=$1.00 was used in this report.aaaaaa

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