In the News
Amkor Completes Buyout of Assembly and Test Joint Venture
CHANDLER, ARIZ. Amkor Technology Inc. recently completed the acquisition of its semiconductor assembly and test joint venture with Toshiba, buying Toshiba's 40 percent interest in Amkor Iwate Co. Ltd. for $14 million. Amkor and Toshiba are adhering to the terms agreed upon when the original deal was signed three years ago. The $14 million includes a payment of $2 million to terminate a commitment to purchase a tract of land adjacent to the Amkor Iwate facility.
Amkor's J1 factory, located near Kitakami, in Iwate Prefecture, Japan, has become a leading source for contract semiconductor assembly and test services in Japan, supporting not only Toshiba, but also more than a dozen other Japanese semiconductor companies. The factory, which has been expanded since commencement of the joint venture, now employs 800 people and produces over 200 package formats. During the past three years, Amkor reports that it has upgraded the factory's manufacturing capacity and installed assembly technology necessary to produce a broad range of advanced packaging solutions, including stacked-die and very thin chip scale packages, that are widely used in cell phones and other high-end consumer electronics.
Japan is among the world's largest markets for semiconductor assembly and test, with Japanese IC companies spending an estimated $6 billion per year. Historically, nearly all services have been performed by either the semiconductor company or related parties. Amkor predicts that during 2003 its Japan-related business surpassed 6 percent of the available market.
IDC Says Mobile Phones and PC Replacements Will Drive Recovery
FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — Market research group IDC is forecasting a healthy growth rate of 18 percent in 2004, since mobile phone and PC shipments have stabilized and are now increasing capacity utilization rates among suppliers. IDC predicts that unit shipments grew in double digits for 2003 and 2004, which should help pave the way for a healthy growth cycle for most of the semiconductor industry. From 2003 to 2008, IDC projects that the market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 12.5 percent, rising from $160 billion in revenue in 2003 to $282 billion in 2008.
From a regional perspective, China, as the largest consumer of mobile phones and the second largest consumer of PCs, will continue to drive mobile phone and PC semiconductor growth. Pressure on OEMs and chip suppliers by investors to increase profits and revenue has been a driving force in a general industry trend toward outsourcing. "As a result of this ongoing trend, China has become a fertile ground for disruptive innovation, as its low-cost suppliers naturally aspire to move up market. IDC expects these emerging Chinese semiconductor companies will play a key role in shaking up the competitive ranks among original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), original design manufacturers (ODMs) and semiconductor suppliers over the next five years," says Mario Morales, vice president of IDC's Semiconductor research at IDC. "Mainland Chinese semiconductor demand currently represents over one quarter of the $60 billion total for Asia/Pacific and will account for almost half of the entire region by the end of our forecast period."
STMicroelectronics' Technology Eliminates 'Soft Errors'
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND — STMicroelectronics (ST) has developed technology that virtually eliminates the vulnerability of silicon chips to so-called "soft errors."
Soft errors are caused by ever-present nuclear particles that make up the earth's low intensity background radiation. Originating from the cosmic rays from space or from tiny traces of radioactive elements that occur in all materials, the particles are not dangerous by themselves but potentially can disrupt the operation of silicon chips and the electronic equipment that depends on them. The company reports that its technology, called rSRAM, delivers increased immunity to the effects of stray atomic particles without incurring significant cost or performance penalties.
Semiconductor devices that power products such as mobile phones, PCs or the sophisticated computers that route Internet and other communications traffic are typically system-on-chip (SoC) devices. These devices contain tens or hundreds of millions of tiny transistors, fabricated and interconnected on silicon chips. The smaller the transistors are made, the more susceptible they become to the effects of stray ionizing particles.
"With the technologies that are in volume production today, soft errors do not usually cause many serious problems," explains Jean-Pierre Schoellkopf, director of ST's Advanced Design and Tools. "The issue for electronic equipment manufacturers is that the continuing trend towards smaller transistors and larger on-chip SRAM memories, which they need to maintain their market momentum, make it inevitable that worst-case scenarios such as computer crashes or lost or misrouted data would happen with increasing frequency. We therefore decided to develop a more robust embedded SRAM technology, one that could provide immunity to background radiation without incurring significant cost or performance penalties."
ST has fabricated test chips in 120-nm technology (which will be the next technology generation to enter mass production) using the new rSRAM cells and subjected them to aggressive testing, which involved bombarding them with high levels of artificial radiation and measuring the resulting soft error rate. The company reports that these tests confirmed that rSRAM cells are around 250 times more resistant to soft errors than conventional SRAM cells — they are completely immune to alpha particles and almost completely immune to neutron-induced errors.
Fujitsu and Sumitomo Team Up
TOKYO, JAPAN — Fujitsu Ltd. and Sumitomo Electric Industries, Ltd. have launched a joint venture to consolidate the operations of Fujitsu Quantum Devices Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Fujitsu that is focused on the development, manufacture and sales of compound semiconductors, with the electronic devices business of Sumitomo Electric's compound semiconductor operations. Fujitsu and Sumitomo Electric each have an equal equity ownership in the joint venture.
The new company, which will be involved in everything from development and manufacturing to sales of a wide variety of compound semiconductor devices, will attempt to quickly establish the trust of customers worldwide as the world's leader in the field.
Fujitsu Quantum Devices will bring to the new joint venture a broad portfolio of advanced technologies primarily geared toward the telecommunications infrastructure market, including microwave devices and optical communications devices. Combined with Sumitomo Electric's strengths in materials technologies, such as epitaxial growth, the new company should quickly take a leading position in the market for microwave devices and other compound semiconductor devices.
Fujitsu Ltd., Fujitsu Quantum Devices and Sumitomo Electric will continue to negotiate various details in order to sign a formal agreement, with the goal of having the joint venture operational as of April 1, 2004.
IPAC Set to Offer Wafer-level Chip Scale Packaging
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF. — Integrated Packaging Assembly Corp. (IPAC) recently announced its intention to become a major supplier of wafer-level packaging. Their packaging services include thin film processing, wafer bumping, chip singulation and testing.
The company is using Advanced Interconnect Solution's (AIS) patented true chip scale packaging technology, which incorporates an organic material layer that encases and anchors the solder ball interconnects. This layer reportedly prevents the usual fatigue at the neck point where solder balls are joined to under-bump metallurgy — enhancing wafer-level packaging solder joint reliability by extending the I/O range applicable to wafer-level packaging from 60 to as high as 250.
In 2005, demand for bump-processed chips, including wafer-level packaging, is expected to reach nearly 10 billion units, according to market researcher TechSearch International Inc.
Movers and shakers
ChiPAC Inc. (Fremont, Calif.) has named Robert Lanzone as vice president of Global Business Development. In this position, Lanzone is responsible for worldwide sales and business development for the company.
DEK USA Inc. (San Jose, Calif.) appointed Raj Lakhotia as financial controller for the company's U.S. operations. Lakhotia is based in DEK's San Jose office, and will be responsible for all accounting systems, procedures and policies for the company's operations in the U.S.
San Jose, Calif.-based Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI) named Mark Ding to the position of president, SEMI China. Ding succeeds Yee-Ming Ting who served as the first president of SEMI China and retired in 2003. Ding is in charge of the association's relationships with its members as well as industry, government and academia in the region. He also will oversee all SEMI operations in Beijing and Shanghai.
FKI Logistex Alvey Systems (St. Louis, Mo.), a FKI Logistex member company and integrator of automated material flow solutions, recently appointed George Reyher as account manager of Latin America. Reyher will focus his efforts on refining and expanding the company's presence in the Latin American marketplace, including its preparations for the launch of a new international office in South America.
ST Assembly Test Services Ltd. (Singapore) appointed Eleana Tan Ai Ching as alternate director to nonexecutive director, Tay Siew Choon, effective January 2, 2004. She replaces Gan Chee Yen, who stepped down.
Rika Denshi America Inc. (Attleboro, Mass.) has received a patent for its double-ended coaxial interface contact. The company holds two additional patents for coaxial contacts.
Carlsbad, Calif.-based Asymtek added a new distributor, SmartTec, to represent their line of automated fluid dispensing systems in Germany and Austria. SmartTec will provide Asymtek's customers with on-site equipment service, training and applications support.
Aqueous Technologies Corp. (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) appointed Southwest Systems Technology Inc. as a manufacturer's representative serving the areas of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. Southwest Systems sells products in both the electronics and semiconductor manufacturing industries. The company also sells capital equipment and materials.
Tyco Electronics' Global Application Tooling Division (Devon, U.K.) signed a distribution agreement with MK Test Systems, a U.K.-based manufacturer of high-voltage automatic test equipment. The agreement covers MK Test Systems' range of automatic electrical testing solutions.
Unitive (Research Triangle Park, N.C.) has completed its $12.6 million financing to fund a major expansion that will add die-level processing to its service offerings for companies in the wafer-level chip scale packaging market. In addition to current engineering and design services, the new facility will offer wafer thinning, dicing, tape-and-reel and testing.