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Top 10 captivating moments in Indian semicon during 2008

December 13, 2008 Comments off

Yes, the time has come for all of us to say goodbye to this year. It has been a very captivating year for the Indian semiconductor industry. Some consider it to be a year the industry came of age, while some others would look at the year as one where fab promises failed India.

Nevertheless, as I’ve maintained, having or not having a fab won’t affect India very much as its traditional strengths have been in embedded and design services.

There have been several moments during the year that I personally savor. In fact, I have either witnessed most of those or written/blogged about them.

The top 10 captivating moments in Indian semiconductors during 2008, according to me, are:

1. S. Janakiraman, former chairman, ISA, declared before the world, in May at Dubai, during the IEF 2008, about India’s growing strength in global telecom.

2. Growing interest in the solar photovoltaic industry in India, and subsequent proposals made by various companies, including Reliance.

3. EDA companies, such as Magma and also Synopsys, making their entry, or at least, intentions known, in the solar/PV industry.

4. Intel’s new chip, designed largely in Bangalore, and of course, the Intel Developer Forum in Taipei, Taiwan.

5. Visit of a strong Japanese delegation to Bangalore, which showed remarkable keenness regarding possible investments in India.

6. BV Naidu quitting SemIndia, and putting in doubt India’s fab story. Well, that’s a different story, and one person’s exit would not mean much to such a large industry.

7. ISA Excite, and the minister announcing that Karnataka could have its own semiconductor policy. The policy should be out in the new year, hopefully.

8. AMD’s new chip, the Shanghai, which again, had a lot of involvement from AMD’s Bangalore team.

9. NXP India achieving RF CMOS in a single chip. The entire analog and RF work was done in Bangalore, India.

10. Go parallel or perish, said James Reinders, of Intel! Parallelism or parallel computing involves the simultaneous use of more than one computer or processor to execute a program.

I was also present during the launch of Synopsys’ Galaxy Custom Designer, which tackles the analog mixed-signal (AMS) challenges. It would occupy a joint 10th position.

There may have been some other moments as well! Would like to hear from all of you what are those other great times in India semiconductor industry during 2008!

90pc fab investments for 300mm capacity: SEMI

August 31, 2008 Comments off

Recently, SEMI (Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International) released its World Fab Forecast report. This report mentions that projected decline in world semiconductor fab equipment spending of 20 percent is likely for 2008. However, a rebound of over 20 percent in spending is expected in 2009, driven by over 70 fab projects.

The August 2008 edition of this report lists 53 fab equipping projects and up to 21 construction projects for fabs in 2009. It is sincerely hoped that at least one of the fabs likely from the Southeast Asian region is from India!

With the help of Scott Smith Senior Manager, Public Relations, SEMI, I was able to get in touch with Christian Gregor Dieseldorff, Senior Manager of Fab Information and Analysis at SEMI, in an attempt to find out more about the decline in global fab spends, these new fabs, and how these fabs can lead a turnaround in the global semiconductor industry. Thanks Scott!

So what are the chief reasons for the decline in fab spends during 2008? According to Dieseldorff, given the weaker economic conditions globally, coupled with higher energy and commodity prices and the financial crisis, the overall outlook for semiconductor growth in 2008 is for low-single digit growth in both revenues and units. As such, device makers have responded by cutting back their capital spending and pushing out fab projects or putting them on hold.

I was keen to find out the geographic breakup of these 70 new fabs that are likely yo come up in 2009.

Dieseldorff advised that these are not 70 new fabs coming up in 2009. Rather, the numbers reflect 300mm fabs only, and is a mix of on-going and new projects for fabs equipping and fab construction projects in 2009.

For equipping 300mm fabs, SEMI expects about: Americas 8, China 5, Europe and Mideast 4, Japan 7, South Korea 11, SE Asia 3 and Taiwan 15.

For 300mm fab construction projects, SEMI expects about: Americas 3, China 2, Europe and Mideast 1, Japan 2, South Korea 3, SE Asia 2 and Taiwan 8.

What are the salient features of some of these new fabs likely to come up next year (for instance, new tech nodes)? Dieseldorff highlighted that about 90 percent of the investments are for 300mm capacity, and the amount of spending for advanced nodes, such as 65nm, is increasing.

“Also, device makers are building larger fabs, which are termed “mega fabs,” so, to potentially realize a greater return based on scales of economy,” he added.

How will these new fabs contribute to a better performance from the global semicon industry? This will be quite interesting to witness.

Dieseldorff said that over the past several years, demand for semiconductor devices has been quite strong, and so, the industry has had to bring on capacity to support this need, both in terms of needed capacity and technology. Even with the slower market growth in 2008, recent industry data shows healthy levels of fab capacity utilization, especially for the advanced technology generations and for 300mm manufacturing.

He added: “The expectation is that demand for semiconductors will strengthen once global economic conditions improve. So, the capacity addition that is coming online this year and the fab projects that are equipping and beginning construction in 2009 are necessary to meet the future demand.”

So how will all of this affect the overall memory market (e.g., 42pc increase in share for memory)? Dieseldorff shared his thought, a fact, known well to those in the semiconductor industry, that the memory market has been battered by declining average selling prices and a condition termed by some as “profitless prosperity.”

“Looking at demand forecasts specific to memory, tremendous growth is anticipated,” he forecasted.

However, the manufacturers in this device segment are battling it out for market share, and the general expectation is that consolidation will continue.

Also, joint-ventures and partnerships are becoming increasingly critical in the memory sector as manufacturers seek to leverage their existing resources to meet future technology and capacity requirements.

It would be interesting to find out why Taiwan and Korea are forecasted as likely to exceed Japan in fab spend?

According to Dieseldorff, in Korea, Samsung has been and is the key spender, and as a company, it will continue to invest so to have a dominant share in the memory sector.

He said: “In 2009, our expectation is for the DRAM manufacturers in Taiwan to boost spending after cutting back this year. We expect seven new 300 mm fab lines in Taiwan to come into production over the next two years.”

However, spending in Japan has been more measured and is likely to remain so. Toshiba, and its joint-venture partner, Sandisk are the big spenders in Japan, when it comes to new fab capacity. Other Japanese semiconductor manufacturers are more cautious and are focused more on technology spending.

What India brings to the table for semicon world! And, for Japan

August 24, 2008 Comments off

This semicon blog’s title has been inspired by some queries, largely from friends in Japan, who are looking at the Indian semiconductor market. The topic of great global (and Japanese) interest is: What does India bring to the table for the semicon world to go to India!

Interesting! The world has been keenly following the Indian semiconductor and fab policy, and can gather a lot of information off my blog itself! For those who’d like to know it all again in specifics, here we go again!

Indian semicon and fab policy
Around September last year, the Department of Information Technology, Ministry of Communication and IT, Government of India, came up with the Special Incentive Package Scheme (SIPS) to encourage investments for setting up semicon fabs, and other micro and nanotechnology manufacturing industries in India!

The “ecosystem units” have been clearly defined as units, other than a fab unit, for manufacture of semiconductors, displays, including LCDs, OLEDs, PDPs, any other emerging displays; storage devices; solar cells; photovoltaics; other advanced micro and nanotechnology products; and assembly and test of all the above products.

What has happened since?
Lots! Initially, there were two major proposals from HSMC and SemIndia for setting up wafer IC fabs. While those haven’t really taken off yet, more investments have since happened in India.

Quite recently, the Indian semiconductor and fab policy attracted 12 major proposals, worth a whopping Rs. 93,000 crores! The Department of Information Technology (DIT), Government of India, has set up a panel of technical experts to evaluate these proposals.

Ten (10) of these proposals are for solar/PV. One is for a semiconductor wafer — from Reliance Industries worth Rs. 18,521 crores, and another for TFT LCD flat panels — from Videocon Industries, worth Rs. 8,000 crores.

The 10 proposals for solar/PV are from: KSK Surya (Rs. 3,211 crores), Lanco Solar (Rs. 12,938 crores), PV Technologies India (Rs. 6,000 crores), Phoenix Solar India (Rs. 1,200 crores), Reliance Industries (Rs. 11,631 crores), Signet Solar Inc. (Rs. 9,672 crores), Solar Semiconductor (Rs. 11,821 crores), TF Solar Power (Rs. 2,348 crores), Tata BP Solar India (Rs. 1,692.80 crores), and Titan Energy System (Rs. 5,880.58 crores). This is as far the latest developments are concerned!

Solar fabs have also been announced earlier by leading firms such as Videocon, Reliance and Moser Baer, etc. (Two of them are figuring here again!) There are also talks about developing solar farms in India, which is good.

What are India’s strengths?
The clear strengths of the Indian semiconductor industry are embedded and design services! We are NOT YET into product development, but one sincerely hopes that it gathers pace.

The market drivers in India are mobile phone services, IT services/BPO, automobiles and IT hardware. India is also very strong in design tools, system architecture and VLSI design, has quite strong IP protection laws, and is reasonably strong in concept/innovation in semiconductors.

Testing and packaging are in a nascent stage. India will certainly have more of ATMP facilities. Nearly every single semicon giant has an India presence! That should indicate the amount of interest the outside world has on India. In fact, I am told, some key decisions are now made out of the Bangalore based outfits!

Electronics manufacturing
In the electronics manufacturing domain, India’s strength lies in hardware, embedded software and industrial design, OEMs, component distribution (includes semiconductor and box build), and end user/distribution channel, as well as more than moderate strength in product design and manufacturing (ODM, EMS).

India is likely to witness $363 billion of equipment consumption and $155 billion of domestic production by 2015. India’s electronic equipment consumption in 2005 was 1.8 percent. It is likely to grow to 5.5 percent in 2010 and 11 percent in 2015, as per a joint study conducted by the ISA and Frost & Sullivan.

The Indian semiconductor TAM (total available market) revenue is likely to grow by 2.5 times while the TM (total market) is likely to double revenues in 2009. The TAM is likely to grow at a CAGR of 35.8 percent and the TM is likely to grow at a CAGR of 26.7 percent, respectively, during the period 2006-09.

Telecom, and IT and office automation are the leading segments in TM and TAM. Consumer segment occupies the third fastest growing area in the TM, and the industrial segment is the third fastest growing area in the TAM.

The major semiconductor categories of interest include microprocessors, analog, memory, discretes and ASICs, while the major end use products include mobile handsets, BTS, desktops, notebooks, set-top boxes and CRT TVs.

India, the embedded superstar!
India’s embedded design industry has been going from strength to strength. An IDC-ISA report forecasts the revenues from India’s VLSI, board design and embedded software industry to grow to $10.96bn by 2010 from the current $6.08bn in 2007.

India is also focusing on moving up the semiconductor value chain. It is emphasizing on end-to-end product development, investing in IP development, developing India specific products, and partnering with OEMs to understand the market needs. Also, be aware that several leading EMS firms are present in India as well.

What should investors do?
Certainly, invest in India! The Indian semicon policy clearly defines the “ecosystem units.” Global manufacturers of displays, including LCDs, OLEDs, PDPs, any other emerging displays; storage devices; including SSDs, solar cells; photovoltaics; other advanced micro and nanotechnology products, should certainly look at investing in India, and consider manufacturing here!

Lots of solar fabs are likely to come up, so there will be a great demand for solar related equipment, chemicals, testing, etc. We hope that one wafer IC fab comes up as well, so there will be opportunity for semicon equipment manufacturers. However, do be prepared to wait as things may not move as fast as some may expect.

There is lot of opportunity for fabless companies and in ATMP as well. There are several Indian firms, small ones, who may be interested in partnering. Some trading companies may find India of interest, especially in the solar/PV and ATMP segments.

Keep an eye on the IT/semicon policies some states, especially, Karnataka have in store. A host of opportunities could become available, once Karnataka comes up with a policy. More states may follow suit!

Well, do contact me in case you need further assistance!

Japan semicon firms seek close ties with India

August 18, 2008 Comments off

The India Semiconductor Association (ISA) recently organized the India-Fukuoka (Japan) IT, Embedded Software and Semiconductor Business Workshop 2008. A host of companies and institutes from Fukuoka, Japan participated in the workshop seeking partnerships, alliances, and business in the semiconductor space in India.

My first impression was that all of the Japanese firms present at the workshop are quite interested in the Indian semiconductor market, and especially in the embedded space. Besides, some of them may look at investments, should the opportunity arise. Some of the participants are also looking at the direction fabs are taking in India, besides the solar/PV market.

The participating companies and institutes at the workshop were:

1. Daichi Institution Industry Co. Ltd
2. DISCO (Dai Ichi Seitosho Co. Ltd) Corp.
3. Fukuoka University
4. Fukuoka Industry, Science & Technology Foundation
5. Inoueki Co. Ltd
6. Invest Japan
7. JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization)
8. Kyushu Economic Research Center
9. CLAIR (The Japan Council of Local Authorities for International Relations), Singapore

Masane Saito, Chief, JETRO, said that the total trade between India and Japan was worth $9.9 billion during 2007, a 25 percent growth. India’s strengths included knowledge-based services, high-quality talent, etc. He added that Japan required a lot of embedded systems engineers, perhaps, hinting at Indian engineers and the opportunity that lies ahead of them.

Todd Takaki, Director, Inoueki, clearly highlighted that his company was looking at the manufacturing segment in India. A semiconductor trading company, it delivers chemicals to IC fabs, among others. He added that companies from Japan needed to see the inroads being made in India, both frontend and backend. While Inoueki is also looking at making investments in the country, Takaki stressed the need to have a developed market.

Akihiro Kawaguchi, International Science Technology Co-ordinator, Fukuoka Industry, Science & Technology (IST) Foundation, highlighted the Fukuoka Cluster for advanced system LSI design and development. He also touched upon the Silicon Sea Belt Fukuoka Project, which streches from China, covering South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, right up to Bangalore, India. This belt has the potential of the world’s largest semiconductor market (60 percent), emerging car industry market, ever-developing wireless market, and the world’s largest population of engineers.

The Fukuoka IST is also part of the Knowledge Cluster Initiative, a national program carried out by Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), in co-operation with the local governments.

Dr. Hajime Tomokage, professor, Fukuoka University, touched upon the semiconductor business network via the MAP (microelectronics assembling and packaging) and RTS (reverse trade show) programs.

The Kyushu silicon island has a 6 percent share of the global IC production with over 20 percent raw wafers. SUMCO has four fabs in Kyushu. The silicon island also has 16 fabs, including those of Renesas, Toshiba, Sony, NEC, Yamaha, etc. Overall, it is home to nearly 650 semicon related companies. Kyushu is now looking for Asian customers, and specifically, from India.

Some other features include the national project on SiP (system-in-a-package) and MEMS, which have been place since 2002, as well as the SiPOS (System Integration Platform Organization Standards) platform.

Keiji Honjo, Leader, Product Innovation Sales Group, DISCO Corp., touched about his firm’s business. DISCO’s activities revolve on: manufacture and sale of precision cutting, grinding and polishing machines; maintenance of precision cutting, grinding and polishing machines; training in the operation and maintenance of precision cutting, grinding and polishing machines; disassembly and recycling of precision cutting, grinding and polishing machines; lease of precision cutting, grinding and polishing machines, and sale of used machines; manufacture and sale of precision diamond abrasive tools; and for-fee processing. It is also seeking business interests in India.

Yutaka Akagawa, Executive Director, Daichi Institution Industry Co. Ltd, said the company is also into 8Gen LCD business. It transfers the glass substrate for the LCDs. The company highlighted Clifter, a device, which carries the wafer cassette, LCD cassette, and so on, vertically, with the holding cleanliness to the clean room on the up-down floor.

Interested Indian companies desirous of tying up with these Japanese companies are welcome to send in their queries.

In my next blog, I will discuss specifically what India brings to the table for the semicon world to go to India, and especially, Japanese companies, since we are on Japan! This is also a request from a friend from the Far East!! I may be a bit inaccurate in my assessment, but I will try my best.

New camps promise exciting times ahead in memory market

April 30, 2008 Comments off

The last few weeks of this month witnessed some interesting developments in DRAM. No, there are not signs of a recovery, yet. Instead, the appearance of new DRAM camps, as well as a new memory interface working group, does generate some interest.

However, first, the stats. DRAMeXchange recently reported that the Q1-08 revenues of the branded DRAM makers, impacted by continual low DRAM prices, fell by roughly 5.8 percent compared to Q4-07. Likewise, the contract prices and the spot prices fell 19 percent and 11 percent respectively.

DRAMeXchange further reported that barring Elpida and Powerchip, all other DRAM makers experienced a decline in revenues. Both Elpida and Powerchip witnessed slight increase in their market share during Q1-08.

Categorizing the DRAM industry market share by countries, Japan only increased by 0.9 percent from 13.5 percent to 14.4 percent, as Elpida’s revenue increased in Q108. Taiwan’s share increased by only 1.1 percent from 13.6 percent to 14.7 percent, as Powerchip gained market share. Korea sustained the same market shares — 47.2 percent, as in Q4-07.

However, America and Germany lost share. America’s share slipped from 13.6 percent to 13 percent, while Germany’s share fell from 12.2 percent to 10.8 percent, respectively.

In a recent investor conference, Samsung announced it will increase its Bit Growth Rate from 70 percent to 100 percent, an indication of its desire to continue reigning as a DRAM market leader.

Now, to the really interesting developments. First, Nanya and Micron signed an agreement to create MeiYa Technology Corp., a new DRAM joint venture. One of Nanya’s 200mm facility in Taiwan will be upgraded to 300mm starting this year, with the facility going online for production in 2009. Besides MeiYa, Nanya and Micron will co-develop and share future technology.

If this wasn’t enough, close on the heels of the Micron-Nanya JV, Elpida Memory and Qimonda AG, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for a technology partnership for jointly developing memory chips (DRAMs), and accelerate their roadmap to DRAM products featuring cell sizes of 4F2.

Analysts at DRAMeXchange believe that the Qimonda-Elpida alliance re-shuffles the DRAM competitive landscape. It is also a sign of Qimonda’s determination to develop stacked process.

Lastly, ARM, Hynix Semiconductor Inc., LG Electronics, Samsung Electronics, Silicon Image Inc., Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB, and STMicroelectronics announced the formation of a working group, the Serial Port Memory Technology (SPMT), which is committed to creating an open standard for next-generation memory interface technology targeting mobile devices.

SPMT, a first-of-its-kind memory standard for DRAM, is said to enable an extended battery life, bandwidth flexibility, significantly reduced pin count, lower power demand and multiple ports by using a serial interface instead of a parallel interface commonly used in today’s memory devices.

Handset vendors have joined the fray as this technology will not only extend battery life, it will allow high-performance media-rich applications as well, that are likely to be the norm on next-generation mobile phones.

Surely, these developments and the emergence of new camps promise some exciting times ahead in the memory market.

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