SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Having finally announced its intent for a 300-mm fab in the United States, Texas Instruments Inc. is putting its analog rivals on notice.
TI's long-awaited move to announce the industry's first dedicated 300-mm analog fab on Tuesday (Sept. 29) is aimed to jump-start and extend its leadership position in analog share. Eventually, the company could also put pressure on its rivals with the new fab, especially in the power MOSFET arena, where it competes against Fairchild, IR, On Semiconductor and others, according to an analyst.
As reported, TI (Dallas) plans to open a 300-mm analog semiconductor fab in Richardson, Texas, the company said Tuesday. At the same time, the company also outlined its roadmap for mainstream analog processes and tipped a new 130-nm technology based on copper interconnects.
On the fab front, TI's new analog facility, dubbed RFAB, will be the first analog chip fab to use 300-mm wafers. TI has already moved to equip the fab by buying $172.5 million worth of chip production equipment from Qimonda AG's fab in Sandston, Va.
In effect, TI bought the entire 300-mm fab tool-set from Qimonda -- at a huge and stunning discount. Under the terms with Qimonda, TI bought 330 fab tools from the DRAM maker. The deal included i-line and 248-nm scanners from ASML Holding NV and Nikon Corp. To ramp up RFAB, TI will need to buy only 6 more tools, including epitaxial reactors and furnaces.
TI plans to move this equipment from Virginia to the Richardson fab. The company expects to begin equipping the facility next month and ship the first chips from the fab by the end of next year.
Initially, RFAB will produce chips based on TI's LBC7 process, its mainstream, workhorse analog technology. The 0.25-micron process is a high-power, BiCMOS technology.
Chips based on the LBC7 process account for 40 percent of TI's analog output. Over time, the fab will make chips based on TI's future analog processes, such as the yet-to-be-announced LBC8 (0.18-micron technology) and LBC9 (130-nm).
RFAB enables TI to expand its worldwide analog capacity and bring ''us cost scaling,'' said Kevin Ritchie, senior vice president of the Technology and Manufacturing Group at TI.
The fab will give TI a leg up on its rivals. In fact, the company's analog competitors have not announced a new fab in several years. Most analog fabs produce 8-inch wafers and below, it was noted. In contrast, "TI is the only vendor that can bring 300-mm to analog,'' said Doug Freedman, an analyst with Broadpoint AmTech.
Initially, a 300-mm analog fab could be advantageous--and could the lower the cost--for ''large-die'' products like MOSFETs, Freedman said. Earlier this year, TI acquired Ciclon Semiconductor Device Corp., a supplier of power MOSFETS and RF-based LDMOS power transistors.
''The MOSFET makers might have the most to worry about'' with TI's 300-mm fab announcement, he said. Leading power MOSFET suppliers include Diodes, Fairchild, International Rectifier, Ixys, On Semiconductor, Vishay and others, he said.
One of the challenges for TI is clear: photomask costs. A 300-mm mask-set is more expensive than 200-mm (and below) reticles, he said. To get a return for a 300-mm mask-set in analog will be challening at best.
Overall, TI remained the No. 1 analog chip vendor in 2008, despite seeing its market share decline to 14.1 percent from 14.4 percent, according to Databeans Inc.
The No. 2 analog player, Europe's STMicroelectronics Inc., grew its analog business 1 percent from $3.8 billion in 2007 to $3.9 billion in 2008, thanks largely to the weakening of the dollar and consolidation of the ST and NXP wireless businesses, Databeans said.