SHANGHAI -- Photronics Inc. here today outlined its strategy in China, announcing a new company that will build the most advanced blank photomask shop in that nation. In total, Photronics will invest $300 million in China over the next five years.
The move represents the second photomask supplier to announce big plans in China in recent weeks. Earlier this month, DuPontPhotomasks Inc. (DPI) announced plans to become the first merchant supplier of lithography reticles to install a production line for 180-nm (0.18-micron) masks in China with a major expansion of its facility here (see Feb. 7 story ).
During a land grant signing ceremony with Chinese government officials, DPI rival Photronics announced the formation of a new company. Dubbed Photronics Imaging Technologies (Shanghai) Co. Ltd., the new company will build a photomask plant in the Zhangjiang Semiconductor Industrial Park in Shanghai, the center of China's IC industry.
Construction of the facility will begin early in the second half of this year and should be completed in the first quarter of 2003. The Jupiter, Fla.-based company plans to build an 18,000-square-meter facility, equipped with a 3,000-square-meter or larger clean room.
Initial plans call for the company to support the most advanced technologies that have been approved by the U.S. government in China, which is a 0.25-micron process technology. Eventually, the plant will make photomaks for 0.13-micron process technologies and beyond.
The first manufacturing lines installed will include Applied Materials Inc.'s ALTA 3500 and 3700 pattern-generator tools, Hitachi Ltd.'s electron-beam lithography systems, KLA-Tencor Inc.'s inspection systems, and other equipment.
But to move to 0.18-micron and below, Photronics, DPI as well as the Chinese chip makers must obtain the suitable tools. But the photomask shops and chip makers in China could face some problems when obtaining tools from U.S. suppliers, due to what some consider complex and outdated export control regulations (see Feb. 15 story ).
The company will help support China's emerging chip industry, especially a growing number of silicon foundry vendors. "Shanghai is reminiscent of Hsinchu, Taiwan at its earliest stages of development," said Constantine Macricostas, chairman and CEO of Photronics. "No other semiconductor producing region on the planet has as many new wafer fabrication projects actively being developed," he said.
Shanghai is the place to be in the IC industry, added Dan Del Rosario, senior vice president-Asia for Photronics. "Shanghai is emerging as Asia's next preeminent semiconductor manufacturing
Region," he said. "By the end of this decade, Shanghai, often referred to as Silicon City, plans to have more than 30 wafer fabs in production."