TAIPEI, Taiwan Amid sinking prices in the DRAM market, Powerchip Semiconductor Corp. flipped the switch on its first 300-mm wafer fabrication facility on Tuesday (May 14). The fab is expected to produce 15,000 wafers per month by the end of this year.
Powerchip joins a small group of DRAM manufacturers who have moved into 300-mm production during the past year. Of the world's top five DRAM manufacturers, only Infineon Technologies AG is well on the road toward reaping the efficiencies of 300-mm wafers: it runs one plant in Germany and is partner to another through Promos Technology Inc., a joint-venture with Mosel-Vitelic Inc.
Taiwan's Powerchip will run a 0.13-micron process at the new plant, transitioning from a 0.18-micron process at its 200-mm wafer plant. In the future, the company will apply the benefits of an R&D relationship with Mitsubishi Electric Corp., an investor in Powerchip, and of its growing ties with other Japanese chipmakers to shrink design rules at the fab.
Production at 300-mm facilities has risen fivefold over the past year and is expected to more than double by year-end, analysts said. While high-profile logic and foundry suppliers such as Intel Corp. and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. have stolen much of the spotlight for the ramp-up, DRAM makers will be responsible for a large portion of the coming increase in 300-mm silicon.
Promos, Powerchip and Infineon will all be ramping plants this year. Elpida Memory Inc. is likely to pull in its launch to the end of this year, too, and has been mentioned as a future partner for Powerchip, which is already looking to build another 300-mm plant next year. Nanya Technologies Corp. will also enter the 300-mm fray, hoping to capitalize on an expected shortage of DRAM chips and a wider industry recovery.
On Tuesday, the average price for an industry standard 128-Mbit DRAM was $2.10, down about 20 percent in the last month. Analysts speculate that prices may be stabilizing, after a freefall induced by the failure of consolidation talks between Micron Technology Inc. and Hynix Semiconductor Inc. A rebound in prices is now pinned to a new round of processor price cuts from Intel and the hope of a steady rise in second-half PC demand.