The DRAM industry could begin a "weeding out" of some major suppliers -- mainly, those that don't have sub-0.25-micron deep-ultraviolet (DUV) lithography processes.
That is the view of Bob Brown, president of Toshiba America Electronic Components, who told Semiconductor Business News that he expected such a shakeout next year.
He said he believed that only about a half-dozen major Dynamic RAM (DRAM) firms now have a significant DUV production capability, and a few more might be able to ramp up sub-quarter-micron feature-size processes in the next year. Suppliers without this capability won't be competitive because their older production processes will get sharply lower yields -- estimated to be half as many chips from a wafer as in DUV-capable fabs.
Brown said Toshiba's 64-megabit DRAM fab in Japan has converted to DUV lines, and will be moving to 0.20-micron feature-size chips by the end of the year. The firm's joint venture with IBM, Dominion Semiconductor in Manassas, Va., will be running quarter-micron chips by the end of 1998. Toshiba's DRAM foundry partner, Winbond Electronics, in Hsinchu, Taiwan, will also be at sub-quarter-micron production by the beginning of next year, he said.
The Toshiba official said the current DRAM global glut would continue well into 1999. He said current chip capacity still exceeds the 60 percent to 70 percent annual bit growth in demand, but that could change if some major DRAM suppliers fall too far behind in the next-generation DUV processes and corresponding die shrinks.
Brown said he believed Samsung and Hyundai were cutting back DRAM production, but that this was from lower production rates of 16-megabit devices as they prepared to exit that generation in the future. He echoed the disbelief of other industry execs that the two South Korean chip makers could successfully stop and start total fab production for a week every month, and doubted that such efforts would lower the global DRAM oversupply much if other vendors kept up and increased their output.
He said Toshiba is shutting down its main fabs for eight to 10 days for a routine summer vacation, but said that alone wouldn't
alter the world's DRAM oversupply significantly.