SAN FRANCISCO - Amid the wild upturn, Texas Instruments Inc. is expanding its analog fab capacity--again.
After accelerating its 300-mm analog fab ramp in Texas, TI has now purchased two wafer fabs—including separate 200- and 300-mm plants-- from Spansion Japan Ltd. in Aizu-Wakamatsu, Japan. Some 450 employees from Spansion Japan will join TI. At the same time, TI will sell some 300-mm gear to United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC).
Terms of the deal with Spansion-Japan were not disclosed, and the price of the fabs "was not deemed material information," said Gregg Lowe, vice president in charge pf the company's analog business.
The move is the most recent in a series of analog manufacturing expansions announced by TI over the past 24 months. In total, the fabs will add capacity for more than $3.5 billion of additional analog revenue per year when fully operational.
With this announcement, TI has expanded from six analog fabs to eight. And as its rivals stand pat with their existing fabs or are working with the foundries, TI is moving to expand its internal capacity, as part of an effort to ''grow our business and market share,’’ Lowe said.
Like all analog houses, TI is seeing strong demand, but it faces select shortages and extended lead times. The company has closed the gap in the supply/demand equation, according to Lowe.
And to help matters, TI is expanding its fab capacity. “This latest addition of analog capacity will further increase TI’s ability to support our customers’ growth, now and in the future,” he said.
As reported, TI (Dallas) last year raised eyebrows, when it opened a 300-mm analog semiconductor fab in Richardson, Texas. TI's new analog facility, dubbed RFAB, will be the first analog chip fab to use 300-mm wafers. TI had 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 the third quarter of 2009, TI announced the ''phase I'' opening of RFAB, and immediately began to move in equipment. In April, the company expanded its manufacturing capacity with the recent purchase of more than 100 new fab tools. This was the first step in launching the ''phase II'' expansion of RFAB.
Initial production for RFAB is due by year's end. With the completion of Phase II, RFAB will be capable of supporting $2 billion of revenue per year.
Now, TI has struck the deal with Spansion Japan. Early last year, Spansion's Japanese subsidiary, Spansion Japan, voluntarily entered into a proceeding under the ''Corporate Reorganization Law'' of Japan to obtain protection from its creditors as part of the company's restructuring efforts.
Then, the parent company, NOR flash vendor Spansion, filed for bankruptcy early last year. Following those events, Spansion separated itself from Spansion Japan. And recently, Spansion itself emerged from Chapter 11.
The assets currently operated by Spansion Japan are being acquired under a court-approved plan of reorganization. TI’s purchase includes a 200-mm wafer fab currently in operation and a second non-operating wafer fab of equal size for either 200- or 300-mm production. TI will continue running the 200-mm fab and will preserve the second 300-mm fab for future capacity expansion.
By year’s end, TI plans to ramp the 200-mm fab in Japan, which is capable of boosting its analog sales by some $1 billion per year. The existing tool set in the fab can be tuned for TI’s analog process. That fab is slated to make TI’s precision analog products, based on its HPA07 process. The 0.3-micron process is geared to make data converters, power amplifiers and other products, Lowe said. Products based on the HPA07 process are also running in an existing fab in Dallas, dubbed DMOS5.
There is no timetable for the 300-mm fab ramp in Japan. TI will move some of the equipment in that fab to its new 300-mm plant in Texas. Some of the 300-mm equipment is being sold to Taiwan’s UMC and others on the open market.