TOKYO, Japan Outsourcing and fabless foundry business strategies are common in the semiconductor industry, but Rohm, Sony and Renesas are seeking more integration.
Rohm Co. Ltd. seeks the ultimate vertical integration from wafer production, LSI fabrication to chip assembly. "By integrating all the processes from the material level, we can achieve really high reliability based on data acquired from all the processes," said a spokesman of Rohm. "Technologically speaking, we've seen our way clear, so we have set forth full-fledged integration.
Rohm will establish production systems for wafers from silicon ingot pulling up to the slicing, polishing and epitaxy processes. Thus far, its subsidiary Rohm Apollo Device Co. Ltd. in Fukuoka has established the wafer production system that can supply about half of 8-inch wafers that Rohm consumes. Eventually, Rohm intends to produce 300 mm wafers in house as well.
Rohm also started mask production in spring last year (2004) and now produces about 80 to 90 percent of photo masks that the company uses. By this spring, Rohm will have transferred all photomask production in house.
The integration covers the back-end process as well. Metal molds for encapsulation and lead frames will also be produced in house within one to two years. Rohm's subsidiary Rohm Mechatech Co. Ltd., Kyoto, will supply all the molds and lead frames to Rohm's global production bases.
"By establishing the ultimate comprehensive production process, we expect that various ways of cost reduction will become possible. For example, we may be able to reduce the material consumption or to change materials to more cost effective ones," said the spokesman.
Sony Corp. will also boost in-house production to produce its final products in a vertically integrated process for market differentiation.
Sony will invest total 60 billion yen (about $582 million) in fiscal 2005 and in fiscal 2006 to expand its Kokubu and Kumamoto fabs. Fab expansion will begin May 2005.
About 10 billion yen ($97 million) will be invested in the Kokubu fab to begin producing LCD drivers and SXRD panels for projection engines in Spring 2006.
"Most of the drivers will be used in Sony's TV sets," said a Sony spokeswoman. "By use of in-house produced core components, we are going to differentiate our TV sets in the market in terms of picture quality," she added.
The remaining 50 billion yen (about $485 million) will be invested in the Kumamoto fab to build a new clean room to begin producing CMOS image sensors.
"We'll pursue compactness for CCD sensors," the Sony spokeswoman said. "For the CMOS sensors being produced in-house, we want to devise new applications and new products," she added.
In another example of vertical integration, Renesas Technology Corp. has decided to absorb Trecenti Technologies Inc, its semiconductor-manufacturing subsidiary, into its headquarters' operation.
Hitachi Ltd. and United Microelectronics Corp. established Treccenti as the joint venture 300 mm wafer semiconductor fab in March 2000. When both companies broke up the joint venture, Trecenti became Hitachi's wholly owned subsidiary in 2002.
Trecenti then became part of the Renesas joint venture company formed in April 2003 by Hitachi and Mitsubishi Electric Corp.
Trecenti expanded the capacity from 7,000 wafers a month in 2003 to 13,000 wafers in Fall 2004 and is now approaching to the full capacity of 15,000 wafers.
Renesas intends to integrate the operations of its 200 mm wafer Naka Factory 1 and Naka Factory 2 as the front-end production base. The company then plans to expand its 300 mm wafer lines by building a new clean room in March 2005, to be called Naka Factory 3, that will use 90 nm and 65 nm processes.