TSURUOKA, JAPAN (04/28/2000) - NEC Corp. today officially opened its newest chip manufacturing plant, a 78 billion yen (US$735.8 million) production line at its Yamagata factory in northern Japan that claims the title of the world's most advanced silicon wafer production facility.
Occupying 9,000 square meters, the new plant represents two firsts for NEC.
It is the first mass production line anywhere in the world capable of producing chips using .13 micron technology. A micron is a thousandth of a millimeter and the figure represents the smallest gap that can exist between circuits on the chip's surface. A smaller number means more components can be squeezed closer together and thus more complex or smaller chips can be produced.
The new plant is also the first NEC facility to use copper circuitry in commercial production. By using copper instead of aluminium for the tracks on the chip surface, engineers can produce chips that require less power and run at higher speeds. However, copper is much more difficult to work with than aluminium, and so more advanced equipment is needed to produce the chips.
Built in record time -- it took just under three months from the time the first equipment was delivered to the end of plant trials -- the factory has a capacity to output 6,000 wafers of 8-inch size per month. The plant will produce system LSI (large scale integrated circuit) chips, which are large size chips custom designed with a particular job in mind and usually replace several individual chips that were previously used to perform the same task.
At present, most of the chips produced at the plant are used in the company's cellular telephones but other major lines include NEC's VR series microprocessors, chips for mobile terminals and personal computers.
Speaking at a press conference here to open the new factory today, NEC president Koji Nishigaki said the plant represented one of the most important parts of his company's chip making unit and announced plans to pump more money into the factory to take its technology even higher.
The company will spend an additional 82 billion yen in fiscal years 2001 and 2002 to push output to 20,000 wafers per month and take the process technology down to 0.10 micron level, said Nishigaki. His announcement was the first time the company, one of the world's largest semiconductor makers, has outlined plans for commercial production at the 0.10 micron level.
NEC Corp., in Tokyo, can be found online at http://www.nec.co.jp/.