May 8, 2006 – Photronics Inc., Brookfield, CT, and Micron Technology Inc., Boise, ID, have officially formed a joint venture to develop and produce photomasks to support 45nm chipmaking processes being developed at both companies. The two had been in negotiations for a joint photomask venture since December.
The new venture, dubbed the MP Mask Technology Center LLC, will be majority owned by Micron at 50.01%. Photronics will invest $135 million over a three year period, while Micron will incorporate its efforts through its existing photomask technology center at its Boise, ID headquarters.
The two companies also will build a new “NanoFab” in Boise, operated by Photronics, to move photomask technology developed inside MP Mask into volume production, for Micron as well as other photomask customers. Photronics plans to invest $100-$150 million in the facility, which will require new capital in addition to redeployed assets. The new facility is expected to begin qualification by the end of 2007.
A board of managers comprised of executives and technologists from Photronics and Micron will oversee the operations of MP Mask. Former Micron exec Randal Chance will serve as GM of MP Mask, and Micron COO Mark Durcan will serve as chairman of the board of managers.
“MP Mask is providing Photronics with the ability to obtain and implement a competitive advantage to the industry at a time when technology partnerships represent a critical area of differentiation,” stated Michael Luttati, CEO of Photronics. “By aligning our company’s interests and capabilities with those of a technology-driven semiconductor manufacturer like Micron, we are accelerating photomask technology development cycles in a manner that is consistent with our profitable technology goals.”
Photronics indicated during early discussions in December that the joint program with Micron would complement development work already underway at its R&D centers in the US and South Korea. The company said earlier this year it was finalizing a site for the facility, with groundbreaking planned for later this year and construction completed by 2H07, with total investment of $150-$300 million. Photronics also recently opened a 10,000 sq. m facility in Taichung, Taiwan, to produce photomasks supporting 6G-8G display manufacturing processes.