Elpida, UMC pair up for foundry services

Mar. 18, 2008 – Elpida Memory and Taiwan’s United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC) are expanding their partnership to target Japanese foundry customers, whereby Elpida will provide 300mm fab capacity (including systems-on-chip), with UMC contributing IP and logic technologies. The deal gives UMC inroads into Japanese foundry customers, while Elpida gets to utilize excess DRAM production capacity.

Upgrades will be performed at Elpida’s facilities in Hiroshima for the foundry work, reusing some DRAM production equipment for logic semiconductors such as ASICs to achieve a lower-cost operation, notes the Nikkei daily. Production will start in about a year on 90nm-process lines with combined monthly output of ~20,000-25,000 WPM.

The expanded partnership comes as more Japanese IDMs retrench activities into a fab-lite model, curtailing and/or terminating in-house process technology development and capital-intensive manufacturing, the firms note in a statement. The two firms already were working together since last fall to develop a copper low-k backend process for both advanced DRAM and phase-change random access memory (PRAM).

More importantly, the deal gives UMC inroads into Japanese foundry customers, while Elpida gets to utilize excess DRAM production capacity, the Nikkei notes.

While Elpida will continue to focus on DRAM manufacturing, overall the DRAM business “is very volatile,” according to Yukio Sakamoto, president and CEO of Elpida, so the company is exploring other ways to grow the business with more stable profitability, and foundry activities will be “another axis of our business.”

Sakamoto noted that Elpida believes its foundry services benefit from close geographic proximity to Japanese IC companies targeted as prospective foundry customers, and also assures that Elpida is not competing in the same markets with them.

“Since last October when we announced our first joint collaboration plans with Elpida, our successful progress and mutual understanding have prompted us to extend the scope of our partnership,” stated UMC chairman/CEO Jackson Hu, adding that the partners’ joint work utilizing UMC’s advanced copper/low-k backend of line (BEOL) process has generated prototypes “that achieve significant performance advantages” for Elpida’s next-generation DRAM products.


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