March 24, 2010 – After delaying its initial plans, Toshiba has restarted its Fab 5 NAND flash memory project with construction to begin in July of this year, and be online by the spring of 2011. The new site, on the planning board for several years now (and originally desired by 2009), will be "comparable" in scale to its Fab 4 — which was opened in Sept.2007 with 80,000 wafers/month capacity within its first year, scalable to 210,000 wafers/month.
The new site at an adjacent plot of land to Toshiba’s operations in Yokkaichi, Mie Prefecture, will handle between 150,000-200,0090 wafers/month, the company says — roughly double Toshiba’s monthly production capacity for NAND flash, to about 500,000+ wpm. (Samsung, meanwhile, sits at around ~300,000 wpm, the paper noted — but the Korean firm has indicated it will significantly increase its capex in the coming year.) Fab 5 also will incorporate "a quake-absorbing structure" and with "minimal environmental impact," including energy-saving cleanrooms and using waste-heat to trim CO2 levels by 12% compared with Fab 4.
Several reports in Japan’s Nikkei paper in February indicated that Toshiba was preparing to open its wallets for the new plant, pegging the overall investment at an eye-popping $8.9B. (Financing was expected to be covered by bank loans and similar steps, but partner SanDisk might also be tabbed to help out, the paper noted.)
"NAND demand is set to grow stronger in the long term than DRAM demand. It is the right step to expand capacity to meet that growing demand," said Mizuho Investors Securities analyst Yuichi Ishida, quoted by the Nikkei daily. "Without investing in capacity now, it would be running the risk of falling further behind Samsung." The Korean company held around a five-point marketshare advantage (~39% to ~34%) in iSuppli’s 3Q09 DRAM rankings, but with Toshiba gaining ground. Hi Investment and Securities analyst Song Myung-sub, agreed that supplies should remain tight into 2H10 on strong demand for consumer electronic devices (e.g. smartphones and tablet PCs), but cautioned that with companies now pursuing aggressive capacity expansions after years of underinvestment, "supply could outgrow demand significantly starting early next year."