With the blessing of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), Powerchip Semiconductor Corp (力晶半導體), Taiwan's second-largest memory chipmaker, opened its first 12-inch wafer plant in the Hsinchu Science-based Industrial Park yesterday.
"Using 0.13-micro etching technology, this plant marks a milestone for Taiwan's DRAM [dynamic random-access memory chip] sector," Powerchip Chairman Frank Huang (黃崇仁) said at the plant's launching ceremony.
With continuing technical support from Japan-based Mitsubishi Electric Corp, Powerchip will build its competitive edge by cutting costs and advancing commercial production, Huang said.
He said the company will invest a total of NT$150 billion in 12-inch plants and nano-technology in Taiwan within the next four years.
Powerchip plans to carry out a trial run on its 12-inch plant in June, with commercial production slated to begin in October, a Powerchip official said.
"The goal of generating output of 15,000 wafers per month should be achieved by year's end," Powerchip spokesman Eric Tang (譚仲民) said.
The new plant will be able to produce 35,000 wafers per month and will cost about US$1.6 billion (NT$5.5 billion) to construct, Tang said. Powerchip plans to build its second 12-inch plant late next year, he said.
"Powerchip will also cooperate with Mitsubishi in developing 0.11-micron etching technology since Mitsubishi doesn't have any 12-inch plants of its own," Tang said.
In addition to serving as a source for advanced technology, Mitsubishi doubles as one of the company's biggest buyers, absorbing more than 30 percent of Powerchip-made memory chips at a discount, Tang said.
An industrial analyst, however, raised concerns over the company's yield rate when production is eventually maximized.
"With a 50-percent yield rate, the company will turn a profit, while an over 70-percent yield rate is better and 80 percent should be its ultimate goal," said Rich Hsu (徐禕成), a senior analyst at Nomura Securities Co. Powerchip's eight-inch plant has a yield rate of between 77 percent and 82 percent.
The memory-chip sector is gradually being taken over by a few major players such as Hynix Semiconductor Inc, the Infineon Technologies AG and Nanya Technology Corp (
"It will be a quasi-monopoly situation. Better production-volume controls should be negotiated among these five groups if supply exceeds demand," Hsu said.
Huang said Powerchip, with Mitsubishi's help, aims to become a system-on-chip manufacturer.
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