Siemens and Motorola open joint $1.5bn US wafer fab

Siemens and Motorola open joint $1.5bn US wafer fab
Roy Rubenstein in Richmond, Virginia Siemens Semiconductor and Motorola have officially opened their $1.5bn joint venture fabrication plant in Richmond, Virginia. The White Oak 0.25?m facility is Siemens’ first US fab, making what it claims to be the world’s smallest 64Mbit DRAM parts. Volume shipments of qualified 64Mbit ICs – 5,000 wafers a week – are expected in several month’s time. Motorola, which exited the DRAM market last year, will use the site to manufacture fast SRAM with volume production only starting next year. White Oak’s opening could not come at a worse time considering the DRAM market’s depressed state. “Everyone is making a loss, even Micron,” admitted Ulrich Schumacher, president and CEO of Siemens Semiconductor. Dr Andreas von Zitzewitz, president of Siemens’ memory products put it more starkly: “We are more than suffering, it is no fun losing in a big sector like memory.” Yet for Siemens, continuing White Oak’s development has never been in question: it has set itself the goal of tripling revenues to $9bn in three years, of which the US market and White Oak will play an integral part. “With White Oak, we will not need any new fab sites for the next ten years,” said Schumacher. The company can avoid the huge ramp-up costs associated with new facilities, instead adding modules to its existing fabs in Dresden, North Tyneside, Hsinchu (Taiwan) and White Oak. “We can even introduce 300mm wafer lines where required,” said Schumacher. Meanwhile, Siemens has been forced to freeze investment at its existing sites to avoid the risk of fab closures: “In North Tyneside we could manufacture 10,000 wafers a week. Instead we are processing the minimum of 2,700 wafers.” Schumacher believes there are good reasons to be optimistic for a market upturn next year. But if the depression continues beyond 1999, warns Schumacher, “it won’t be just us that close fabs.”


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