EmergingTech from Japan

September 2014

"The IT industry is inexorably approaching maturity. Sure, the recent surge in orders for semiconductor production equipment may lead people to imagine that the go-go times are about to return. But unless the electronic device industry finds new growth vectors, the future won't be bright," said Akira Minamikawa, one of Japan's most respected semiconductor industry analysts.
Murata Cheerleaders, a team of small robots created by Murata Manufacturing Co., Ltd. using sensing, communication and group control technologies, will debut at CEATEC next week in Makuhari on Tokyo Bay, performing synchronized dancing without colliding. Cute!
Demand for smartphones and other mobile gizmos is booming and motor vehicles are packed with more and more electronic gear. With these two big applications to the fore, robust growth of the semiconductor and display markets is in prospect for 2014 and 2015.
The book-to-bill ratio of Japan-based manufacturers of semiconductor equipment was 0.97 in August, staying below 1, according to the book-to-bill ratio report issued by the Semiconductor Equipment Association of Japan (SEAJ).
Sharp Corp. has demonstrated a MEMS display jointly developed with Qualcomm subsidiary Pixtronix Inc. and announced it will be commercialized in 2017. The Japanese company will deploy this new display—dubbed the MEMS-IGZO display because it is a fusion of MEMS and IGZO technologies—in a bid to expand the use of displays to applications beyond the reach of LCDs.
Rohm Co., Ltd. has started a foundry service for fabricating microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) integrating thin-film piezoelectric element technology, which the company claims is the first such foundry service in the world.
NGK Insulator Ltd. has developed a solid-state ceramic lithium-ion battery whose density is roughly 10 times that of conventional solid-state batteries, and moreover, it is capable of working at high temperature of about 120 degrees centigrade, enabling it to be closely apposed with chips on a circuit board.
Toshiba Corp. and partner SanDisk Corp. have opened the second phase of Fab 5, which began fabricating 15nm NAND memories this month, and started construction on schedule of the new Fab 2 at Yokkaichi Operations, Toshiba’s NAND Flash memory plant in Mie prefecture, Japan.
United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC) and Fujitsu Semiconductor Ltd. announced at the end of last month an agreement whereby the Taiwanese foundry will become a minority shareholder in the Japanese firm, in what appears to be the last in a series of moves to reorganize the major fabs of Japanese chipmakers. Highlights of the recent round of restructuring have included Sony's acquisition of Renesas' 300mm fab, Panasonic's sale of its principal fabs to TowerJazz, and the establishment of an SoC design JV by Fujitsu and Panasonic.
"The worldwide PV installation boom has subsided, with one big exception—Japan. More than 2,000 megasolar installations are planned in this country," the bullish editor-in-chief of an industry magazine said to me the other day. He contended, "Japan is at the epicenter of what promises be a new boom in PV installations."

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