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(Japanese Site)

  • Taiwan's Semiconductor Mask Industry Expanding
  • April 21, 1998 (Hsinchu, TAIWAN) -- Taiwan's microchip mask industry is investing in capacity and advanced technologies to capitalize on the growing IC foundry businesses triggered by the success of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC).
    These investment projects aim to expand market share as well as secure niche positions through proprietary technologies. They include a US$50-million three-fold expansion underway by the top mask supplier, Taiwan Mask Corp., which claims 60 percent of the local market; Taiwan's first certification to perform optical proximity compensation (OPC) on masks obtained by Innova Inc.; and Precision Semiconductor Mask Corp.'s efforts to develop next-generation phase-shift masks.

    These companies are located in Hsinchu Science-based Industrial Park, to be in close proximity to major clients there.

    Riding on the success of TSMC in providing exclusive foundry services, new foundry facilities are being built, such as that of Worldwide Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. (WSMC), and many existing eight-in. fabs are also increasing their foundry services. Companies doing this include United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC), Winbond Electronics Corp. and Holtek Microelectronics Inc.

    Mask makers welcome such a shift in IC-makers' operations because it represents more opportunities. The demand for photomasks to process IC chips from a foundry house is about three times that from an integrated device manufacturer, according to York Huang, sales manager of the mask department at Innova. The company has a 25 percent local market share.

    Innova's capabilities enable mask fine-tuning through software tools to widen process windows at deep submicron resolution.

    "It's like a tailor knowing how to accommodate each client's individual needs and still make the product take on a wide scope of functions," Huang said.

    Ultima Electronics Corp. of Taipei, known for IC distribution and peripheral equipment manufacturing, expects to establish an US$80 million mask facility with a core technical team from the U.S. Ultima plans to start offering 0.25 micron resolution masks in 1999.

    Technical vision is another crucial factor in this industry. Both Taiwan Mask and Innova are investing heavily to expand capacity with deep-sub-micron technology. Precision Semiconductor Mask Corp. (PSMC) also has built a team specializing in phase-shift masks.

    "When semiconductor manufacturing advances to sub-0.2 micron resolution, the processing equipment needs a major overhaul and photomasks will have to go with phase-shift as well," said Robert Lou, PSMC's sales manager.

    U.S.-based Du Pont Photomasks Inc. is said to be negotiating with a local foundry leader for a possible mask facility in Taiwan. Meanwhile, Du Pont Photomasks announced in mid-April a plan for a US$50 million mask house in Singapore. It will be the company's 13th plant worldwide and fourth in the Asia-Pacific region, and it is slated to start volume production in 1999.

    Japan-based Toppan Printing Co. Ltd., already a major mask supplier, and its partner Chunghwa Picture Tubes Ltd. of Taoyuan have recently opened a US$42 million joint venture called Toppan Chunghwa Electronics Co. (TCE) in Taoyuan.

    Taiwan Mask hopes to retain its lead in the local market. It is investing US$50 million for a second fab. Also, the company is tripling its capacity with a clean room completed in the second quarter of 1999 for production starting in the third quarter.

    In the mask industry, "the key to success lies in prompt service, advanced technology and a close collaborative relationship with clients," said Parkson Chen, president of Taiwan Mask.

    (Charlene Huang, AsiaBizTech Correspondent)

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    Updated: Mon Apr 20 16:21:31 1998