Japan – A Thriving, Highly Versatile Chip Manufacturing Region

By Yoichiro Ando, SEMI

On June 1st, 2018, Toshiba sold Toshiba Memory, Toshiba’s memory business, to an investment group led by Bain Capital. Toshiba Memory was then owned by a consortium of American, Japanese and Korean companies.

After the long and tough negotiations, Toshiba Memory moved forward at full throttle, holding a groundbreaking ceremony for its new 3D NAND fab (100,000 WPM) in Kitakami in July and, in September, celebrating the opening of Fab 6 Phase 1 (50,000 WPM). To be sure, NAND memory is a key feature of Japan’s semiconductor industry. But the sector’s reach extends well beyond memory with its rich and versatile product portfolio nourished by active investment.

Born in the early 1950s, Japan’s semiconductor industry today boasts more than 30 companies with fabs. Many feature 200mm and smaller wafer lines with legacy technologies, form factors that account for the bulk of the world’s semiconductors and are the oxygen of Japan’s chip industry. Clearly, the world is not built only with the state-of-art 7nm processed chips on the latest generation 300mm lines. Japanese chipmakers are flourishing.

Automotive Semiconductors

Renesas Electronics remains a giant in microcontrollers (MCU) and system on chip (SoC) devices for automotive applications. According to IHS Markit, Renesas automotive semiconductor revenue in 2017 reached $3.6 billion while Infineon Technologies and NXP Semiconductors revenues were $3.4 billion and $3.7 billion, respectively. The three companies dominate the global automotive MCU global market. The company recently acquired Integrated Device Technology (IDT), a U.S. fabless company specializing in analog/mixed signal chips, to strengthen its automotive semiconductor portfolio. Renesas operates four volume production fabs, according to the latest World Fab Forecast from SEMI.

Renesas’s microcontrollers for automotive applications (Source: Renesas Electronics)


Power Semiconductors

With power semiconductors the chips of choice for boosting the efficiency and performance of motors and batteries used in equipment, demand for the devices is rapidly growing, especially for automotive applications. Power semiconductor companies in Japan are legion and include Denso, Fuji Electric, Fujitsu Semiconductor, Hitachi, Kyocera, Mitsubishi Electric, New Japan Radio, Origin Electric, Phenitec Semiconductor, Renesas, Rohm, Sanken Electric, Sansha Electric Manufacturing, Seiko NPC, Shindengen Electric Manufacturing, Sumitomo Electric Device Innovations, Toshiba and Toyota Industries. The companies account for 26% of global power semiconductor capacity and will spend $317 million for construction and equipping in 2018.

CMOS Sensors

Sony dominates the CMOS image sensors market with 42% share in 2016, according to Yole Développment. To meet growing demand for high-end CMOS image sensors, Sony has acquired several legacy 300mm wafer fabs and retooled them for CMOS sensor manufacturing. What’s more, Sony’s May announcement of its mid-term corporate strategy includes a 1 trillion Japanese yen investment in CMOS image sensors targeted to automotive applications by March 2021.

Sony’s 7.42 effective megapixel stacked CMOS image sensor for automotive cameras (Source: Sony Corporation)



MEMS is perhaps the most wide-ranging device market: Every application requires different capabilities and functions. The latest World Fab Forecast report lists 17 MEMS companies in Japan, though three makers of fast-growing RF MEMS, typically known as surface acoustic wave (SAW) or bulk acoustic wave (BAW) filters, are coming to the attention of semiconductor manufacturers. All are familiar passive electronic components suppliers – Murata Manufacturing, Taiyo Yuden and TDK – and all acquired legacy semiconductor fabs to manufacture RF MEMS.

Their high-performance radio wave filters make mobile phones usable around the world. Research companies like Yole expect the introduction of 5G cellular mobile communication systems to fuel another wave of growth of the RF MEMS market.


Murata Manufacturing’s SAW filters for smart phones (source Murata Manufacturing)


Japanese Supply Chain Meets All Different Needs

Japan’s semiconductor supply chain provides one third of the world’s semiconductor manufacturing equipment and more than half of the industry’s materials. But Japanese suppliers also work with small and midsize makers of highly versatile chips critical to enabling the explosion of smart applications.

Meet these versatile Japanese suppliers at SEMICON Japan to find solutions to your unique needs and help the world get smarter. Themed “Dreams Start Here,” SEMICON Japan 2018 reflects the promise of AI (artificial intelligence), Internet of Things (IoT) and Smart technologies. Featuring more than 750 exhibitors from around the world, the event is the gathering place to connect the people, technologies and business across the electronics manufacturing supply chain, from semiconductor manufacturing to autonomous cars, robotics and other smart applications. For more information about SEMICON Japan, visit www.semiconjapan.org.

Yoichiro Ando is a marketing director at SEMI Japan.

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