What’s happening to Japan’s semiconductor industry?

The 2016 global semiconductor market is forecast to decrease by 2.4 percent from the previous year according to the World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS). SEMI forecasts that the global semiconductor manufacturing equipment market will be effectively flat this year. However, SEMI also forecasts double-digit growth in 2017 with significant new fab construction starts in 2016 and 2017 that will drive later equipment. The forecast foresees the Japan market will shrink through 2017. This article provides insight behind those forecast numbers.


Large-scale investments in 300mm wafer lines in Japan are primarily made by three companies: Toshiba (NAND Flash), Sony (image sensors) and Micron Memory Japan (DRAM). The logic players’ investments are largely for upgrading and expanding existing capacity; the companies producing power, surface acoustic wave (SAW), and automotive semiconductor devices are actively adding capacity by constructing new fabs and expanding existing fabs. These activities are planned on 200mm or smaller wafers, so the investments are smaller in terms of dollar values. However, they are important to Japan’s semiconductor industry in the coming Internet of Things (IoT) age.

Toshiba plans a new mega fab

Toshiba continues to expanding its 300 mm NAND fabs in Yokkaichi in 2015 and 2016 ─ including the second phase construction of Fab 5, new Fab 2 for 3D NAND flash memory production, and plan for a new fab (Fab 6).

The new Fab 6 will be dedicated to 3D NAND flash memory production, and is planned to be built in an adjacent area of the current Yokkaichi factory site. Detailed plans of the construction (such as construction period, production capacity, and investment to manufacturing instrument used) will be decided in FY 2016 based on market trends. Fab 6 is expected to be built in FY 2017. Production capacity of the fab is projected to be more than 200,000 wafers per month (300mm wafers) at full capacity.

Toshiba and Western Digital announced a plan in July 2016 to invest a total of 1.5 trillion JPY for the next three years in Yokkaichi operations. This investment will be for the construction of the new fab as well as for updating equipment for existing fabs such as new Fab 2 and Fab 5.

Sony expands 300mm capacity

Sony is also actively expanding its 300mm wafer fabs for increased production of complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) image sensors. Sony plans to expand production capacity not only with its existing lines but also to acquire fabs from other companies. Specifically, Sony acquired Tsuruoka factory in Yamagata prefecture in 2014 from Renesas Electronics Corporation, and it is now operated as Yamagata Technology Center (TEC) of Sony Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation, which is a semiconductor production subsidiary of Sony Corporation. In 2015, Sony acquired the 300mm line of the Toshiba Oita factory, for production of CMOS image sensors.

Sony plans to invest 70 billion JPY in FY 2016, and expand image sensor production capacity ─ now 70,000 wafers per month as of first quarter of 2016. The restoration of Kumamoto TEC damaged by the Kumamoto earthquake would make investment in other TECs decrease.

Micron and TowerJazz

Micron Technology operates a 300mm fab in Hiroshima (Micron Memory Japan Fab 15). The fab manufactures DRAM with 12nm process technology. Micron invested US$750 million in 2015 and $500 million in 2016 for the technology upgrades. The capacity has been flat in these two years.

Panasonic TowerJazz Semiconductor, a Panasonic and TowerJazz joint venture, operates a 300mm foundry fab in Uozu. The company invested $10 million in 2015 and plans to invest the same amount in 2016 to improve the productivity.

Investments in 200mm and smaller wafer lines

Other major semiconductor manufacturers primarily invest in existing fabs and lines for maintenances and productivity improvements. Therefore, investment amount is modest. However, these fabs will be the major source for semiconductor devices of the Internet of Things applications.

Renesas Electronics Corporation plans upkeep of production capacity of Kumamoto fab (200mm wafer fab) and Naka fab (300mm wafer fab).
Fujitsu enhances Fab B2 of Mie Fujitsu Semiconductor Limited, which provides foundry services with 300mm wafer lines. Taiwan’s major foundry UMC participated in capital of Mie Fujitsu Semiconductor Limited, and assists with 40nm process technology.
Rohm Co., Ltd. plans to invest more than 10 billion JPY in enhancement of 200mm lines of fab and others in the headquarters.
Fuji Electric Co., Ltd. continues enhancement of its 200mm wafer lines for IGBT of Yamanashi plant in FY 2016. Fuji Electric further expands its SiC power device production capacity by enhancing 200mm wafer lines at Matsumoto fab.
Mitsubishi Electric Corporation manufactures power devices at 200mm wafer line of Kumamoto fab. Mitsubishi Electric continues enhancement of power device production capacity.
Shindengen Electric Manufacturing Co., Ltd. is enhancing its power semiconductor module production by adding a new line each for Akita Shindengen Co., Ltd. and Higashine Shindengen Co., Ltd. from FY 2015.

Electronic Parts and Optoelectronic Devices

The electronic parts companies are emerging as new fab owners in Japan. Their recent activities are summarized below:

New Japan Radio Co., Ltd. continues enhancement of production capacity of SAW devices and GaAs ICs at its Kawagoe fab in 2016.
Hamamatsu Photonics K.K. continues enhancement of MEMS fabrication facility (Fab 13) which started operation in March 2014.
Upkeep of new clean room of Toyota Motor Corporation, which started operation in 2014, is now underway. Currently, this line is used for research and development, and trial production of SiC devices.
Murata Manufacturing Company, Ltd. is building a new fab for SAW filter production at its headquarter factory in Toyama. The new fab construction will be completed in September 2016. Total investment to the facility is planned to be 12 billion JPY. Then it will be equipped with 200 mm (mostly secondary) equipment.
Taiyo Yuden Co., Ltd. continues its enhancement plan of Oume fab in FY 2016, which was acquired from Hitachi in 2013 for SAW device production.
TDK agreed to acquire 125mm wafer lines in Tsuruoka Factory from Renesas Electronics Corporation in November 2015. TDK plans to enhance its production capacity of super miniature electronic components at this plant. Production will start in FY 2016 after replacement of manufacturing equipment to conform to products to be manufactured. Investment will continue in FY 2016 as well for startup of the mass production and maintenance at this plant.