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Micron, Kyocera, Samsung bet billions on Japan chip plants

Meanwhile, Fujifilm pursues photolithography interests in Taiwan

Micron Technology, Kyocera and reportedly Samsung have pledged billions to build and expand chip plants in Japan while Fujifilm is spending $110 million to build facilities in Taiwan.

American memory maker Micron says it is investing $3.7 billion to bring extreme ultraviolet (EUV) technology to its Hiroshima fab for the manufacturing of 1-gamma DRAM chips, an industry-first for Japan.

The investment spans a number of years and includes close support from the Japanese government. Micron expects to ramp EUV into production on the 1-gamma node in Taiwan and Japan starting 2025.

The Hiroshima plant already mass produces Micron's 1-beta, the current most advanced DRAM node. The company started shipping samples last November.

Micron said it supplies approximately one-third of the DRAM Japan uses in criticcal industries like automotive, medical equipment, datacenters, and 5G infrastructure.

"Today's announcement between Micron and Japan to produce 1-gamma memory in Hiroshima is a major step forward to secure semiconductor supply chains," said Rahm Emanuel, US ambassador to Japan.

"This partnership demonstrates how allies, when working together, can create economic opportunity and security in cutting-edge technologies," he added.

Japan recently reaffirmed its US alliance by joining the Netherlands in a chipmaking tech export crackdown amid intense pressure by the US to cut off China's supply.

While Japan's semiconductor industry is not as big as Taiwan or South Korea's, it is a significant supplier of manufacturing equipment.

Japanese electronics manufacturer Kyocera is also investing similar funds in AI chip production facilities. The company said [PDF] in its Q4 FY23 report on Tuesday that it would put $2.9 billion towards semiconductor facilities by the end of March 2026 in preparation for long-term growth demand.

The investment includes $450 million for a new factory in Nagasaki which is planned to break ground by March 2024 and be producing fine ceramic components three years later. As the company further focuses on the growth industry of AI chips, president Hideo Tanimoto said it will end its less profitable smartphone business segment as that industry has already matured.

Not to be left behind, Samsung is reportedly building a new semiconductor research facility in Japan's second largest city of Yokohama. The $221 million facility is reportedly slated for operation in 2025 and will make use of $72 million of Japanese subsidies for semiconductor investment.

Meanwhile, Japan's own Fujifilm is bucking the trend and making investments outside of domestic shores. The company said on Tuesday it would invest $110 million in a new plant and existing expansions in Taiwan.

The Hsinchu City factory will produce CMP slurries and photolithography-related materials and be operational by spring 2026.

An existing Tainan City facility will also be expanded to include CMP slurry manufacturing, and is expected to be operational in spring 2024. ®

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