Japan: Finding Leadership In New Technology Areas

A look at how Japan’s semiconductor industry has changed.


By Osamu Nakamura
The semiconductor industry is a technology-driven industry — and technology invention and innovation are the engines that drive industry growth. Japan has seen the global landscape for semiconductor manufacturing change, and in turn, Japan’s semiconductor industry has been changing, finding technology leadership opportunities in emerging technology areas that lead to growth, now and in the future.

NAND Flash
Toshiba is the pioneer of the essential-for-mobile non-volatile memory technology that it developed by in 1984. The world’s first 3D NAND was also released by Toshiba and is currently shipping samples of 128GBit (64KB) NAND with 48 layers. Combining Toshiba and SanDisk revenues, they have a very strong NAND Flash market position at approximately 40 percent market share according to DRAMeXchange.

Figure 1: The original 3D NAND FLASH design suggested by Toshiba at IEDM 2007. Source: The Memory Guy.

Automotive Semiconductors
Renesas Electronics, a leader in the automotive semiconductor market, is in robustly growing market with more than 10 percent market share, followed by Infineon and STMicro, according to IHS. This position may change as mergers continue to consolidate this market segment, but Renesas’ strength in MCU and SoC for automotive semiconductors, with 40 percent and 70 percent shares respectively (source: MONOist), keeps Renesas as one of the leaders in this vibrant market segment.

Figure 2: Renesas provides controls to major motors in a car. Source: Renesas Electronics twitter @Renesas_Japan

Power Semiconductors
Wherever a motor is used and AC/DC conversion is required, power semiconductors are necessary. Demand is increasing globally for consumer and industrial electronics such as air conditioning, automotive and photovoltaics. Japanese manufacturers are leaders in the high-voltage IGBT (insulated gate bipolar transistor) market with Mitsubishi ahead at nearly 24 percent market share in 2013 (source: IHS), and leading the SiC and GaN wide bandgap technologies for higher efficiency.

Figure 3: Si power semiconductor wafer (left) and SiC power semiconductor wafer (right). Source: Toyota Motor Corporation

Micro Control Units
Microcontroller demand are expected to rise sharply with the coming Internet of Things (IoT) revolution. Here again, Renesas leads the technology and the market. In addition to the company’s strength in the automotive segment, Renesas also maintains the top position in the general purpose MCU (micro control units) market and their revenue accounted for 23 percent of the MCU market’s total revenue in 2013 (source: IC Insights).

Figure 4: A Renesas 16-Bit Microcontroller. Source: Renesas Electronics

CMOS Sensors
Sony has been well out front in the CMOS sensor technology and market with 40 percent market share followed by OmniVision and Samsung each with around 16 percent market share (source: Reuters). This technology provides vision to smart electronics from mobile phones to industrial inspections and security systems. Sony invests heavily on capacity to respond to the rapid demand increases.

Figure 5: Sony’s CMOS image sensor fab in Nagasaki. Source: Sony Corporation

Nichia is the company that ignited the explosion of the market with the commercialization of the “blue” LED in 1993. Since then, the energy efficiency and lifetime of illumination of LEDs has dramatically improved, and LEDs are rapidly penetrating various applications. Japanese LED manufacturers account for 30 percent of the global market with Nichia (ranked 1st), Toyoda Gosei (8th) and Sharp (9th) according to the Sangyo Times.

Figure 6: The invention of efficient blue LEDs awarded 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics. Source: Nobelprize.org

SEMICON Japan ImageSEMICON Japan is your gateway to the Japanese semiconductor industry. To strengthen and deepen your connection with those Japanese chip manufacturers, SEMICON Japan is the ideal gathering place.

SEMICON Japan, for almost 40 years, has been the forum to bring technology ideas, buyers, sellers, and partners together. This year, the event will be on Dec. 16 to 18 at Tokyo Big Sight ─ with up to 30,000 visitors. For more information, please visit the SEMICON Japan website at www.semiconjapan.org.


—Osamu Nakamura is the representative director and president of SEMI Japan.

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