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Samsung delays DRAM fab, buys gear

Posted: 09 Nov 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:samsung? dram? fab? asml?

Applied Materials, ASML, KLA-Tencor, Novellus and others have begun receiving a new round of semiconductor equipment orders at Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. despite the chip maker's move to delay a DRAM fab project in South Korea, according to a report from an analyst on Monday (Nov. 7).

"Consistent with the market chatter, our checks from multiple sources indicate that Samsung has been busy placing orders during the last few weeks," said Stuart Muter, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets Inc., in a report. "We expect the full extent of these orders to be placed in the [calendar year] Q4 and Q1 time-frame."

The tool orders are geared for Samsung's flash-memory and logic fabs in South Korea, including a new 300mm R&D plant. But Samsung is reportedly holding off on buying gear for so-called Line 15, a 300mm DRAM fab project that has been delayed by "several months," Muter said.

Meanwhile, on the tool front, Samsung has been using lithography gear from ASML Holding NV of the Netherlands for years. Samsung is also expected to obtain one of ASML's first hyper-numerical aperture (NA), 193nm immersion tools, dubbed the Twinscan XT:1700i, according to sources.

KLA-Tencor Corp. also garnered some new metrology and inspection equipment business at Samsung, but the biggest winner could be Applied Materials Inc. The chip-equipment giant reportedly received a new order worth $100 million from Samsung.

"Our channel checks indicate that Applied Material has scored two significant wins at Samsung for 70-nm flash," according to the analyst. "We believe that Samsung will be using Applied's High Aspect Ratio Process (HARP) with a sub-atmospheric chemical vapor deposition (SACVD) tool for shallow trench isolation (STI) and pre-metal dielectric (PMD) film applications."

Previously, Samsung used a high-density plasma chemical vapor deposition (HDP-CVD) process for STI and the PMD applications. Applied shared the HDP-CVD business with Novellus, he said.

"Also, we believe that Samsung will be using an Applied Materials aluminum chemical vapor deposition (Al-CVD) plug process for the top metal layer replacing the typical titanium/ titanium nitride (Ti/TiN) process," he said. "We believe that the Al-CVD is a lower throughput process resulting in a higher dollar opportunity for Applied Materials."

Novellus is also a winner at Samsung. "Novellus should benefit substantially from the higher than expected Samsung order as Samsung is a larger proportion of its total order book compared to Applied Materials or KLA-Tencor," he said.

Samsung will use the gear in various fabs in South Korea. "We believe that the orders are for multiple fabs including Line 14, Line 9 upgrade (from DRAM to flash), its R&D line and S-project (logic)," he said. "However, we believe that Line 15, which is currently planned to be a DRAM fab is being delayed by a few months."

The largest fab-order is aimed for Line 14, a 300mm fab for use in flash-memory production. The current capacity within Line 14 is about 15,000 wafer starts per month (WSPM) and the capacity will be about 20,000-to-25,000 WSPM by the end of 2005, according RBC.

"We believe that Line 14 is ordering capacity for about 20,000 WSPM for 70-nm flash production in the 300-mm fab," the analyst said. "Although the current maximum capacity is about 40,000 WSPM, we believe that Samsung is considering further expansion of the fab to around 60,000-80,000 WSPM."

Samsung is also equipping Line 9, a 200mm fab that is being converted from DRAM to flash. The total capacity of this 200mm fab is 100,000 WSPM, of which 50 percent is already flash, according to RBC.

"We believe that Samsung is placing orders for a new 300-mm R&D fab and equipment deliveries are scheduled for March," according to the report. "The current capacity of this logic fab is 8,400 WSPM. We believe that the company is not utilizing this fab fully but our checks indicate that the company is expanding capacity."

Samsung's Line 15 project remains a question. "We believe that Samsung has delayed this DRAM project by a few months," according to RBC. "We think that the company will continue to monitor the demand situation for DRAM and NAND flash during the first quarter of 2006 before placing orders. We will not be surprised if the company decided to use this fab for flash memory rather than DRAM or to split the loading between flash and DRAM products."

Recently, Samsung also blamed the South Korean Fair Trade Commission (FTC) for killing a deal it was putting together to build a $3.8 billion joint-venture flash memory wafer fab with Apple Computer Inc.

- Mark LaPedus

EE Times

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