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Ceitec CEO sees mega-fab in Brazil's future

Posted: 05 Feb 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Brazil fab? foundry? 300mm fab? semiconductor industry?

Weichselbaumer said Brazil has remained comparatively strong through the global recession. He said this helped Ceitec attract the attention of equipment and materials suppliers that the company must do business with in order to operate a fab.

"We were very lucky because all of that [preparing the fab for production] happened during the downturn," Weichselbaumer said. "Brazil only had one quarter of a shrinking economy."

Delays, false starts
Ceitec faces its share of skeptics. Since being launched by the Brazilian government in 2000, Ceitec's evolution has been marked by delays and false starts. The Porto Alegre fab, for example, was originally slated to begin production in 2008. According to Dieseldorff, the company experienced delays in equipping the fab, but has ironed those issues out.

A number of semiconductor industry people in Brazil balked last year, when Ceitec announced Chip de Boi, calling it the first IC entirely designed in that country. Dozens of ICs have been designed in Brazil, they said.

In the recent interview, Weichselbaumer stood by the claim, though he qualified it somewhat. He called the device the first chip designed and built by a Brazilian firm in Brazil. (Others continue to dispute this claim, with one saying the first was a video transcoder designed by one Brazilian firm and produced by another more than 20 years ago.)

Others are skeptical of the Brazilian government's push to establish an IC industry in the South American nation. Over the years a number of governments have pushed to establish semiconductor manufacturing in their countries, skeptics note, but in recent years this efforts have met with mixed success. While Taiwan has grown into an IC powerhouse, particularly in foundry, and South Korea has become the world's dominant center for chip memory, more recent efforts in Singapore, China, and India have been less successful, skeptics argue.

Bill McClean, president of market research firm IC Insights Inc., has said multiple times that he doesn't believe there will be another group chip manufacturers emerging in any location, because the barriers to entry have become too high. McClean said emerging economies like Brazil and Russia will probably build a few fabs, but are unlikely to end up as chip manufacturing hubs, even with heavy government support.

"Even governments start flinching at billions of dollars," said McClean. "Governments have this idea that they need fabs to demonstrate that they are high tech countries. But business wise and financially, in most cases it doesn't make sense."

- Dylan McGrath
EE Times

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