The US semiconductor industry may be mature, but don’t tell that to Japan’s JSR and several other foreign chemical companies that are investing in new US facilities to produce key raw materials for the electronics industry.
JSR says it will spend about $100 million to build a facility in Hillsboro, Oregon, that produces advanced formulated cleaning products used to clean circuit-covered silicon wafers between production steps such as lithography and etching. Set to open in 2020, the facility will mark JSR’s entry into the “advanced cleans” market, says Mark Slezak, president of JSR Micro.
Today, JSR Micro mainly produces materials for photolithography, but Slezak says the firm’s US semiconductor industry customers asked it to bring its quality-management and technical skills to the advanced cleans market as well. Doing that locally will allow the company to have more control over logistics and raw material supply. Hillsboro is home to Intel’s largest chip production operations.
With the new US plant, JSR will follow the lead of other overseas firms. Planned investments include a $45 million electronic materials plant in Texas by South Korea’s ENF Technology, $80 million worth of upgrades to existing plants in Arizona and Rhode Island by Japan’s Fujifilm, and a $60 million project by Japan’s Mitsubishi Gas Chemical to build ultrapure hydrogen peroxide plants in Oregon and Texas.
ENF, for example, says it chose its Texas location to be close to customers such as Samsung Austin Semiconductor, GlobalFoundries, Micron Technology, Texas Instruments, and Intel.
The US investments are occurring even though most semiconductor production is in Asia. Together, facilities in Japan and the rest of the Asia-Pacific make almost 70% of the world’s computer chips.
That may be true, but the US carries outsize importance in the most advanced chips with circuit lines of just 10 nm or 7 nm, notes Mike Corbett, a principal with the electronic materials advisory firm Linx Consulting. Key players include Intel and Samsung Austin Semiconductor, he says.
For each new chip generation, Corbett says, electronic chemical suppliers must contend with “new requirements around materials with regard to purity, contaminants, and particles. A lot of time the older infrastructure isn’t adequate to meet the end user’s needs.”