Toshiba Announces Strategies for Its Semiconductor/storage Business

Sep 14, 2013
Jyunichi Oshita, Nikkei BP Semiconductor Research
An image of Fab 5 at Toshiba's Yokkaichi Operations
An image of Fab 5 at Toshiba's Yokkaichi Operations
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Toshiba Corp had a press meeting to explain about the business of its Semiconductor & Storage Products Company Sept 11, 2013, in Tokyo.

Yasuo Naruke, president of the Semiconductor & Storage Products Company, took the podium.

Compared with fiscal 2008, when Toshiba's semiconductor business recorded a massive deficit, "the memory business came back, but the discrete semiconductor and system chip businesses are halfway to resurgence," Naruke said.

For the future, Toshiba plans to put all the energy into increasing sales of its discrete semiconductors and system chips, whose sales growth has been sluggish, while keeping the advantage of its money-making NAND flash memories. The company predicts that the annual growth rate of the semiconductor market during the period from fiscal 2012 to 2015 will be 3.6% on average. And it aims to increase its semiconductor sales at an average annual rate of 6.8%.

Broadly speaking, the Semiconductor & Storage Products Company deals with "memory," "storage," "discrete" and "system chip." Recently, the company divided the system chip business into "mixed signal chip" and "logic chip." In addition, it transferred the CMOS image sensor business, which had been dealt with by its system chip division, to its memory division.

The main product of the memory division is NAND flash memory.

"We will take the lead in the development of 3D memories, too, by exceeding scaling limits and will definitely keep the superiority," Naruke said.

Toshiba intends to reduce bit cost by increasing the ratio of 3-bit-per-cell (TLC) memories and employ 1Znm process technology, which follows 1Ynm process technology (the second (current) generation of 19nm process technology). Then, the company will switch to the "BiCS (Bit Cost Scalable)" 3D memory, which three-dimensionally stacks multiple layers of memory cells, to keep the lowered cost, it said.

Among them, Toshiba will start to ship 1Znm products in fiscal 2014 and samples of the first-generation BiCS memory at the end of fiscal 2013. After spreading the samples in the market in fiscal 2014, the company plans to start volume production in fiscal 2015. The number of memory cell layers of the BiCS is scheduled to be 30 or more.

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In the storage business, Toshiba will shift focus from client HDDs (for personal computers), which have been the main products, to enterprise HDDs and SSDs for servers, etc. In addition to SSDs and HDDs used as high-capacity storage devices, the company will focus on SSDs used for cache memory, which fill the gap between processor/DRAM and high-capacity storage.

For those enterprise applications, Toshiba plans to release high-speed SSDs equipped with a PCI Express interface. The ratio of the sales of enterprise HDDs and SSDs in the storage business was 25% in fiscal 2012. But the company aims to increase it to 50% by fiscal 2015.

In the discrete semiconductor business, Toshiba will focus on white LEDs and power devices. In regard to white LEDs, the company plans to quickly catch up with other companies by using low-cost products equipped with silicon (Si) substrates instead of sapphire substrates, which are commonly used for white LEDs. It has already achieved light-emitting properties equivalent to those of products using sapphire substrates.

As for power devices, Toshiba will improve the properties of current Si-based power MOSFETs and establish businesses related to GaN-based devices using GaN-on-Si technology and SiC-based devices.

The ratio of the sales of white LEDs and power devices in the discrete semiconductor business was 50% in fiscal 2012, but the company aims to increase it to 70% in fiscal 2015.

Mixed signal chip
In the mixed signal chip business, Toshiba plans to develop automotive and industrial applications by using, for example, products that combine image processing chips and discrete semiconductors as main products. The company aims to increase the ratio of the sales of automotive and industrial products in the mixed signal chip business from 30% in fiscal 2012 to 50% in fiscal 2015.

Logic chip
In the logic chip business, Toshiba intends to decrease the number of product areas to increase profit, focusing on chips used with applications processors. Specifically, they are (1) the ApP Plus (Application Processor Plus) companion chip, (2) "ApP Lite (Application Processor Lite)" front-end chip, which functions as an interface with sensors, (3) FFSA (Fit Fast Structured Arrays) structured array/gate array, which provides a function that falls between ASIC and FPGA and so forth.

Toshiba aims to increase the ratio of the sales of those three products in the logic chip business from almost zero in fiscal 2012 to 70% in fiscal 2015.