TOKYO Toshiba Corp. has licensed three generations of its CMOS logic process technology to Dongbu Electronics Co. Ltd., a would-be IC manufacturer, in a move that effectively gives birth to Korea's first pure-play IC foundry.
Under the agreement, Toshiba will transfer its 0.25-, 0.18- and 0.15-micron CMOS process technologies as well as intellectual property cores, standard cells, I/O cells, analog cells and embedded flash memory to Dongbu, which gains manufacturing rights to the technologies.
Toshiba will also invest $50 million over the next two years in Dongbu's new fabrication facility in Eumsung, in turn for a guaranteed share of the fab's output. Toshiba will receive an undisclosed payment from Dongbu as part of the agreement, according to a spokesman for Toshiba, based here.
The agreement with Dongbu is the latest of several licensing and outsourcing deals that the Japanese electronics firm has made with foundries in recent y ears. Other Toshiba foundry partners are Worldwide Semiconductor in Taiwan, Chartered Semiconductor in Singapore and Tower Semiconductor in Israel.
"In order to minimize our investment, we are taking a strategy to utilize outsourced fabs," a Toshiba spokesman said.
Outsourcing agreements are becoming increasingly common for Japanese chip vendors seeking better returns on their process technology development costs, and as a way to minimize investment in new fabs. Even so, manufacturers here have held back from providing intellectual property (IP), which they consider a competitive advantage. The deal with Toshiba, for example, does not include IP for Toshiba's popular NAND-flash memory used for data storage applications such as digital cameras, nor does Dongbu gain access to Toshiba's embedded DRAM technology, which is now used in the graphics processor of the Sony Playstation II.
Dongbu said in a statement that it expects to start making devices based on the Toshiba-licensed technologies beginni ng in 2001. Monthly production capacity at Dongbu's fab should reach 45,000 eight-inch wafers within three years, the company said.
Dongbu Electronics was formed in 1997 as a new business venture for the Dongbu Group, a conglomerate with stakes in financial, insurance and chemical businesses. Dongbu had intended to sell DRAMs based on technology it had acquired from IBM, but its plans were thwarted when the Asian financial crisis took hold of Korea's electronics companies that same year.
Dongbu has already erected a shell for its Eumsung fab, the Toshiba spokesman said. Dongbu will send its engineers to Japan to be trained by Toshiba, and Toshiba engineers will take up residence in Korea to help bring up Dongbu's manufacturing operations.
Dongbu officials could not be reached directly for comment by press time.