News Article

Retrospective: 1995-1999

Compound Semiconductor magazine is 10 years old. And, just like most of the rest of the industry, it has been through a few ups and downs during that time. Here, we take a look back at some of the highlights - and lowlights - that have shaped the industry over the past decade.
Blue is the color

March • Nichia transfers its blue LED production line to a new factory • Nokia and RFMD agree a secret deal to use GaAs HBTs in the Finnish company s cell phones • Spectra Diode Labs (SDL) raises $35 million in its IPO.

April • Anadigics raises $24 million in its IPO, and plans to switch from 3-inch to 4-inch GaAs production.

July • The premier issue of Compound Semiconductor focuses on blue LED and laser emitters • Near completion of a supercomputer that would have featured more than 100 different GaAs circuits, Cray files for bankruptcy - leaving behind a 4-inch GaAs fab line • Nichia increases capacity to ramp blue LED production to 10 million devices per month.

September • Nichia makes a green LED said to be 60 times brighter than conventional devices • Cree plans chip manufacturing expansion to meet expected demand for its new blue LEDs, and signs a three-year distribution deal with Sumitomo Corporation • Four MBE-grown GaAs/AlGaAs samples are fabricated on board the Wake Shield Facility, launched by the Space Shuttle Endeavor • Matsushita Electric develops GaInP/AlInGaP-based red laser for DVD applications and plans to begin volume production in early 1996 • Fujitsu tops a survey of the major GaAs IC manufacturers with sales of nearly $100 million.

November • Panasonic and Toyoda Gosei team up to make 1 million GaN-on-sapphire blue LEDs per month • M/A-COM buys Cray s 4-inch GaAs line and plans to make 2 million GaAs ICs per month.

December • Nichia team led by Shuji Nakamura produces a GaN-based semiconductor laser operating at 417 nm.


January • Shipments of GaAs substrates surge 42% in Japan on the back of demand for mobile communications applications • TriQuint enters the market for RF power amplifiers • AXT begins building a 50,000 ft2 facility to produce GaAs substrates in a $20 million, five-year investment • Aixtron ships its 200th deposition system • Agilent develops a GaAs-HBT process.

March • TRW and RFMD reveal plans to produce GaAs HBTs in volume • Hewlett-Packard is rated the top-ranking compound semiconductor producer in 1995, with revenue of $675 million. Japanese firms NEC, Sharp, Toshiba, Matsushita, Rohm and Fujitsu take the next six positions, and the overall III-V market is estimated to be worth $3.7 billion • Sony says it will spend $100 million on a new III-V device processing line for CD and DVD lasers.

May • Anadigics plans to lease a 70,000 ft2 facility for GaAs IC production.

June • Nichia constructs a factory to double blue LED production.

July • Anadigics says that it will invest $35 million to construct a 10,000 ft2 cleanroom for GaAs IC production on 4-inch wafers • Westinghouse makes high-power SiC transistors for digital television transmitters, in what is thought to be the first commercial application of such technology • United Monolithic Semiconductors is revealed as the joint venture between Thomson-CSF and Daimler-Benz, and becomes the sixth GaAs fab located in Europe • Picogiga completes IPO on France s Nouveau Marche.

September • RFMD says that it will build the world s largest GaAs fab to manufacture HBTs • Hewlett-Packard moves away from the traditional shape of LEDs with a flip-chip approach • Vitesse says that its Colorado Springs 6-inch GaAs facility will be up and running in late 1998.

November • In anticipation of DVD uptake, Sharp reveals plans to double laser production to 10 million units per month • A research group at Toshiba becomes the third to make a GaN-based laser diode, using a facet-cleaving process • Nichia readies the world s first GaN-based white LED lamps for volume production • Motorola s plan to launch Iridium, a 66-satellite communications network, boosts III-V device makers. Each satellite is set to incorporate 24 m2 of compound semiconductor material for solar cells, while GaAs ICs will be used in the wireless links using the Ka-band. But Iridium proves expensive both to build and for subscribers. Motorola later axes the service, although it is saved from bankruptcy by venture capitalists and $72 million from the Pentagon. • Coherent acquires MBE wafer specialist Tutcore of Finland for aluminum-free laser production.

The HBT cometh

January • Shuji Nakamura s announcement of the first continuous-wave 405 nm nitride laser to operate at room temperature caps a remarkable year in GaN optoelectronics • Agilent develops first VCSELs for gigabit-Ethernet transceivers.

February • Anadigics nets around $55 million in a public offering of its stocks.

March • Emcore completes $22.5 million IPO • Rockwell s far-reaching MOCVD patent, which had been licensed to more than 40 III-V companies worldwide, is ruled invalid by a US Federal Court after SDL argues successfully that several of its key claims are just - well - obvious • Uniphase acquires IBM s 980 nm pump-laser fab in Zurich, Switzerland, for $45 million in cash - plus a further $27 million in licenses.

April • Anadigics ships millionth GaAs IC for Qualcomm CDMA PCS handsets • Kopin triples GaAs epiwafer capacity with two Aixtron AIX 2400 systems.

June • Rockwell ramps HBT production to 700,000 units per month on the back of demand from cell-phone handset makers Qualcomm, Samsung and Lucky Goldstar (now LG) l RFMD s IPO receives a warm welcome on Wall Street.

July • Cree makes the first SiC-based laser - a pulsed device emitting at 403 nm.

September • Hewlett-Packard enters the blue LED market with InGaN-on-sapphire 475 nm devices, and forecasts a major ramp in capacity • Cree says that it will make fake diamonds based on SiC under a supply deal to C3, a company led by Eric and Jeff Hunter, brothers of Cree CEO Neal Hunter.

October • Sharp increases diode laser production to 6 million units per month • After initial demonstration at the company s laboratories in July, details of Nichia s blue laser with a 10,000 h lifetime are revealed to the wider world at the International Conference on Nitride Semiconductors in Japan. Nichia plans to sample blue lasers by the end of 1998.

November • Aixtron goes public on the Frankfurt stock exchange, with its IPO oversubscribed by more than 30 times.

December • TriQuint moves all operations to Oregon, including a 16,000 ft2 wafer fab.

Year of the nitrides

January • TriQuint buys Raytheon TI Systems GaAs MMIC business, which becomes TriQuint s Texas operation • HBT production begins at RFMD s GaAs fab in Greensboro, NC, and the company reveals details of a major deal to supply Nokia s new series of GSM phones with power amplifiers • Watkins-Johnson (now WJ Communications) plans to acquire Samsung Microwave Semiconductor, including a 3-inch and 4-inch GaAs processing line.

February • 9000 people attend the Optical Fiber Communications conference (OFC) in San Jose, CA, as healthy growth is predicted for the fiber-optic sector.

March • Months ahead of schedule, Vitesse ships the first chips from the world s first 6-inch GaAs fab in Colorado Springs • Hewlett-Packard is still ranked top of the compound semiconductor pile, as Strategies Unlimited says that the total 1997 market for III-V devices was worth $3.9 billion • Shuji Nakamura reveals substrate removal to be a major factor in successful manufacture of blue GaN lasers.

April • Excellence in Communications (EiC) opens Fremont, CA, foundry to produce HBT-based ICs • Despite a successful 1997, in which it led the power amplifier market, Anadigics feels the pinch of competition and the Asian financial crisis. Sales drop by 50%, its share price collapses, 15% of the company s workforce is shed and the opening of a new fab is delayed by a year • Softening demand for GaAs ICs hits the share prices of leading manufacturers hard.

May • 13 years after its founding, Anadigics ships its 100 millionth GaAs IC l Specializing in substrates grown using the relatively new vertical gradient freeze (VGF) method, AXT goes public on the NASDAQ l Uniphase plans a buy-out of Philips Optoelectronics, and opens its a laser diode fab in Zurich, turning the San Jose company into a major player in the telecom laser business.

June • TriQuint establishes a GaAs foundry business at Hillsboro, OR.

July • Uniroyal Technology Corp (UTC) says it is ready to begin ordering equipment for making blue LEDs at its new fab in Tampa.

August • Sony is the third company (after Nichia and then Cree) to produce a blue GaN laser with continuous-wave operation.

October • At the first European Microwave Week, Siemens reveals plans for a 6-inch GaAs fab, the first for analog chips.

November • After an investment of $3 billion, Motorola s Iridium global phone service becomes available, with the first call on the network placed by a great-grandson of Alexander Graham Bell.

December • Hewlett-Packard launches its first HBT-based products, which feature InGaP emitters. The prescalers and Darlington feedback amplifiers are grown using MOCVD • With its silicon device operation suffering, Siemens plans to spin off its semiconductor activity, which includes one of the world s biggest GaAs fabs, into a private company. The newly spun-off semiconductor operation is later christened Infineon Technologies • Anadigics says that it will focus on GaAs PHEMT development in 1999.

Gold rush!

January • Rockwell International spins out its semiconductor business as Conexant Systems • 980 nm laser chips from Uniphase are deemed reliable enough to pump amplifiers in submarine optical networks, and the company receives a huge order from Lucent Technologies. Uniphase then merges with JDS Fitel to become JDS Uniphase (JDSU) • Anadigics unveils plans for a 6-inch GaAs fab in Warren, NJ, to streamline operations and lower overheads • Osram Opto Semiconductors is established by Siemens.

March • SDL and Mitsubishi join JDSU as suppliers of 980 nm submarine lasers • Nokia moves ahead of Motorola as the world s top mobile phone supplier • GaAs foundry Global Communication Semiconductors sets up in Torrance, CA • North Carolina State University researchers demonstrate a technique known as pendeo-epitaxy for growing nearly defect-free GaN • Raytheon plans a 6-inch GaAs fab set to open late 2000.

May • Nichia says its ongoing patent dispute with Toyoda Gosei over blue LEDs is "developing into an all-out war" • A number of chip, materials and equipment producers post record revenue figures.

June • Epiwafer suppliers Epitaxial Products International and Quantum Epitaxial Designs (QED) merge to form International Quantum Epitaxy (IQE) • RFMD officially opens the world s biggest MBE facility.

July • PHEMT and MESFET production begins at Anadigics 6-inch GaAs fab.

August • RFMD ships 100 millionth PA l With just 15,000 subscribers rather than the hoped-for 500,000, satellite phone service provider Iridium files for bankruptcy.

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