Macronix rolls out European expansion plan

October 01, 2014 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Non-volatile memories are in growing demand for all kinds of embedded systems, from wearables to vehicles. And vehicles is the fastest-growing market for Taiwanese chipmaker Macronix, which specialises in non-volatile memories. The company, in the past successful in the first place as a supplier to the Japanese automotive industry in the first place, now rolled out plans to step onto the accelerator pedal also in Europe.

In its FY 2013, Macronix achieved just 8 % of its total sales with customers in the automotive industry. Growing at a pace of 41 %, this segment however was the most dynamic one within the circle of Macronix' business segments (Computing; Consumer; Communications; Wireless; Automotive, and Industrial). "In the automotive business, Japan and Europe are the key regions", explained Macronix CEO Miin Wu at a press briefing in Munich. The importance of the European automotive industry for Macronix is reflected in the fact that the company's European General Manager, Chris Bowen, also holds the function of the Vice President Automotive for Macronix' global operations.

The company's technology roadmap is state of the art; the XtraROM product line is currently producing at the 32nm nanometre node, SLC NAND at 36 nanometres. Also with 36nm structures, the Vertical Gate 3D NAND technology is scheduled for production start in 2016. Solely NOR Flash products are still manufactured with 55nm geometries, but the company has plans to switch to 42 nm structures in 2016 or later. "The high quality and reliability requirements for NOR translate into a slower pace in the roadmap", Wu explained. He claims that the company's proprietary sNova quality management enables them to identify yield problems in each of its three fabs "within minutes whereas others need days", claims Wu. Products for automotive and industrial markets have the same product design, and they are designed to meet automotive quality standard TS16949. As a consequence of its quality management, the failure rate among its products is "below single-digit PPM", says Wu.

In terms of applications requirements, future generations will need to be more energy-efficient, a direct consequence of the trend towards wearables and IoT-related designs. In the automotive industry, larger digital instrument clusters with higher functionality as well as increasingly complex and powerful driver assistant systems are calling for more performance. And since automotive customers expect to have the electronic systems