Japanese computer memory maker Kioxia has announced plans to build a $9.5bn chip factory at its Yokkaichi site, about 50km east of Kyoto.
The investment is intended to meet demand for its BiCS flash memory chip, which is used in cloud computing, 5G-enabled devices, the internet of things, artificial intelligence and automated driving systems, all of which require flash memory in order to operate in real time. Â
Work on the first phase of the project is scheduled to begin next spring and be finished in spring 2022.
The company comments in its press statement: "The Fab7 facility will have an earthquake-absorbing structure and an environment-friendly design that includes the latest energy saving manufacturing equipment."
The company said the manufacturing process would use artificial intelligence and the latest 3D printing equipment.
NAND technology allows circuits to be stacked vertically on a silicon wafer. There is intense global competition over market share for the chips that use it.
Access to this technology, which was invented in 2007 by Toshiba Memory, Kioxia’s forebear, has become one of the battlegrounds between the US and China.
The US has attempted to restrict China’s access to the latest flash memory chips, while China has been pouring resources into developing a domestic industry capable of supplying them to its electronics industry.
The rivalry between the two has destabilised the chip market and recently forced Kioxia to delay a planned stock market flotation.
It is also a battleground between Japan and South Korea, where market leader Samsung Electronics is struggling to capitalise on its 36% market share. Last year, Samsung announced that it would invest $8bn to upgrade its factory in the western Chinese city of Xi’an.
Meanwhile, Nikkei Asia reports that another South Korean chipmaker, SK Hynix, this month signed a deal with Intel to acquire its NAND memory unit for $9bn. The combined market share of SK and Intel in 2019 was 19%, allowing it to displace Kioxia from the number two spot behind Samsung.
Image: The new factory will be the seventh to be built at Kioxia’s Yokkaichi complex (Kioxia)