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Samsung to enter 6-inch LED production

17 Sep 2008

Substrate maker Rubicon Technology says that Samsung exemplifies the trend to larger diameters that will make up for the weakness it is feeling in the 2-inch market.

Korean electronics giant Samsung is on course to make a huge impact on the LED industry, by entering chip manufacture on 6-inch wafers next year.

That's according to sapphire supplier Rubicon Technology, which seems to be enabling a shift to larger wafers in an industry that has long clung to 2-inch diameter substrates.

“In terms of Samsung, I believe that 6-inch production will begin in 2009 – this is very positive news for us,” said Raja Parvez, Rubicon's CEO. Parvez explained that the success in LED production on 6-inch sapphire substrates had recently been reported back to him - a year faster than expected.

Parvez also said that a supplier of epitaxial equipment for LED production has contacted Rubicon in order to obtain samples of its 8-inch sapphire substrates. Interest from such a customer – which presumably intends to test larger scale equipment in development – appears to validate the CEO's claim that “there are positive signs regarding the shift to larger substrates”.

Such signs are currently welcome at Rubicon, as its sales of 2-inch sapphire wafers are wilting as the flow of global consumer spending slows.

The Franklin Park, Illinois, company is predicting its sales revenues will fall by more than 25 percent between the third and fourth quarter of 2008. It expects to bring in up to $12 million in the three months ended September, but Parvez estimates maximum revenue of just $8.5 million for the December quarter. Rubicon expects to remain profitable each quarter, in spite of the downturn.

The drop comes because the substrate maker has postponed nearly $7 million of orders back into 2009, $2.5 million relating to 2-inch LED substrates and $4.3 million for silicon-on-sapphire RF applications.

Parvez blames producers of LEDs for handheld devices and small displays – who he says are struggling in the current economic climate – for the shortfall. He says these companies exclusively use 2-inch substrates, whereas it seems the users of larger diameter substrates are aiming for market sectors with greater growth potential.

The RF silicon delays come as Peregrine Semiconductor, whose use of 6- and 8-inch sapphire wafers makes it particularly important to Rubicon, continues its move to a mainly-outsourced production model. Here, the future order push-out has largely been caused by Peregrine and its foundry partner Oki both ordering substrates intended for the same production runs.

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