Site: Toshiba Corporation
Research and Development Center
1, Komukai Toshiba-cho
Saiwai-ku, Kawasaki 210
Date Visited: December 13, 1994
Report Author: M. Warren
Toshiba, founded in 1875, is one of Japan's major electrical equipment and electronics manufacturers. It had 175,000 employees worldwide and total worldwide sales of 4.6 trillion yen(~$46 billion) in 1994. R&D expenditures totaled 311 billion yen(~$3.1 billion). Toshiba divides its business activities into three areas. The largest area, at 54% of sales, is Information/Communication Systems and Electronic Devices; it includes computers, semiconductor devices, telecommunications systems, cellular phones, and liquid crystal displays. This part of the business has shown rapid growth over the last decade. The second largest area is called Heavy Electrical Apparatus; it includes nuclear power plants, other power generation equipment, industrial electrical equipment, and railway equipment. This area is currently 30% of sales and has been relatively stable over several decades. The smallest area is consumer products; it includes TV/video products and home air conditioning systems. This activity has been steadily declining as a share of sales and now comprises 16% of sales. The JTEC team visited the Toshiba Research and Development Center that is part of the corporate R&D laboratories. It has a charter to conduct research on technology with a long-term payoff. Additional, shorter-term research activities are conducted by laboratories within the business groups.
The discussions started with a short presentation on Toshiba's history, business activities, and R&D structure as summarized above. Research and development at Toshiba is described as a three-tier structure with long-term ( >5 years), medium-term (3 to 5 years) and short-term (1 to 3 years) activities. Dr. Yasuo Ikawa explained that the laboratory under his direction, Research Lab III of the Materials and Devices Research Laboratories, has device groups working in optoelectronics, high-speed electronics, silicon power ICs, and advanced quantum effect devices. The JTEC team asked how the three-tier research strategy was implemented in his area. The reply was that business group success had a strong impact on whether or not the three-level structure is followed. For example, in an area in which Toshiba is playing catch-up or in a very competitive area such as optoelectronics, the R&D structure would be much more streamlined, with collaborative research between research, development, and engineering labs. The three-level structure is a ten-year-old approach; collaborative research is seen as more and more applicable to the company's needs.
The discussion turned to the topic of what the Toshiba hosts considered to be areas of strength for their company in semiconductor device research. The examples given were DRAM and visible diode lasers. The DRAM work is a $20 billion investment that has been carried out partly as a collaboration between the ULSI research laboratories and engineering groups. Toshiba is part of a joint project with IBM and Siemens working on 256 Mbit DRAM technology.
Toshiba researchers demonstrated room-temperature operation of visible laser diodes in 1984. This was a ten-person project aimed toward optical video disk applications, although bar code readers have turned out to be the primary application of the technology. Toshiba was able to get to market first with a simpler gain-guided design that was able to meet the customers' needs. The Toshiba visible laser diode designs are now index-guided, as are other manufacturers' designs. Although the visible laser diode business was considered an important success for the optoelectronics groups, it is still considered a low-volume product that does not justify development of an automated manufacturing line. The visible laser diode volume was estimated to be 200,000 to 300,000 per month. Toshiba management believes that volumes closer to 1 million per month would be needed to justify the investment in an automated production line for visible laser diodes.
The decision process for when and how to automate was described as a complicated process that depends on volume, production growth rate, and other factors. The LED and optoisolator lines were fully automated. When a technology is transferring from R&D into production and an automated process is desired, special equipment is designed by a manufacturing engineering research center in collaboration with key people who are involved in the transfer and most familiar with the technologies and processes.
The balance of the discussion centered on the list of questions compiled by the JTEC panel; some of the more interesting responses follow:
Dr. Ikawa estimated that it takes 5 to 7 years for a product to proceed from research breakthrough to production. The breakdown for research investment in various aspects of optoelectronic technology is estimated as 70% for new materials, 20% for improved manufacturing processes, 5% for improved packaging, and 5% for improved alignment and assembly. The business division investment in these technologies is estimated to be 10% for new materials, 30% for improved manufacturing processes, 30% for improved packaging, and 30% for improved alignment and assembly. The relative costs of the steps in bringing optoelectronic technologies from the concept to production were estimated as 15% for materials R&D, 15% for basic device R&D, 30% for prototype development, 20% for manufacturing R&D, 10% for reliability and testing, and 10% for packaging.
With regard to alignment and assembly of optoelectronic devices, Toshiba is using self-aligning silicon carrier technology with v-grooves for multimode applications and working on multiple fiber attachment to a single die. For single-mode applications, active alignment techniques are used.
Some specific technologies that Toshiba is working on for future products include rewritable phase-shift and magneto-optic optical disk media, 1.3 micron data links for commercial and fiber-to-the-home applications, and short wavelength (630 nm and less) lasers for optical disk applications.
Optical disk storage was specifically identified as a key strategic product circa 2000, with an annual market potential of about $100 million. The near-term plans were to use 630 nm lasers for optical disk storage; longer-term plans included 500 nm lasers. The push to shorter wavelengths for higher storage density is driven partly by the anticipated need to store 2 to 3 hours of HDTV (30 to 40 GB) on a single disk. The panel's hosts commented that it may require 400 nm or shorter lasers to achieve this. The use of visible lasers with plastic fibers was not considered as promising as 1.3 micron single-mode and multimode technology.
Toshiba has commercial data-link products with speeds up to 1 Gbit/s. The company's researchers have been working on low-threshold lasers. Their goal is to operate at 80 deg. C without bias, without TE cooling, and at rates up to 2.4 Gbit/s. They have achieved 1.4 Gbit/s at 60 deg. C without bias or cooling. It was believed that present transmitter circuit designs are adequate, but receivers need work to reduce size and power consumption. Home information systems and LANs are considered important, but Toshiba is not yet working on them. Toshiba's participation in the development of fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) depends on NTT. A vertical cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) has been proposed as a candidate low-cost source for FTTH because of simpler, low-cost packaging (<1,000 yen, or <~$10). Toshiba does not seem to have a strong effort in VCSELs at present. A previous project with MITI on vertical-cavity amplifiers was mentioned. Toshiba's current CATV line does not contain optoelectronic components.
The JTEC panel's discussions at Toshiba did not include lab tours or detailed technical presentations.
Since Toshiba's three-level structure for R&D requires that technology transfer occur between each level, the panel was interested in how this was accomplished. Toshiba's primary approach is to transfer personnel between organizations. One Toshiba representative said that technologies are within the personnel. Some excellent performers in research would be brought back to the research labs after several years in development and engineering of their products. The transfer of researchers along with their technologies was seen as a good way to keep down the average age at the corporate R&D labs.
The division of research and development responsibilities and resulting technology transfer requirements seem to be in a transition phase at Toshiba. Both a traditional three-tier research-development-engineering model and parallel collaborative efforts between organizations are utilized.
Toshiba Corporation Annual Report 1994
Toshiba Research and Development Center brochure
Viewgraphs from presentation on R&D Center