The production capacity of one of the most advanced fabrication lines in the world, at NEC Kyushu, Ltd., in Japan, was doubled during the fiscal year. This 8-inch wafer line has contributed significantly to NEC's 16Mbit DRAM production.
In fiscal 1996, sales of electron devices increased 33 percent, to 1,033.0 billion yen ($9,654 million), accounting for 24 percent of net sales. Sales of semiconductors rose significantly, due mainly to strong domestic and overseas sales of memory devices for PCs. Despite lower prices for TFT color LCDs, strong performances in color cathode ray tubes (CRTs) and capacitors resulted in overall sales growth in electronic components.
In response to burgeoning demand, NEC boosted its production capacity during the fiscal year. In Japan, at NEC Kyushu, Ltd., the production capacity for semiconductors based on 0.35-micron processing technology on 8-inch wafers was raised. NEC also started building leading-edge fabrication lines in Hiroshima and Yamagata. Overseas, production capacity was augmented at our U.S. plant in Roseville, California, and construction progressed on our new plant in the United Kingdom. Furthermore, we actively invested in semiconductor facilities in China and Southeast Asian countries.
NEC continued to focus on flat display panels and began the construction of a production line for color PDPs, which are suitable for products with large screens. They are expected to be used in a variety of applications in the near future.
As a result of buoyant worldwide demand for PCs and the trend toward larger memory capacities for PCs, demand for DRAMs grew rapidly during the fiscal year. In response, NEC raised its domestic and overseas production of 4Mbit and 16Mbit DRAMs. We shifted toward such high-value-added DRAMs as wide-bit configurations and high-speed products, for which demand was especially robust.
Faster memory devices with larger capacities have become necessary to facilitate the use of sophisticated application software programs and networking. In February 1996, NEC developed a 256Mbit synchronous DRAM. Making use of 0.25-micron processing technology and high-speed circuit architecture, this product is the world's first 256Mbit DRAM to achieve a very high operating speed of 250MHz.
NEC introduced the high-speed 8Mbit Rambus(TM) DRAM, based on architecture designed by Rambus, Inc., of the United States. This is suitable for image processing on PCs with a data transfer speed of 500Mbytes per second.
NEC developed the VR4300 64-bit reduced instruction set computer (RISC) microprocessor based on architecture developed by MIPS Technologies, Inc., of the United States. The VR4300 is highly suitable for use in multimedia devices and has sufficient capability for such applications as cable television (TV) set-top boxes, network devices, printers, and video game units. We also developed the VR10000, the top-of-the-line VR series microprocessor. The VR10000 is ideal for VOD servers and other high-performance multimedia equipment.
NEC continued to reinforce its position as the world leader in ASICs. In response to the growing demand for a multifunctional device that features low power consumption required for high-performance PCs and mobile communications terminals, NEC introduced the CB-C9 family of cell-based integrated circuits (ICs). This power-efficient product range, which employs leading-edge 0.35-micron processing technology, has a wide variety of applications, including in computers, communications equipment, audiovisual products, and video game units. The CB-C9 family is one of NEC's strategic products in its ASICs lineup and has been well received in the market.
In fiscal 1996, NEC launched the Power VR, an LSI developed jointly with VideoLogic Limited., of the United Kingdom, that enables 3-D graphics games to be played on PCs.
During fiscal 1996, NEC focused on introducing products with high growth potential. As a key device for multimedia PCs, we announced a PC graphics accelerator that boasts the world's top performance in image drawing.
NEC developed a visible light laser diode that is highly suitable as a light source in digital video disk (DVD) and DVD-ROM equipment.
Responding to increased demand for tantalum chip capacitors for PCs and communications equipment, NEC began the construction of a new plant in Thailand during the fiscal year under review.
Turning to TFT color LCDs, we upgraded production facilities for thinner glass sheets to enable the production of lighter and thinner products. We have also been successful in winning new contracts to provide our TFT color LCDs to major hardware vendors.
In fiscal 1996, NEC developed the New Ultra Focus Screen (NEUFOS) CRT for multimedia display monitors. This NEUFOS CRT features a slot shadow mask and a new type of phosphor that creates clearer, sharper images, which are more suitable for a Windows(R) environment than their predecessors.
NEC has developed 13- and 12.1-inch TFT full-color LCDs that can replace CRTs in PC and workstation monitors. These LCDs are the first in the world to incorporate a multiscan function, which is made possible by producing displays of different resolutions from the PC or workstation output signal.