Start-up has big, yet light, fab plans

Hank Hogan

SWINDEN, ENGLAND—Optical Micro Devices Ltd. (OMD) is a small start-up with some big plans. The Swinden, England-based company wants to take a familiar, and successful, business model and apply it to the optoelectronics world.

“We want to implement a foundry model in the opto world, much like TSMC and UMC and those guys operate in the electronics world,” explains Kevin Ford, OMD's general manager.

However, OMD won't emulate those foundries by putting up a $1 billion fab and associated ISO Class 3 (Class 1) cleanroom. Instead, OMD will construct a 10,000-square-foot, raised-floor, ISO Class 5 (Class 100) cleanroom. The facility will be stocked with about $15 million worth of primarily used 200-mm wafer equipment, which will include furnaces, steppers, sputtering gear and etching equipment. Between 500 and 1000 wafers will be manufactured a month.

The company already has a building earmarked for the facility.

In that cleanroom, OMD plans to initially make optoelectronic subassemblies, such as miniature optical benches, for the fiber optic industry. According to Ford, these fairly simplistic devices don't require a lot of qualification. OMD could begin sampling product by the end of 2000.

However, the company also eventually plans to build more sophisticated devices including arrays of wave guides to be used in planar lightwave circuits (PLCs). Today, these are manufactured using a variety of techniques ranging from flame hydrolysis deposition to plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition. These methods do not, notes Ford, yield very well. Hence, current PLCs are not very manufacturable. OMD plans to use another approach that should produce a higher-quality film, better yields, and exploit the cost advantages of larger wafers.

As Ford comments, “We're trying to do it with a technology which is a higher temperature, gives you a much better film and lends itself well to all the typical semiconductor manufacturing methods.”


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