Kionix gets kudos from Kodak
ITHACA, NY—Kionix Inc., a developer of micro electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) technology, has been selected by Eastman Kodak Co. to provide micro-machining services, namely the etching of ultra-fine patterns into silicon wafers, for the film maker's own MEMS development efforts.

“We conducted a thorough search for rapid-response process support, and Kionix stood out with their process capabilities, equipment reliability and quick turnaround—including the development of new processes,” says Jan Nedelka, Kodak's fab manager.

Kionix completed construction of its new facility earlier this year. The 40,000-square-foot plant, located in the Cornell University Business and Technology Park, was designed for high-volume manufacture of silicon micro-devices.

The facility includes a 5,000-square-foot ISO Class 6 manufacturing cleanroom with integrated ISO Class 5 photolithography space and a 5,000-square-foot ISO Class 7 assembly and testing area.—MAD

Judge says Pall patents infringed upon, CUNO to appeal
MERIDEN, CT—CUNO Inc., a manufacturer of liquid and gas filtration components, announced today that it plans to appeal a recent ruling by the U.S. District Court granting Pall Corp. a partial summary judgment in the patent infringement action relating to Pall ULTIPLEAT filter configuration and products.

In addition, CUNO believes the Pall patents are invalid and unenforceable by the East Hills, NY-based Pall; an issue the trial court still needs to address.

According to CUNO, its products, the subject of this patent infringement litigation, were earlier generations of CUNO's PolyPro XL filters and CUNO's LifeAssure filters. The combined sales of these products were less than one percent of the company's total sales in fiscal 2001.

Alternative pleat configurations for these products have been adopted, replacing the products, which was also a subject of the litigation. These products are currently available and are unencumbered by the Pall patents. The company believes that future sales of PolyPro XL and LifeAssure products will remain unaffected.

Pall, a developer of filtration, separation and purification systems, initially brought suit against CUNO on December 30, 1997. An evidentiary hearing was held in September 2000, where Judge Johanna Seybert heard evidence on the meaning of certain terms in the patents' claims. On September 20, 2001, she rejected CUNO's proposed claim interpretation and ruled that the disputed claim terms should be given their ordinary and accustomed meaning.

On October 29, 2001, Pall filed a motion for summary judgment of infringement of 57 claims in the two patents in suit. On September 30, 2002, the court rendered its decision that the CUNO filters infringe all of the asserted claims of the Pall patents.—MAD

Vidaro to use Gore-Tex for cleanroom garments
ELKTON, MD—W. L. Gore & Associates Inc., the manufacturer of Gore-Tex fabric used in technical garments and rugged outdoor protective wear, has licensed its Gore-Tex Cleanroom Garment Fabric to Vidaro Corp., a cleanroom garment maker.

Vidaro will use the Gore-Tex to introduce a line of contamination control wear for critical applications in the United States. According to Vidaro, the Gore-Tex cleanroom garment offers breathable comfort; a flexible fit and has a reported 99.9 percent filtration efficiency at 0.12 microns. The fabric provides a reliable contamination barrier while allowing the release of body heat and perspiration vapor.

“Vidaro has the design, fabrication and service capabilities required to meet the customized needs of critical cleanroom applications,” says William M. Hanna, Gore's product manager.

For nearly 40 years, Vidaro has been manufacturing and supplying protective garments to the computer, aerospace and medical instrumentation, as well as the pharmaceutical, chemical, petroleum and ophthalmic industries.

“Adding Gore-Tex cleanroom garment fabric to our portfolio of products allows us to fill a void,” says Howard Fleischman, Vidaro's vice president of sales. “Now we can supply those customers who have critical contamination control needs with the same customized design and comfort.”—MAD

AMD signs joint venture with China Basic Education Software Co.
SHANGHAI, CHINA—Advanced MD (AMD) has signed a research and development joint venture agreement with China Basic Education Software Company Ltd. (CBE), forming the new entity, Beijing CBE-AMD Information Technology Company Ltd.

With the aim to address China's large and expanding IT education market, the joint venture will develop three types of hardware platforms including a student PC, a teacher PC and a classroom server.

The platforms are planned to contain AMD silicon, crossing all three of AMD's product lines: x86 microprocessors, million instructions per second (MIPS)-based embedded processors, and flash memory devices. With a combined focus on education and technology, the venture will strive to provide learning tools for the students, teachers and classrooms of China. Both parties look forward to future joint developments in China as well.

The agreement, which is still subject to regulatory approval, was formalized in a signing ceremony that took place today in Shanghai. Hector Ruiz, AMD's president and chief executive officer, was present to sign the agreement with CBE board chairman Wang Xiao Wu.

Based in Beijing, CBE was formed in February of 2001 by the Shanghai Shenhua Holdings Company Ltd. (also known as the Brilliance Group), China's Ministry of Education's state-owned company called the National Center for Curriculum and Text (NCCT), and the Beijing Normal University.—MAD

SUNNYVALE, CA—IN A STATEMENT THAT featured several three-letter acronyms, AMD (Advanced Micro Devices) and UMC (United Microeletronic Corp.; Hsinchu, Taiwan) have announced plans to implement next-generation APC (advanced process control).

The two companies said that a version of the APC technology developed by AMD would be installed in a joint 300 mm wafer processing venture, Au Pte., when it comes online in 2005. The technology will also be used by UMC in its existing 300 mm production lines.

While the primary goal is process control, another effect will be contamination suppression. Many of the process results monitored by APC are such things as film thickness or feature width, but some of the screening is designed to spot process tool hiccups. Detecting and classifying such faults may cut contamination.

“Typically, contamination is a result of abnormal processing anyway,” comments Tom Sonderman, director of APC at AMD. “When you get certain conditions, some of them cause more parametric variation, and other times, they cause defectivity.”

AMD's APC has been touted by analysts as one of the most advanced in the semiconductor industry. In announcing their arrangement, AMD and UMC pointed to the need for greater and more complete automation in 300 mm processing.

APC is seen as an extension of such automation. According to Sonderman, the system ties a measurment device into a process tool. The feedback and control loop between the two is handled by software. Once a processing run is complete, measurements are automatically made on such key parameters as film thickness or feature size.

In AMD's APC systems, these results are then sent through a series of statistical tests and business rules. From that, the software derives and implements whatever tool adjustment is called for. If a tool fault is detected, the system provides a list of likely causes and possible solutions.

The benefits, noted Sonderman, include higher throughput, less material in jeopardy, the targeting of device electrical characteristics, and potentially less contamination. The productivity increase arises because fewer samples of process runs are taken and more product can be sent through in a given time period.

The ability to quickly spot and diagnose problems cuts both downtime and material at risk. Skewing electrical characteristics can lead to devices, such as microprocessors of a certain speed that command a higher selling price. Finally, being able to automatically monitor tool health can cut contamination and its impact. When combined, these and other gains can lead to a potent return on investment, according to Sonderman.

“The general rule of thumb is about a 10X ROI on any APC application,” he asserts.

The APC deal is part of a larger relationship between AMD and UMC. The two have had an established foundry arrangement and they are now moving into a tighter partnership. For its part, UMC is focused on the process control aspect of the technology alliance.

“We expect to gain in the area of process control. In other words, reducing the natural variation that occurs in the process,” says Chris Chi, senior vice president of fab operations and president of UMCi. UMCi is the Singapore-based 300 mm joint fab effort between UMC and Infineon (Munich, Germany).

Diversification key for growth in disinfection, sterilization markets
SAN JOSE, CA—The rapid growth and usage of such endoscopes such as neuroendoscopes, colonoscopes and bronchoscopes is expected to expand the disinfection and sterilization markets.

Analysis from Frost & Sullivan (, “Strategic Analysis of the U.S. Disinfection and Sterilization Markets, reveals that this industry generated revenues totaling $647 million in 2001.

Total revenues are projected at more than $900 million in 2008. The share of sterilization supplies, the largest market segment, is expected to increase modestly to 59 percent of total projected revenues.

Prion deactivation unfolds the greatest opportunity for disinfection and sterilization companies. Prions are extremely resistant to heat and chemicals, thus none of the existing technology is effective.

“This effective technology is expected to be a combination of new methods in existing product lines, incorporating additional technology,” according to Dhiraj Ajmani, a Frost & Sullivan analyst.

The challenge for companies developing prion deactivation technologies, he explains, is that there is not appropriate standard a company' can measure the effectiveness of sterilization techniques against prions. In order to capitalize on this opportunity, a number of small and large companies are developing technologies for prion deactivation.

Biological indicators are used to test the sterilizer ability to kill specific strains of highly resistant organisms. The segment present the highest potential for growth in the next few years.

“With the rapid readout test, hospitals are expected to shift to testing daily preferably with every load. The guidelines presently followed are weekly, preferably daily,” says Dhiraj. “The shift is expected to have significant effect on the usage of biological indicators in the coming years.”—MAD

Wampler initiates largest meat recall in history
PHILADELPHIA, PA—At press time, possible listeria contamination forced Wampler Foods to begin recalling more than 27 million pounds of meat, the largest recall to date in the history of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the agency reports.

The production halt and the recall of all cooked deli products follows an October 9 recall of more than 295,000 pounds of turkey and chicken products at Wampler's plant in Franconia, PA.

The company voluntarily expanded the recall to all cooked deli products made from May 1 through Oct. 11 and halted production at the facility, located about 25 miles north of Philadelphia, after receiving test results of samples taken from floor drains.

“We want consumers to be aware of the recall because of the potential for foodborne illness,” says Dr. Garry L. McKee, the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) administrator. “Diners may also wish to ask if their meals contain the recalled products.”

The national recall is the largest in the history of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, says FSIS service spokesman Steven Cohen and comes on the heels of a 19 million pound recall of ground beef that was contaminated with E. coli and manufactured by Greeley, CO-based ConAgra Co. [See “E. coli- triggered recall sparks tighter contamination control measures at ConAgra, CleanRooms, September 2002, p. 1].

Each package being recalled bears the plant number P-1351 inside the USDA mark of inspection and a production date. Wampler officials say the recall didn't include fresh turkeys and that it should have no effect on the holiday season.

The discovery was the result of a scientific investigation into the cause of illnesses, deaths and miscarriages in the Northeast from the listeria strain, according to the FSIS.

No Wampler product has been linked to that outbreak, says David Van Hoose, Wampler's chief executive officer.

At least 120 illnesses and 20 deaths were caused by listeria in eight Northeast states since last summer. The genetic strain that caused those illnesses is different than the strain found at the plant, officials say.

“We don't have any scientific evidence at this point that there is a connection, but our analysis of sampling in that plant is not complete,” Cohen says.

The deli products were sold to consumers in retail groceries, delicatessens and food service distributors under Wampler Foods and select private labels. Company officials say consumers who had cooked meats produced during the recall period should return the meats to where they were purchased.

Listeria can cause high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness and nausea, according to the USDA. It can be fatal in young children, the elderly and people with weak immune systems and can cause miscarriages and stillbirths.

Van Hoose adds that plant workers will receive training and the plant will be cleaned before production resumes.

The meat being recalled makes up roughly six percent of the company's total turkey production. The company, part of Pilgrim's Pride Corp. (Pittsburgh, TX), did not say how much revenue it would lose as a result of the shutdown.—MAD

For sale: Motorola's Mesa plant
MESA, AZ—Motorola will cease chip making at its Mesa complex by the end of this year, and the company will close its doors completely during the second quarter of 2003.

The shutdown will end more than three decades of semiconductor manufacturing at the complex at Dobson and Broadway Roads, which Motorola opened in 1969. At press time, Jeff Martin, the company's director of Arizona site services, says the company is still looking for a buyer for the plant.

About 500 employees remain at the site, down from 2,600 last year, when the company announced it would end production in Mesa. Two of the three semiconductor factories at the complex have been closed, and the third, which is the most modern, will close in about three months.

Equipment is being removed from the two closed fabs, and most of it is being sold, Martin adds. Some of the tools in the third fab, built in 1995, will be moved to other Motorola plants, he says.

Motorola will not retain any activities at the Mesa site once the third factory is closed.

Employees displaced by the closing have retired, moved on to other jobs within Motorola in Tempe and Chandler, or have been laid off with severance packages.

Overall, Motorola's semiconductor employment in the Valley has declined from about 10,000 to about 6,000 during the industry slump of the past two years.

In the East Valley, the company also operates its Computer Group and a Motorola research center at several locations in Tempe, and a plant for more advanced semiconductor development in Chandler. Motorola sold its government electronics operation in Scottsdale to General Dynamics last year. —MAD

China chipmaker expands capacity with two more plants
SHANGHAI—Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. says its second and third chip plants here have begun operations, a year after its first plant went into production.

The company expects its total production capacity to reach 37,000 wafers per month by the end of this year.

In April 2000, with an investment of $1.6 billion during the initial phase, the company set up shop in Zhangjiang High-Technology Industrial Park in Pudong, and is specializing in 12-inch wafers and microchips from 0.25 to 0.18 microns.

Zhang Rujing, president of the company, says the firm, in cooperation with its technological partners, has developed the technology to manufacture 0.18-micron microchips for the first time on the mainland.

There are about 3,000 researchers and professionals working for the company, including about 160 from the United States, 500 from Taiwan, 80 from Singapore, Korea and Japan, and approximately I30 from Europe.—MAD


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