Jan. 28, 2009 – SVTC Technologies (née Cypress Semiconductor’s Silicon Valley Technology Center, spun out to VC/private equity owners in March 2007) and CMP outsourcing firm Entrepix are expanding their existing partnership to 300mm wafer processing. Under the deal, Entrepix will handle all 300mm chemical mechanical polishing (CMP) development and production services — including experimental planning/support, engineering project oversight/execution, data analysis, interpretation and reporting, and pilot production activities — for customers of SVTC’s Tool Access Program at its Austin, TX facility.
The two cite shrinking resources and cost-cutting needs as key factors pinching devicemakers, particularly for next-generation products. “Traditional [chipmakers] are still advancing down technology nodes: low-k, 32nm for 300mm, etc.,” said Dave Anderson, VP of corporate business development for SVTC. “We see people needing new materials polished all the time. There’s a continual demand for CMP expertise for which customers are seeking fast solutions.”
The majority of SVTC’s overall work (~75%-80%) is for 200mm-level processes, mainly traditional and project-based development services for larger customers, Anderson explained. But SVTC is seeing growing interest in 300mm areas, from test wafers and blanket films, primarily to equipment and materials firms, and most of that is 300mm, he noted.
Going forward, added Entrepix VP/GM Bob Tucker, the two partners want to not only offer IDMs support on next-generation materials evaluation, but also a path to cost reduction or the next required technology path that can be transferred back into a customers facility. And materials/equipment suppliers selling to these IDMs need help too, he pointed out; “they have to have good data sets on pads and slurries,” for example.
One area the two are already working on today is MEMS through-silicon vias (TSV), for example. “People aren’t doing TSV on 300mm, but it’s evolving from 200mm to 300mm,” Tucker pointed out. Synergies developed now “will pay dividends three, five, ten years from now; they’ll be 300mm technologies then, just like MEMS has evolved to 200mm.”
Tim Tobin, CEO of Entrepix, noted how CMP processes have become dramatically more complex in just the past few years, and even across applications. What a MEMS device will need from CMP is on the scale of a couple of microns in size, vs. Angstrom-level scale for semiconductor manufacturing, and each with completely different materials, tools, and processes, he pointed out.
He noted that Entrepix can port CMP work from one toolset to another, handling complexities regardless of toolset or processes. Combined with SVTC’s abilities in 300mm work (and expanded capabilities, e.g. metrology equipment) offers “instant credibility,” he said.
SVTC, like everyone else, is feeling the squeeze from the current economic crisis, Anderson noted, with some customers pulling back “to better understand their budgets.” But this actually makes the outsourcing option even more attractive, as they look to find ways to still get what they need from a development standpoint even if they can’t do it internally.
And in these economic times it helps to have patient owners, too. Anderson pointed out that one SVTC’s two owners, private equity firm Oak Hill (the other is Tallwood Venture Capital), has several investments in outsourced services (e.g., financial and HR), so “they understand growth opportunities in a down market.” — J.M.