AMS plans to rent a wafer fab in New York
AMS AG (Unterpremstaetten, Austria), formerly known as Austriamicrosystems, is, has announced it plans to rent a wafer fab that will be built for it by the State of New York.
This unusual ownership arrangement will provide AMS with no depreciation and significant cost-per-wafer benefits, the company said. The wafer fab is yet to be built and the production ramp is expected early in 2018. Marcy, between Rome and Utica in upstate New York, is one potential site for the wafer fab as it has land that has been prepared for such a purpose.
AMS said it had entered into “an agreement with the State of New York under which they will construct a new analog wafer fab to AMS’ specifications. AMS is focused on the production of analog, power, wireless and sensor and MEMS circuits typically for use in industrial, medical and automotive and in some consumer electronics and communications applications. The company achieved a significant expansion when it acquired TAOS Inc. of Texas a manufacturer of ambient light sensors.
AMS manufactures at its own wafer fab complex in Austria on 200mm-diameter wafers at a rate of about 180,000 to 190,000 wafer per year. This offers CMOS, HVCMOS and SiGe processes at geometries of 0.8-micron, 0.35-micron and 180nm. The company also has technology partnerships with TSMC and IBM and a foundry partnership with UMC.
The Unterpremsttraten fab is mature and running at close to capacity so it was known that AMS CEO Kirk Laney was looking for a next manufacturing site (see Austria’s AMS is shopping for a wafer fab).
It now appears that the State of New York is prepared to build a fab to AMS’ specifications and then rent the facility to the company. A 450-acre site on vacant land belonging to State University of New York SUNY at Marcy between Utica and Rome has been marketed as a possible location for a wafer fab.
It is likely that the New York fab will be capable of running 300mm-diameter wafers, which would provide economies of scale. AMS said the first build out of the wafer fab would be capable of running a 130nm manufacturing process and provide a manufacturing capacity of about 150,000 200mm-equivalent wafers per year. The fab will be capable of more advanced production and an eventual manufacturing capacity of about 450,000 200mm-equivalent wafers per year.
Next: a novel development in fab financing
The development could also mark a next step in the changing economics of wafer fab construction.
In the past regional authorities have provided major financial incentives to large companies to build their next wafer fabs in their regions. But with the number of major integrated device manufacturers (IDMs) diminishing and many second tier companies moving to fab-lite strategies the focus is moving to manufacturers of analog, mixed-signal and sensor circuits.
Some regional authorities in China, working with local foundries as operators, have created wafer fabs but with variable success.
While wafer fabs for these kinds of circuits – sometimes collectively called “More-than-Moore” – is one or two orders of magnitude lower cost than fabs for digital IC production, the smaller companies making these circuits also find it hard to afford the step function of setting down a new fab, preferring to occupy established shells and change them from digital manufacturing to analog.
Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York and a driving force behind the emergence of upstate New York as a silicon manufacturing hub, is expected to make an announcement at the Quad-C/ Computer Chip Commercialization Center building at SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Marcy on Thursday August 20 at 11am east cost time. That’s according to local newspaper the Rome Sentinel.
If AMS is announced as a wafer fab specifier and tenant it represent an ironic twist because Austria Microsystems was originally set up in 1981 by the Austrian state as a joint venture to bring chip manufacturing to the country. The venture was between Austrian steel company Voerst Alpine and American Microsystems Inc. (Pocatello, Idaho) which provided a baseline CMOS technology and IC expertise and know-how. Having gone through multiple incarnations the descendent of American Microsystems was eventually acquired by OnSemi in 2008.
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