Yesterday, Singapore-based foundry SSMC celebrated its tenth anniversary of silicon manufacture with the news that it was to spend $30m — split roughly 50/50 between R&D and manufacturing — to extend the fab’s lifetime. The investment is meant to keep SSMC’s 200mm production lines relevant in a business now dominated by plants that process larger wafers and which should be more cost-effective.
“We are putting in place a vision that ensures SSMC is in a good position for the next decade or two,” said CEO Jagadish CV.
Jointly owned by NXP Semiconductor and Taiwanese foundry TSMC, SSMC was one the last big 200mm digital logic-oriented fabs to be constructed, opening just ahead of the dot-com crash. It produced the first yielding silicon in October 2000, so barely turned in a quarter’s worth of production wafers before the slump.
After the recovery, 300mm production with 0.13µm copper processes had pretty much taken over from 200mm, which because of the decisions made by production-equipment makers, were stuck on 0.15µm and larger linewidths and aluminium metal interconnect.
Rather than throw in the towel, SSMC changed direction, concentrating on ‘ABCD’ products — analogue, bipolar, CMOS and DMOS. Basically, stuff that wasn’t the standard CMOS turned out by 300mm fabs owned by TSMC and others.