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Semiconductor Value Chain

IBM Gives Process Boost to Chinese Foundry

08 October 2013

XMC, a specialty foundry based in Wuhan, China, has signed a licensing agreement with IBM under which it will receive 65-nm RF and 45-nm low-power process technologies. XMC did not make it clear whether these are CMOS processes or whether the 45-nm process is for digital circuits.

The financial terms of the licensing deal were not disclosed. But XMC said it plans to install the IBM 65- and 45-nm process technologies at its wafer fab during the second half of 2013.

Construction of the fab started in 2006. It is capable of running 300-mm wafers and could be ramped up to produce up to 60,000 wafers per month, XMC said.

The incoming IBM processes are complementary to a number established at the foundry already, including NOR flash memory processes down to 45-nm. XMC also recently announced a deal with Spansion allowing it to extend NOR flash memory production down to 32-nm.

The IBM processes are taking XMC deeper into "More-than-Moore" territory in-line with its strategy of not trying to compete with larger foundries—such as TSMC and Samsung—at the leading edge of chip production.

"This is a great validation of XMC's partnership strategy and gives them access to world class technology from IBM," said Len Jelinek, senior director and chief analyst at IHS Electronics and Media. "It also indicates the new level of cooperation and openness that is re-shaping the IC manufacturing landscape, an evolution which both these companies are embracing for the benefit of customers."

XMC, formerly known as Wuhan Xinxin Semiconductor Manufacturing, was originally created as a speculative venture by the city of Wuhan in 2006. The city fathers asked China's largest indigenous foundry, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC), to manage the venture for them. However, the business arrangement failed to produce the desired results and the foundry had to effectively restart its business in 2012.

The company recently recruited Simon Yang as CEO. Yang is an industry veteran who had previously held positions as chief technology officer and senior vice president of operations for Chartered Semiconductor (Singapore). Yang previously worked for several years at Intel, where his last position was senior director of logic technology development. A number of experienced executives have joined the company, including Walt Lange, senior vice president of sales and marketing.

In addition to discrete NOR flash, RF and low-power processes XMC has said it will ramp up embedded flash, 3-D IC and technologies, and bonding and backside processing for MEMS and advanced sensors in the coming year, further expanding its capabilities.

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