French semiconductor materials supplier Soitec SA has entered into a partnership with Shanghai Simgui Technology Co. Ltd. for the production of 200mm-diameter silicon-on-insulator (SOI) wafers for use in China for RF and power semiconductor markets.
The agreement includes technology licensing and manufacturing capacity collaborations to support global markets and Soitec described it as the "first step in establishing an SOI ecosystem in China."
That ecosystem could include a follow-on licensing agreement for the production of 300mm SOI wafers. The Chinese authorities are interested fostering the adoption the fully-depleted silicon-on-insulator (FDSOI) manufacturing process that requires engineered SOI wafers as its starting point, but only if they are self-sufficient in the production of the wafers, according to reports. That opens up the possibility is that Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (Shanghai, China) could license the 28nm FDSOI process from STMicroelectronics NV, if Soitec enables a Chinese company to make the SOI wafers.
ST recently announced that Samsung was taking a 28nm FDSOI license and would offer the process as a foundry option alongside 28nm bulk CMOS.
For now, Soitec's agreement on 200mm wafers is not practical for high-volume digital circuits and, instead, is being applied to radio frequency and power ICs being manufactured in China.
Simgui will manufacture 200-mm diameter SOI wafers using Soitec’s proprietary SmartCut technology and establish a high-volume SOI wafer production facility able to supply both the Chinese market and the global market outside China. Paul Boudre, COO of Soitec, said the agreement paves the way for expanded cooperation between the two companies.
The use of RF switches manufactured on SOI wafers has doubled in the last two years and the devices are being designed in smartphones and tablet computers, Soitec said.
"Considering that China takes over a 60 percent market share of the worldwide semiconductor market, to have a strategic collaboration with Soitec is very important to us," said Xi Wang, Simgui chairman.
Simgui was spun off from the Shanghai Institute of Microsystem and Information Technology (SIMIT) within the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in 2001 and now is a joint venture with a group of investors from Silicon Valley.
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