UTMC Microelectronics Systems Inc., best known as a supplier of specialized devices for military and aerospace markets, has launched an effort to enter the commercial mixed-signal and ASIC arena.
UTMC recently hired a former Raytheon Co. mixed-signal design team based in Newport Beach, Calif., and is establishing a design center to address customers in commercial and industrial markets, said Charles H. "Nick" Ide, president of Colorado Springs, Colo.-based UTMC.
The design center will be UTMC's first foray into the mixed-signal sector since the company discontinued efforts in the area and shifted to a fabless model, following the sale of its fab to Rockwell Corp. in 1995. Neither Raytheon nor UTMC would indicate why the design team was made available, other than to acknowledge that Raytheon has undertaken a series of recent restructurings.
"They made some changes in their plans at Raytheon, and the design team became available," Ide said. "They have a lot of mixed-signal experience ... Probably the most serious bottleneck in the mixed-signal industry is design talent."
The nine-person team has designed for production a variety of custom mixed-signal ASICs for commercial, industrial, automotive, telecommunications, medical, military, and space applications, Ide said. Specifically, the group has developed spread-spectrum receiver and transmitter ICs, low-noise circuits for medical imaging, RF tags, display drivers, and data converters.
Ide said the business unit is expected to generate "millions if not several tens of millions" in revenue for UTMC."There's a broad range of possibilities and opportunities," he said. "We're stressing the commercial and industrial right now because of the volumes that exist, but we're also willing and interested in doing select military and aerospace circuits."
In re-entering the mixed-signal market, UTMC will face a challenge focusing its efforts on lower-margin, but generally higher-volume products. Ide said that by directing its efforts initially toward customer-specific designs, the company will slowly establish a profitable base to build its mixed-signal business.
"We're looking for design-ins that will have very high volume in the future," he said. "These will be devices uniquely defined for a customer's product."
Still a fabless company, UTMC's primary foundry for designs coming out of the new team will be American Microsystems Inc., Pocatello, Idaho, although Ide said his company can work with any fab.
Initially, UTMC will concentrate on custom mixed-signal designs, but in time the company plans to introduce a standard product line. UTMC has about five customers working with the design team.
"Obviously, there are some things we're now working on that include the proprietary IP of our customers, and those we would not take to the standard product line," Ide said.