SAN FRANCISCOLater this week, Brazilian semiconductor startup Ceitec SA plans to officially cut the ribbon on its fab in Porto Alegre, in Southern Brazil, in a milestone event expected to be attended by several government officials, including the country's president. By all accounts, the Porto Alegre fab is modest by modern semiconductor manufacturing technology standards, capable of about 1,000 six-inch wafers per week using 0.6 micron process technology licensed from X-Fab Semiconductor Foundries AG. But according to Ceitec's top executive, the Porto Alegre fab is only a stepping stone, one that will eventually lead to a large, 300-mm "TSMC-type fab" in Brazil within three years.
| Eduard Weichselbaumer|
Eduard Weichselbaumer is a 28-year veteran of the semiconductor industry, having held senior management positions at companies including Fairchild Semiconductor, LSI Logic and Virage Logic, among others. He took over as Ceitec's chairman and CEO last year.
In a recent interview, Weichselbaumer told EE Times that Ceitec is employing for the time being a fab-lite model, with its Porto Alegre fab capable of handling the manufacture of its initial RFID chip, a cattle identification tag dubbed Chip de Boi. The company plans to use an outside foundry for other offerings targeting wireless communications and digital multimedia market segments, Weichselbaumer said.
But barring another global recession, Ceitec expects the Porto Alegre fab to be 90 percent full in two years, Weichselbaumer said. At that point, he believes it will make sense for Ceitecwhich is 100 percent owned by the Brazilian governmentto raise capitallikely by going publicto build a much larger fab in the country.
"If I put a TSMC-like fab into South America today, it would be like something completely out of a dream world," Weichselbaumer said. But within three years the infrastructure and the semiconductor industry support system will be robust enough to support a large fab, he said.
According to Christian Gregor Dieseldorff, an analyst who tracks fabs at the trade group SEMI, most of the equipment in the Porto Alegre fab is eight-inch ready. He said he believes the company plans to transition the fab to eight-inch wafers by the end of this year.