MILFORD, Mass.-- Audio chip supplier That Corp. here said it was bucking the fabless trend and buying a 4-inch wafer fab in Silicon Valley from Sipex Corp.
Eleven-year-old That Corp. said ownership of the 4-inch fab will give it complete control over IC manufacturing --from diffusion of wafers to the final chip-processing steps to final assembly and test. Last month, Sipex in Billerica, Mass., announced cost-cutting measures (see Dec. 28 story), and now it's selling off its 4-inch wafer facility in Milpitas, Calif. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
"It's easy to be fabless when your products are based on common CMOS technology, but our analog designs require process tweaks that can only happen when we control the process intimately," said Les Tyler, president of That Corp. "We now have the world's only IC fab focused on high-performance analog audio products," he asserted.
The fab will initially produce the company's InGenius balanced audio line receiver and an advanced array of matched transistors. Production of both products are expected to begin by the middle of 2000. Several other analog products are in design or final layout and expected to be available in sample quantities from the fab in the second half of this year.
The company's voltage-control amplifiers are produced with a dielectric isolation process. According to That Corp., the wafers are more difficult to produce than those using junction isolation, but the DI process results in ICs with higher breakdown voltage and faster speed for conventional processes.
"All our new designs take advantage of the dielectric isolation structure," said Gary Hebert, chief technology officer of the company. "Sipex has been making four-inch DI wafers at this facility for years, making it a near perfect fit for us. Since the deal involves some specific technology transfer, we're getting a big boost from Sipex to ramp up our own processes very quickly."