SAN JOSE, Calif. South Korea's MagnaChip Semiconductor Ltd. has moved into pilot production with its 130-nm foundry process. The spin-off from Hynix Semiconductor Inc. plans to bring the technology into volume production in 2005.
The 130-nm technology, dubbed HL13G, is a low-voltage, eight-layer-metal process, with copper interconnects and other features, said Jeong-Gun Lee, senior vice president of research and development at newly-formed MagnaChip (Seoul).
"We are in (130-nm) pilot production," Lee said in an interview. "We will move into production next year."
MagnaChip is the former non-memory chip unit of South Korea's Hynix. The non-memory chip unit of Hynix was recently sold to a newly-created South Korean company formed by Citigroup Venture Capital Equity Partners LP and CVC Asia Pacific Ltd. (see Nov. 19 story).
For years, Hynix has been a major player in the foundry business. In 2003, the company was the world's seventh largest foundry provider, with $340 million in sales, according to iSuppli Corp. At present, MagnaChip claims to dervive 40 percent of its sales -- or $400 million -- from the foundry business. In total, MagnaChip is said to have total revenues of $1 billion.
Unlike other foundries, MagnaChip straddles the foundry-IDM fence by selling its own chip products. The company sells display driver ICs, CMOS image sensors, microcontrollers and other products.
And MagnaChip does not offer leading-edge processes like the foundry powerhouses in Taiwan, Singapore and the United States. Instead, it offers "trailing-edge" technologies for both fabless chip makers and integrated device manufacturers.
At present, the company's leading-edge processes include both 0.18- and 0.15-micron technologies. That would still put MagnaChip on par with the second-tier foundries in the market, such as 1st Silicon, DongbuAnam, Silterra, among others.
This is not to say MagnaChip is standing still. It is developing a 90-nm process, but that technology will not be introduced until 2007 or so, Lee said. "There are not many customers for 90-nm," he said.
Still, the company has been able to carve out a decent foundry niche. Customers include Cirrus Logic Inc. and Tezzaron Semiconductor Inc. Recently, Tezzaron and MagnaChip announced a partnership that could enable what the companies claim are the world's first and true three-dimensional (3D) chips.
Tezzaron announced what the company claims is the world's first re-programmable 3D RAM chip. The device is based on a 3D wafer-stacking technology from Tezzaron (Naperville, Ill.), a fabless chip design house. The RAM device, along with future 3D chips from Tezzaron, will be manufactured on a foundry basis by MagnaChip (see Nov. 19 story).
The foundry darkhorse
Following the buy-out from Hynix, MagnaChip acquired five wafer fabs located in Korea, with current manufacturing capacity of approximately 110,000 8-inch equivalent wafers per month. The company has 4,200 employees, including its 650 person research and development staff.
Within its fabs, the company's main scanner supplier is ASML Holding NV of the Netherlands. It has procured both 248- and 193-nm tools from ASML. Hynix is also a major user of ASML's scanners, it was noted.
The company is also developing both FSG and low-k materials for its 130-nm process. It is using a CVD-based low-k material, dubbed Coral, from Novellus Systems Inc., according to Lee.
The 130-nm process itself, dubbed HL13G, is an eight-layer-metal process. The company has devised a 130-nm SRAM cell, which measures 2.43-mm2. The process is offered in 1.2/2.5- and 3.3-voltages.
Applications for the process include sensors, RF devices, Bluetooth chips and others, Lee said.