RIGA Decades ago, semiconductor maker Alfa employed 10,000 and turned out leading-edge devices for the USSR's space program and defense projects.
The transition to a market-oriented economy turned Alfa into a 200-person privately-owned chipmaker designing simple 3 micron level devices for production on 4" wafers, said Aleksandrs Zaslavskis, head of Alfa's marketing.
Alfa focuses on trailing-edge components including amplifiers, voltage comparators, converters and obsolete devices.
Still, the company is not losing money.
"Alfa is not in the best financial situation, but over the years we have been able to grow profit 5-10% annually, in good years, 15%," Zaslavskis said.
Alfa supplies to companies that still require devices from more than 20 years ago, he said. The 555 timer IC, for example, is in wide use today with demand for hundreds of thousands of pieces.
"Some producers are changing [the 555] a little bit but we are still producing the old variation for higher voltages," Zaslavskis said.
In addition, Alfa designs custom ASICs "very simple but non-standard" for automotive and other applications, he said.