Economic crises can have positive as well as negative impacts. Thus, if NXP had not divested its wireless business and decided to sell its integrated passives device unit near Caen, Normandy (France), Ipdia would not have emerged with an ambition to deliver next-generation 3D-SiP modules for various applications, including advanced LED modules.
Recent studies by market research consultancy Yole Développement (Lyon, France) have suggested that the market for thin-film integrated passive devices (IPD) is set to grow from $615 million this year to be worth just over $1 billion by 2013 and $1.8 billion two years later.
Integrating thin-film passive or active components is a long-time process, and STMicroelectronics NV (Geneva, Switzerland) and NXP BV (Eindhoven, The Netherlands) won recognition with their respective IPAD (Integrated Passive and Active Devices) and PICS (Passive Integration Connecting Substrate) methodologies. IPAD, aimed at wireless applications, is said to reduce area and cost, as well as improving filtering, ESD and reliability.
The PICS technology was developed in 2004 to integrate thin-film passive components such as high-Q inductors, resistors, accurate MIM capacitors and, in particular, high-density (30nF/mm2) MOS ‘trench’ capacitors for decoupling and filtering. These are fabricated in silicon by dry-etching arrays of high aspect ratio macropores with cross-section and spacing of the order of about 1mm, and up to about 30µm depth.
The first generation of PICS technology, dubbed PICS1, was sold in more than 300 million SiP devices with high-density capacitors (25nF/mm2), claimed NXP. PICS2, with increased capacitance densities of 80nF/mm2, is in mass production since 2007. PICS3, which has recorded 250nF/mm2 capacitance density, was prototyped in 2006, and PICS4, with capacitance density of 1µF/mm2, is expected by 2010.
The PICS technology, whose origins can be traced back to NXP’s integrated passive device unit in Caen, could, worryingly, have become orphaned. Shortly after NXP and ST combined their respective mobile and wireless businesses into a joint venture, and the subsequent sale of this venture to ST-Ericsson, in August 2008, the 150-mm wafer fab in Caen was put up for sale.
A new company, Ipdia, was established on June 1st to re-industrialize the site. Franck Murray (pictured right), one of the founding directors, became CEO of the company. He was most recently director of technology for NXP Semiconductors France.
Ipdia raised investment of more than €5 million (about $7 million) from a consortium consisting of Prime Technology Ventures, Emertec Gestion, Masseran Gestion, NCI Gestion, CEA Investissement, the founding directors of the company and NXP.
With this, and the support of the French Ministry of Economy, Industry & Labor and local authorities, Ipdia acquired some of the assets, including the Côte de Nacre facility and equipment as well as some IP and hired some of the staff.
"We can use the word takeover but the transition between NXP and us has nothing to do with a transfer of activity," Murray told EE Times Europe. "Ipdia bought NXP assets and hired employees. There is no legal continuity between the two. Ex-NXP employees negotiated in favor of a business discontinuity instead of continuity."
Commenting on the financial set-up, Murray said there is no financial engineering here. "It is because we have customers that we needed no more than e5 million to launch the project with almost one hundred people. The investment covers working capital requirements for the company to operate autonomously and to move from NXP’s bosom in terms of sales and marketing channels."