In hopes of getting a piece of action in the rapidly growing thru-silicon-via technology-based 2.5D and 3D IC market, China's leading foundry, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC), announced Monday that it has formed an R&D and manufacturing center dedicated to vision, sensors, and 3D IC.
The new center "consolidates and strengthens SMIC's R&D and manufacturing capabilities for silicon-based sensors, thru-silicon-via (TSV) technology and other middle-end wafer process (MEWP) technologies," the foundry said in a press release. The move is in line with a longstanding "differentiation strategy" promoted by its CEO, T.Y. Chiu.
At a time when its industry rivals -- TSMC and GlobalFoundries -- are fiercely competing for the advanced digital logic sector, SMIC is trying to carve out marketshare in selected differentiated technologies, such as embedded nonvolatile memory, CMOS image sensors, and power management ICs. By rolling out a center dedicated to vision, sensors, and 3D IC, SMIC is hoping to let the world know of its ability to extend its manufacturing and R&D capabilities from CMOS front-end services to middle-end wafer process technologies.
Consequently, SMIC is putting a stake in the ground as a leading foundry partner for those in need of delivering advanced CMOS image sensors, MEMS sensors, 3D stacked devices, and high-performance TSV-based 2.5D and 3D systems-in-package. The foundry said in the release that it has one customer already in production using the Center for Vision, Sensors, and 3D IC technology offerings; a few other customers have multiple additional products in qualification.
That said, SMIC is not alone in gunning for the TSV technology-based stacked device market. Last month, AMS AG, the analog and sensor IC company formerly known as Austriamicrosystems, announced that it has invested more than €25 million (about $33 million) in creating 3D IC production capacity at its wafer fab near Graz, Austria.
At the time of its announcement, AMS said it made the investment because of "soaring demand" for stacked-die services based on TSV integration it has developed. The AMS 3D IC production line will be fully operational by the end of 2013 and initially will produce devices for medical imaging and mobile phones.