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TI, Maxim boost 300mm analogue production

Posted: 11 Nov 2010     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:analogue  manufacturing  300mm 

Texas Instruments Inc. and Maxim claim that 300mm will give them a competitive advantage over their respective rivals. To that end, TI is aggressively ramping up analogue chips in a 300mm fab while Maxim Integrated Products Inc. has qualified and shipped production analogue product built on 300mm wafers.

These developments have analysts asking if a 300mm fab is a big deal in analogue. Most analogue chips are made in older fabs with trailing-edge processes.

Craig Berger, an analyst with FBR Capital Markets, disagrees. In a report, Berger stated that "TI's 300mm 'Death Star' Rfab a legitimate fundamental risk, but investor fears now overblown. TI is ramping its 300mm 'Death Star' Rfab, the world's first such analogue fab, and investor concerns about the impact on other analogue players has likely reached overblown levels, over-impacting valuation multiples."

"While we do think TI's aggressive capacity ramp could bring some lower pricing and reduced margins to high performance analogue markets (thus impacting Maxim, National, Analog Devices, Intersil, ON Semi, and others), high performance analogue customers generally buy chips based on performance and features, not price. We further note that Maxim is qualifying 300mm analogue parts with manufacturing partner Powerchip, which should help it respond to TI," he added.

Maxim is now producing 300mm wafers using its 180nm BCD analogue process technology (S18) in Taiwan's Powerchip Technology Corp.'s wafer fab through a foundry agreement. This deal was already announced.

"This achievement gives Maxim a strategic advantage in the analogue market, providing a capital-efficient manufacturing model that enables quick response to changing market conditions," according to FBR.

"Maxim is now qualifying 300mm analogue parts with manufacturing partner Powerchip, which management suggests will lower fab unit costs by 20–30 per cent, and overall unit costs by 10–15 per cent," Berger said in a recent note.

"Maxim's stated objective is not to reduce end product prices, but rather to increase gross margins on high volume parts. If these parts meet quality standards, they will be treated as 'risk' parts that can be shipped to end customers," the analyst explained. "It is conceivable that high-volume production on this fab can ramp later this year or in early 2011, thereby allowing Maxim to keep better pace with demand and match TI's 300mm manufacturing claims."

It extends Maxim's hybrid approach to wafer fab capacity, using both in-house and outsourced wafer fabrication. This concept was introduced by Maxim in 2007 when the company partnered with Seiko Epson.

Maxim has remade the company-and shaken up the corporate culture. It has expanded its product focus, reduced chip and process development times, embraced foundries and is on an acquisition spree, unveiling what it calls "the new Maxim" or "Maxim 2.0."

- Mark LaPedus
EE Times

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