+44 (0)24 7671 8970
More publications     •     Advertise with us     •     Contact us
Technical Insight

TriQuint fabs stand ready for a surge in demand for GaAs ICs

TriQuint has virtually completed the conversion of its fab in Oregon to 6 inch wafers, and also has a 6 inch wafer fab in Texas standing ready for the market upswing, writes Tim Whitaker.
Two years ago, TriQuint, like many other GaAs manufacturers, was expanding rapidly to meet the explosive market demand for GaAs ICs. In the early part of 2000, the company expanded its wafer fabrication facilities in Hillsboro, Oregon, and began to convert its processes at that site to 6 inch operation. However, industry conditions meant that the conversion did not happen as quickly as had been anticipated.

"We were ready to convert completely to 6 inch wafers by the end of 2001," said Rob Christ, TriQuint s foundry marketing director. "However, like everyone else in the industry we had a lot of 4 inch wafer inventory to burn through."

The conversion to 6 inch manufacturing at Hillsboro is now well advanced. "All our processes except those requiring backside vias are now qualified on 6 inch wafers," continued Christ. "This includes our MESFET, HBT and passives processes."

Another aspect of TriQuint s capacity expansion was revealed in May 2000, when the company announced plans to purchase a DRAM fabrication plant in Richardson, Texas from Micron Technology, a deal that was completed in September of that year (see Compound Semiconductor July 2000, p6). Around half of the 48,000 sq. ft facility was set aside for the relocation of TriQuint s Texas operation, which is currently housed in leased space on the Texas Instruments campus in Dallas. The other half of the fab contains 6 inch lines to duplicate the high-volume processes in Hillsboro.

In the company s conference call in early February, president and CEO Steve Sharp stated that utilization at TriQuint s fabs is currently in the 20-30% range. Sharp also stated that yields at the Oregon fab reached 90% for the last quarter of 2001 and improved for the fifth year in a row.

TriQuint Texas will complete its move from the TI North building in Dallas by June. The operation will continue to use 4 inch wafers for its high-frequency processes, which include 0.25 and 0.15 µm PHEMT processes, along with VPIN, HFET and research processes. Several of the processes developed in the Texas operation are being moved to 6 inch lines in Hillsboro. "These include our InGaP HBT and 0.5 µm PHEMT processes. These processes are added to our 0.5 µm MESFET [D and E/D], and our new low-cost four-layer metal [total 9.5 µm gold] passives process," said Christ. He added that TriQuint has investigated InP-based ICs and metamorphic HEMTs at its central research labs in Texas, but has yet to move any of these technologies into production.

Financial results TriQuint s full-year revenues for 2001 were $335 million, down 37% from the record $460.6 million recorded in 2000. During the company s conference call, Sharp gave several reasons for the decline. These included the decline in sales of wireless phones and optical networking products, reduced demand for base stations as phone companies cut back on capital spending, and the overall unfavorable economy. Among the bright spots were that sales of RF filters nearly tripled over 2000, while the commercial satellite and defense business more than doubled from 2000 and now accounts for nearly 20% of the company s revenues (figure 1).

In the wireless-phone business, which accounted for 35% of TriQuint s total revenue in 2001, the fourth quarter of 2001 was essentially flat, with strength in RF SAW filters being offset by a decline in wireless GaAs products. The company s products are in a number of new phones including Nokia s 8265. "2002 should be an exciting year, with most of the major handset OEMs predicting a recovery in handset unit shipments in the second half of the year," said Sharp. "Many new models will be introduced and many will have our products." TriQuint sees modules and GSM as two key areas for development. "Our focus for 2002 will include more modules, an entry in GSM phones and broaden-ing our application base within the mobile phone," he explained.

In fiber-optic network applications, TriQuint saw reduced orders from two major customers, Lucent and Nortel. To help alignment with new and different technologies in the optical networking market, the company made a strategic relationship with Network Elements, also located in Oregon. The deal should help both companies with product development, and around 20 TriQuint employees will transfer to Network Elements to work on new products and applications.

TriQuint serves a broad base of companies, and had 34 customers in 2001 that generated more than $1 million in revenue. Nokia accounted for 15% of sales and was the only customer to account for more than 10% of TriQuint s revenue.

InGaP HBT foundry deal with Philips In mid-February, TriQuint Semiconductor and Philips Semiconductors formed a strategic partnership that guarantees Philips controlled access to TriQuint s InGaP HBT processing facilities, and provides for joint development of future advanced process technologies. Philips Semiconductors is a leading supplier of power amplifier and front-end modules for the mobile-phone industry, employing a mix of technologies including its own silicon RF processes. Philips believes that TriQuint s InGaP HBT technology will enhance this portfolio to produce the highly linear, highly efficient devices required in RF power amplifiers for high-data-rate 2.5G and 3G systems such as EDGE and UMTS.

"Today s mobile-phone manufacturers increasingly look to modules as a way of simplifying their design and production process and guaranteeing RF performance," said Thierry Laurent, senior VP of mobile communications at Philips Semiconductors. "In a module you have the opportunity to mix a range of technologies in order to offer customers the very best price:performance ratio. We believe that InGaP HBT is the best technology with which to implement components such as the output stage of linear and highly efficient PA modules and front-end modules."

TriQuint will also benefit from the partnership. "Philips strong RF market presence offers us increased manufacturing volumes starting with our current, second-generation InGaP HBT process," said Bruce Fournier, VP and general manager of foundry services at TriQuint. "Additionally, their success in mobile wireless applications provides market-driven insight for advanced technology development in the area of InGaP HBT and beyond. With advanced technology and world-class manufacturing efficiency, we expect this partnership to be a very competitive force in the GSM and CDMA markets."

Both partners will sell their own products in the market. Early collaboration has already resulted in a new W-CDMA PA module (Philips BGY402, sampling now) and PA and front-end modules for GSM phones. TriQuint is currently shipping PA products into the CDMA market and offers this InGaP HBT process, as well as other GaAs processes, to the market through its open foundry.

TriQuint s second-generation HBT process, manufactured on 6 inch wafers at the Hillsboro facility, contains a number of improvements on the previous iteration. "We have added three-layer gold metallization, with 6.5 µm total thickness, for improved heat spreading, resulting in about 15% smaller dice," explained Christ. "We ve also added high-value capacitors [1200 pF/mm2] and NiCr resistors."

TriQuint and Philips have been working together for more than five years and the future development of advanced processes will focus on consumer applications for mobile communication markets.

Search the news archive

To close this popup you can press escape or click the close icon.
Register - Step 1

You may choose to subscribe to the Compound Semiconductor Magazine, the Compound Semiconductor Newsletter, or both. You may also request additional information if required, before submitting your application.

Please subscribe me to:


You chose the industry type of "Other"

Please enter the industry that you work in:
Please enter the industry that you work in: