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Editor's Blog

Wafer Leaders Extend Basis for Global SOI Supply

Posted by on October 10, 2012
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Soitec Shin-Etsu

It’s a bright green light from the world leaders in SOI wafer capacity. Soitec, the world leader in SOI wafer production, and long-time partner Shin-Etsu Handatai (SEH), the world’s biggest producer of silicon wafers, have extended their licensing agreement and expanded their technology cooperation.

SEH is a $12.7 billion company, supplying over 20% of the world’s bulk silicon wafers. SEH’s relationship with Soitec goes way back: they were one of the original corporate investors back in 1997, and the first to license Soitec’s Smart CutTM technology for manufacturing SOI wafers.

With its 300mm SOI wafer production fabs in France and Singapore, Soitec has an expandable installed industrial base of two million wafers per year.

As Horacio Mendez, Executive Direct of the SOI Consortium told ASN, “This is a very significant announcement. The substrate supply chain is fully engaged: we have multiple independent suppliers that can clearly meet the market demands for all key sectors, including mobile devices. As the advanced technology nodes ramp, the wafer production is in place; and very importantly, the capacity is expandable to provide maximum flexibility to customers.”

SEH has been manufacturing standard SOI wafers using Smart Cut technology for years. And last year, the company said it had completed development of its ultra-thin BOX (aka UTB — the wafers used for planar FD-SOI) substrates. Nobuo Katsuoka, director of the SOI program at SEH, recently told Semiconductor Manufacturing & Design, “SEH is delighted to deliver the products on request.”

Wafers for FD-SOI (a “planar” “2D” technology) have Angstrom-level uniformity in their ultra-thin layers – so it’s excellent news that the the industry’s two leaders are both supply sources.

SOI wafers for FinFETs (a “vertical” or “3D” technology, for which the top silicon and insulating BOX layer don’t have to be ultra-ultra-thin) have also long been available from Soitec, SEH and other sources.

With respect to this announcement, SEH’s Katsuoka said, “We are very excited about the business opportunities for SOI products, and we look forward to working with Soitec to extend the global supply chain for new products, such as FD-SOI and SOI for FinFETs, which are showing potential benefits in mobile and embedded applications. Our relationship with Soitec has been a very positive and fruitful one, and we are excited to extend that collaboration. The unique features of Smart Cut will enable our two companies to jointly improve global output for existing and new SOI products.”

As Steve Longoria, SVP of WW Business Development at Soitec, told ASN, “The wafer is the front end of the manufacturing process. This announcement is a proof point of new energy for robust, multi-source supply for impending high-volume demand.”

Soitec SOI wafers

Beyond logic

The newly announced Soitec-SEH agreement also extends the companies’ commitment to wafers for a broad-range of areas. For example, there are major market opportunities in SOI for RF devices, power, MEMS/sensors, photonics and more.

The agreement also extends to R&D for technologies of the next wave. We might think of Smart Cut as an SOI technology, but in fact it’s really a manufacturing technology that can be applied to a huge range of wafer materials. As a result of the extended agreement, SEH will continue to use Soitec’s industry-defining Smart Cut technology to manufacture SOI wafers, and now will be able to extend its Smart Cut manufacturing capabilities to other materials, a trend commonly referred to as Silicon on Anything or SOA (any material on top of which there is a thin film of plain silicon), which will allow SEH to further expand its scope of applications.

So with an abundance of opportunities, a robust multi-source supply chain for the front end of the chip manufacturing process, top-quality wafers that enable savings and efficiencies – in short, better end-user value – it’s all systems go for high-volume demand.

Soitec Smart Cut

This illustration shows how Smart Cut, Soitec’s proprietary engineered wafer technology, works. The industry standard, this revolutionary wafer bonding and layer splitting processes makes it possible to transfer a thin layer of material from a donor substrate to another substrate, overcoming physical limitations and changing the face of the substrate industry. The Smart Cut technology was originally developed by the CEA-Leti. Soitec holds exclusive exploitation of CEA-Leti rights into the Smart Cut technology, including the right to sublicense to SEH. The technology was made viable for SOI high-volume commercial production by Soitec, and is now protected by more than 3,000 patents owned or controlled by Soitec.