IBM today announced an expansion of its chip manufacturing services to include advanced IBM technologies specifically designed for the production of chips used in wireless applications -- such as cell phones, wireless networks, automotive sensors and storage devices.
Chips used in these "radio frequency (RF)" and "mixed signal" applications -- where radio waves are converted to digital electronic signals -- are growing in use. The marketplace for these integrated circuits is estimated to be over $30 billion in 2003, and is becoming an even larger share of the overall semiconductor market, increasing from 17.5 percent in 2003 to 18.8 percent in 2007, according to semiconductor industry analyst group iSuppli.
Yet, the use of standard manufacturing techniques in the production of these chips often leads to sub-par performance and excessive power consumption. IBM is addressing this issue by expanding customer access to its technologies, extending what is already believed to be the broadest RF and mixed signal foundry portfolio in the industry.
"We've built a portfolio of the most advanced foundry technologies for wireless applications," said James Doyle, vice president, foundry services, IBM Microelectronics Division. "With this announcement, we are demonstrating yet again IBM's intent to bring our most advanced technologies to bear for our customers."
The new offerings, named CMOS 7RF, BiCMOS 7WL and BiCMOS 7HP, span traditional complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) and silicon germanium (SiGe)-based bipolar technologies, extending down to circuit sizes as small as 180nm (nanometers, or billionths of a meter). They are available exclusively at IBM's Burlington, Vt., chip manufacturing facility.
CMOS 7RF is ideal for low-cost wireless applications such as Bluetooth technologies, handsets and RF identification tags. The transistors support analog RF-compatible models. This technology offers a wide range of optional passive features to enable analog designs. The design kit and design tools match those available for BICMOS 7WL to streamline migration of designs from CMOS 7RF to BiCMOS 7WL.
BiCMOS 7WL is best suited for higher performance wireless applications like local area networks and cellular phones. This offering uses IBM's silicon germanium (SiGe) technology with deep trench isolation and a partially self-aligned bipolar structure. The use of copper wiring at the first metal level and aluminum wiring at the remaining metal levels, along with other innovative processing techniques, reduces the product complexity and processing time compared to standard BiCMOS products.
BiCMOS 7HP incorporates a high-performance SiGe bipolar device optimized for high-speed or low-power applications. It is ideally suited to applications in the 40- to 100-GHz frequency space, such as fiber optic transceivers, test instrumentation and automotive proximity sensors.
"Our first silicon 7HP hardware returned from the fab meeting production quality standards, which speaks highly of IBM's new process and ensures that we are able to get these next-generation ICs into production quickly," said Jack Hurt, Tektronix fellow and director, foundry relations, Tektronix, Inc. "We are seeing good correlation with the modeling, and other testing results have been extremely positive at this stage of the implementation."