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10 June 2009


RFMD unveils GaN foundry services

At this week’s IEEE MTT-S International Microwave Symposium (IMS 2009) in Boston, RF Micro Devices Inc of Greensboro, NC, USA has unveiled its new gallium nitride (GaN) Foundry Services business unit, which aims to supply high-reliability, high-performance, price-competitive GaN technology for multiple RF power markets.

RFMD says that the new business unit will leverage its experience with gallium arsenide (GaAs) manufacturing capacity and cycle times, as well as a range of new customer services, to drive shorter time-to-market and minimize time between initial wafer order and final delivery. The firm says that its GaN manufacturing is interchangeable with its GaAs manufacturing (taking place in its main 6-inch GaAs fab in Greensboro, which has the tooling for a 0.5-micron process on 3-inch GaN-on-silicon carbide substrates) and benefits directly from the scale and expertise of its high-volume wafer fabrication capability.

The new business unit is providing GaN foundry customers access to RFMD's compound semiconductor technology and production facility and the benefits of its high-scale manufacturing, including reliability, uniformity, cycle time and quality, says Bob Van Buskirk, president of RFMD's Multi-Market Products Group. “RFMD GaN is a breakthrough technology that can change the RF power component industry as a result of its superior linearity, bandwidth and RF power density,” he adds. “Additionally, RFMD GaN is a ‘green’ technology, enabling higher efficiencies than previously possible, thereby requiring less power consumption to achieve similar performance or superior performance at similar power consumption levels.”

Rival RF component maker TriQuint Semiconductor Inc of Hillsboro, OR, USA rolled out its GaN foundry service last year. However, RFMD claims that its offering of GaN foundry services is distinctive because it operates the industry's largest GaAs fabrication plant and has supplied billions of high-reliability compound semiconductor RF components. By utilizing its existing, high-volume manufacturing assets, RFMD can deliver GaN technology with consistent reliability and increased uniformity. RFMD reckons that its GaN cycle times through its fab (of just five weeks for prototype and shuttle lots) are typically 30-40% faster than its competition.

Also, compared to TriQuint’s GaN (which is targeted at lower-power, higher-frequency applications), RFMD's GaN technology is targeted at high-power applications. Typical operating characteristics include operating voltages of 48V CW or 65V pulsed (due to a high breakdown voltage of 200V), a power density of 6-8W/mm, a unity current gain cutoff frequency of fT = 11GHz and a maximum oscillation frequency of fmax = 18GHz, and a mean time to failure (MTTF) of more than 100m hours at a channel operating temperature of 150ºC.

RFMD also says that, by leveraging its knowledge of process models to accurately predict product performance, its Foundry Services business unit can lower customer development costs by reducing the number of prototype runs necessary to meet specifications. Applications expected to use GaN foundry include commercial and defense power applications such as wireless infrastructure, CATV line amplifiers, broadband communication, power amplifiers, and radar systems.

In addition, a Foundry Services support team is providing first-hand knowledge of customers' expectations and requirements, since it combines more than 50 years of foundry services experience (both as customers and suppliers). Also, to minimize the total time from order entry to delivery, the support team has implemented a full set of services, including simulation models that aim to enable a high probability of initial success and business processes that minimize queue time.

*At IMS 2009, RFMD is also demonstrating its own GaN device products. The firm’s high-power, small-form-factor GaN transistors are capable of power output of more than 300W at 48V, covering 500MHz of bandwidth, and are targeted at pulsed applications such as S-band radar.

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