TowerJazz — Interview With SVP Marco Racanelli: What’s Driving Strong SOI-Based Design Wins?


Dr. Marco Racanelli, TowerJazz Senior Vice President & General Manager, RF & High Performance Analog Business Group and Aerospace & Defense Group
Dr. Marco Racanelli, TowerJazz Senior Vice President & General Manager, RF & High Performance Analog Business Group and Aerospace & Defense Group

 

 

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ASN recently spoke with TowerJazz SVP Marco Racanelli about when the specialty foundry leverages SOI – and why.

Advanced Substrate News (ASN): Can you tell us briefly about TowerJazz’s overall vision and position in the market? 

Marco Racanelli (MR):  TowerJazz is the foundry leader for the manufacture of specialty semiconductor devices.  By “specialty” semiconductor devices, we mean those that require technology with some degree of specialization beyond commodity CMOS, for example in applications such as analog, RF, power, CMOS Image Sensor, and MEMS.  We invest in specialty process technology and manufacturing capacity around the world to fuel our growth (today we have manufacturing facilities in the US, Israel and Japan).

The TowerJazz fab in Newport Beach, CA.
The TowerJazz fab in Newport Beach, CA.

ASN: What kinds of chips does TowerJazz propose customers put on SOI? Why? 

MR: SOI on high resistivity substrates provides excellent RF isolation for customers working on front-end modules (FEMs) for wireless communication products.  Specifically for RF switches, thin device silicon layers result in low junction capacitance which is favorable for achieving high isolation.  We have had some customers leverage our SiGe BiCMOS technologies on SOI to integrate improved RF switching capabilities and achieve better isolation among circuit blocks.  Finally, some TowerJazz customers use thick film SOI for MEMS.  The silicon layer in SOI is used to fabricate beams for electro-mechanical structures and devices, e.g. MEMS resonators.

ASN: What are the growth drivers (end-markets, trends) for your SOI-based services? 

MR: Each generation of smart phones has required increasing numbers of RF ports to support multiple standards and functions e.g. 3G, 4G, 802.11, diversity antenna.  The need for longer handset battery life is driving implementation of RF-SOI based antenna tuner products to improve antenna efficiency.

 

Click to enlarge. (Courtesy: Techinsights’ Teardown.com and IEEE S3S Conference)
Click image to enlarge. (Courtesy: Techinsights’ Teardown.com and IEEE S3S Conference)

ASN: What are the advantages in moving to SOI-based technologies? 

MR: In some markets such as FEMs, the performance advantages of SOI are required to enable these RF products in CMOS; bulk technologies simply can’t provide the required isolation and low capacitance to meet the most demanding 4G/LTE specifications.  Thicker film SOI can support SiGe bipolar devices with significantly lower collector-to-substrate capacitance than their bulk counterparts.  In high voltage products, SOI dielectric isolation can simplify the design process, reduce latch-up risk, and allow a much more compact design than junction-isolated technologies.

Inside the TowerJazz Newport Beach Facility (Fab 3)
Inside the TowerJazz Newport Beach Facility (Fab 3)

ASN: Are there particular regions where you see especially high growth for SOI-based offerings? 

MR: We see broad adoption of SOI in all major phone platforms.  Our strongest growth and largest market for SOI is in the US although we see some Asia customers as well. The end customers are more evenly distributed between the US and Asia primarily.

ASN: Last year, you announced your RF-SOI had the industry’s best figure of merit for antenna switch and antenna tuning applications. What are you seeing there in terms of design wins? 

MR: We are seeing very strong design wins and production ramp of SOI in our factories.

 

American Semiconductor's  FleX-MCU™ product family leverages an SOI starting wafer.  (Courtesy: American Semiconductor)
American Semiconductor’s FleX-MCU™ product family leverages an SOI starting wafer.
(Courtesy: American Semiconductor)

ASN: American Semi partnered with TowerJazz on flexible ICs, which leverage SOI.  What sort of applications is that technology going into?  

MR: The potential for flexible ICs is very broad. For Aerospace and Defense, key areas of interest are ‘wearable’ circuits, introducing ICs and systems into soldiers’ field clothes and gear, creating a radar system that conforms to the entire body of an aircraft, sea vehicle, or any UAV or drone.  The ideas can be countless – the path is to reduce or eliminate the rigid form and fit of mobile electronics and integrate these electronics into a lighter weight, smaller and more flexible material.

ASN: Cavendish Kinetics announced that they’d be collaborating with you on RF-MEMS for mobile, which could be on SOI.  Is that available, and if so, can you tell us about it?

MR: We continue to work with Cavendish and have announced impressive reliability results with their devices; these are available through Cavendish directly.

ASN: Can you tell us more about the forthcoming 0.18 TS18SOI integrated power platform? 

MR: This platform is targeting a number of applications, the dominant one being in automotive and will include high-voltage devices, 0.18um CMOS for integration of digital and power management functions along with non-volatile-memory.  SOI in this case helps isolate the devices from the substrate allowing flexibility in applying voltages without turning on junctions that can lead to leakage or latch-up and in some cases helps reduce die-size by improving isolation allowing devices to be closer together.

ASN: Looking down the road, where/how do SOI-based technologies fit into your outlook for the future?  

MR: SOI particularly for RF is a significant focus for TowerJazz and we continue to invest in new technology and propagating the technology we have to multiple factories to increase capacity available to our customers.  While RF dominates our SOI consumption, we also see a good future for SOI in power management and MEMS and other sensor applications.

 

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TowerJazz will be presenting its SOI and other processes at its upcoming Technical Global Symposiums (TGS) taking place in Europe (18 September 2014), the US (19 November 14) and Japan (10 December 2014). To find out more and register for TGS, please visit: http://www.towerjazz.com/tgs/

 

 

 

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Dr. Marco Racanelli has served as TowerJazz Senior Vice President & General Manager, RF & High Performance Analog Business Group and Aerospace & Defense Group since September 2008. Previously, he served as Vice President of Technology & Engineering, Aerospace & Defense General Manager for Jazz Semiconductor.

 Prior to Jazz, Dr. Racanelli held several positions at Conexant Systems and Rockwell Semiconductor since 1996 in the area of technology development where he helped establish industry leadership in SiGe and BiCMOS and MEMS technology, and built a strong design support organization. Prior to Rockwell, Dr. Racanelli worked at Motorola, Inc., where he contributed to bipolar, SiGe and SOI development for its Semiconductor Products Sector.

 Dr. Racanelli received a Ph.D. and a M.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, and a B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from Lehigh University. He holds over 35 U.S. patents.

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