MEMS will be made on 300mm wafers, says Bosch exec
Laermer made the prediction during a keynote presentation at the MEMS Executive Congress Europe held this week in Copenghagen, organized by the MEMS Industry Group.
Laermer declined to predict when it would happen but indicated that the predictable rate of increasing manufacturing of MEMS components made this quite an easy calculation. In his keynote he pointed out that Bosch, one of the pioneers of MEMS sensors, first in automotive applications and more recently in consumer electronics such as smartphones, has produced approximately 25 billion MEMS devices over a couple of decades but now has an annual production rate of 6 billion devices.
Laermer is a leading industry figure well known as a co-inventor of a deep reactive ion etching (DRIE) method of production also known as the Bosch process. Laermer said the combination of DRIE, with conventional IC manufacturing and wafer bonding technologies were what had enabled the MEMS revolution and would continue to do so.
However, in the MEMS domain "integration is not monolithic but system-level, system-in-package," he said indicating that adoption of packaging methods such as through-silicon vias (TSVs) could give a further fillip to MEMS platforms that include local intelligence to address the Internet of Things. "There will be strong cost pressure so wafer size will go to 12-inch and even beyond 12-inch," he said.
Bosch operates one of the leading MEMS wafer fabs in the world, manufacturing on 200mm wafers at the Bosch location in Reutlingen. The facility was formally opened in March 2010 and created with a budget of €600 million, the largest single investment in Bosch’s history.
Next: Who will make the move?
What remains unclear is whether leading MEMS manufacturers such as Bosch or STMicroelectronics would be first to move manufacturing MEMS on 300mm wafers or whether a CMOS foundry such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd., Globalfoundries Inc. or China’s Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC) might attempt to leverage themselves into MEMS foundry using 300mm manufacturing.
In a discussion on the sidelines of the conference Laermer pointed out that the cost of building or acquiring a 300mm wafer fab for MEMS production would be a fraction of the cost of such a fab for CMOS ICs. In the case of ICs the capital cost is in equipment that is being engineered to meet finer minimum geometries. He added that in the case of MEMS there is still the requirement of tuning a process to a particular product.
"12-inch is almost unavoidable for packaging and packaging represents 50 percent of device cost [in MEMS]. If TSVs become established on 12-inch wafers it could push MEMS production towards 12-inch wafers," said Laermer.
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