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Micron preps ramp of CMOS imagers at European fab

Posted: 09 May 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:dram? cmos imagers? sensor?

Micron Technology Inc. is to start manufacturing CMOS imagers at its wafer fab in Avezzano, Italy, in response to sales growth running at 20 percent on a quarter by quarter basis, the company said.

Micron, best known as a leading DRAM manufacturer has been seeking to diversify into other technology areas and away from intensely competitive commodity DRAM market for some time. The company has been shipping a 2Gbit NAND flash memory into MP3 players and USB memories and CMOS imaging sensors is a second part of its strategy.

The company currently manufactures its CMOS imagers only in Fab 1B in Boise, Idaho, said Mike Sadler, vice president and head of sales and marketing at Micron. The company declined to reveal what proportion of the company's sales come from CMOS imaging sensors but moving them in to Avezzano is part of a plan to meet strong demand and at the same time provide dual supply options for customers concerned about relying on a single fab.

"We have design wins with every mobile phone maker in the world," said Sadler, adding that not all of these are active yet and that the design wins promised an explosion of demand for Micron's CMOS image sensors. "It's growing 20 percent quarter-over-quarter. And when you win a design win in a particular model of mobile phone it's not usually practical for the manufacturer to drop you out, unlike the desktop PC market."

Bob Gove, head of imaging technology worldwide at Micron, said they key was getting the design wins in the right models. In the "Razr" mobile phone we are the exclusive CMOS image sensor provider and that's a phone originally slated for a million units or so and where orders have been doubled and quadrupled many times over."

Gove added that Micron's ability to provide low-power DRAM was helping it win CMOS image sensor orders and vice versa.

Gove declined to say exactly how many wafers of image sensors would be made per month at Avezzano. "Within one year we expect to have substantial manufacture of CMOS imaging sensors at Avezzano," he said. At present Avezzano makes specialty DRAMs, also for use in mobile phones.

Sadler added that Micron would balance its manufacturing around the world so that the net effect of ramping image sensors in Italy would be less commodity-DRAM wafers processed elsewhere. "We are trying to develop a portfolio where we have the same processes running on the same equipment sets and that gives us flexibility to switch manufacturing around," Sadler said.

Gove added that there had been geographical element to Micron's decision. "We have design centers in Oslo and Bracknell that benefit from being close to manufacturing and then there are numerous European mobile phone makers here."

However, Micron also has a wafer fab in Japan making low-power DRAMs and there are also numerous Japanese camera phone makers. "We could have selected Japan. We also have a an imaging design center there." Gove declined to comment on whether Micron would also introduce CMOS image sensor manufacture at its fab in Japan.

- Peter Clarke

EE Times

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