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Ramtron brings FRAM to masses with TI's aid

Posted: 14 Mar 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Ramtron? TI? ferroelectric RAM? FRAM? FM22L16?

After years of developmentand promisesRamtron International Corp. will roll out what the company claims is the world's first 4Mbit FRAM. At the same time, the company has expanded its ties with Texas Instruments Inc. As part of that agreement, TI will manufacture Ramtron's 4Mbit FRAM line on a foundry basis using its 130nm process.

Ramtron and TI have been working together since 2001, when the companies entered a FRAM licensing and development agreement. Until now, the partners have provided few details about their development plans.

The product launch and joint-development announcement not only propel FRAM into new markets, such as portable systems, but also prove that the technology is somewhat scalable, according to the companies. "This manufacturing agreement [with TI] marks a major leap forward in the commercialization of higher-density FRAM products," said Ramtron chief executive officer William Staunton III. Although FRAMs have shown promise, scaling and manufacturing issues have limited the memory devices' adoption to smaller densities and 0.35?m technology.

New direction
Analysts believe the 4Mbit FRAM is a little late to the game, however. "It's a milestone, but it's later than what they originally expected," said Robert Lineback, an IC Insights analyst. "The proof in the pudding is if we will eventually see FRAM embedded in a TI DSP."

TI dropped hints that it may market the FRAM for embedded applications in the future.

FRAM offers features consistent with RAM but is nonvolatile like ROM technology. FRAM bridges the gap between the two categories and creates what Ramtron calls a nonvolatile RAM.

Ramtron's announcement represents a somewhat new direction for the company. Previously, its FRAM parts were exclusively manufactured by Fujitsu Ltd. on a foundry basis. Fujitsu will continue to manufacture 1Mbit-and-below FRAMs for Ramtron.

Ramtron's agreement with TI allows it to produce its FRAM memory products on TI's 130nm CMOS process. That process appears to be scalable and does not require an inordinate number of new steps. Only two additional mask steps have been used to embed the nonvolatile FRAM module within the standard CMOS 130nm logic process, said Ted Moise, director of FRAM development at TI.

Engineering samples of Ramtron's FM22L16 are available now. Limited volumes are planned for the third quarter, with full-volume production slated for the fourth quarter for parts packaged in a 44-pin TSOP-II. Pricing starts at $19 in quantities of 10,000.

-Mark Lapedus
EE Times

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