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Chinese firm builds MEMS wafer fab

Posted: 08 May 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:MEMS? wafer processing? MEMS foundry?

A mining and metal processing conglomerate in Northeast China has begun building what could become a major wafer fab for manufacturing microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). The company, known as Hanking Group, is looking to make inertial sensors and silicon membrane microphones, which are all in high demand in China.

However, the company has also talked about looking into tire pressure monitor sensors and microfluidic MEMS for medical applications. China currently imports almost all the MEMS devices used in the high volumes of electronic equipment made in the country. The company should be able to find ready buyers at Chinese system makers for the components which would be lower cost than imported MEMS due to an absence of duties and lower labor costs.

The group has created a wholly-owned subsidiary, Hanking Electronics Co. Ltd, as the means to achieve its goal and recruited MEMS industry veteran Doug Sparks as executive vice president to help execute the plan. Sparks reports to Lucy Huang, president and CEO.

Construction of the wafer fab started in March 2012 in Fushun about 40 miles east of Shenyang. The buildings will sit in the Hanking MEMS Industrial Park (HMIP), which occupies about 647,497 square meters in Fushun Economic Development Zone and for which the roads were laid out during the 2011 construction season, Sparks said.

Hanking has committed to spend about $475 million (3 billion yuan) on three phases of development there. Although Sparks is looking to install 200mm equipment initially, the building is being made "compatible with 300mm wafer production," he said. The transition to 300mm wafer processing for MEMS, something not yet done by any manufacturers in the MEMS sector, would come in a few years, Sparks predicted.

The first phase of the MEMS wafer fab will be capable of producing about 4,000 200mm wafer starts per month in 2014, Sparks said. "We'll have the back-end processingthings like electroplating and bulk etch going by 2013it may be another year before we have everything running," he said.

But Sparks is not too concerned about delays. Hanking is into MEMS for the long haul and has money to spend, he said. China Hanking Holdings Ltd, one of the affiliates of the Hanking Group, was admitted to the Hong Kong stock exchange in September 2011 and declared a net profit of about $106 million (670.6 million yuan) on sales revenue of about $230 million (1.45 billion yuan) for 2011. However, Sparks said total group annual revenue is about $550 million.

Foundry first, then IDM, meanwhile MUMPS?
Ultimately Hanking wants to be a MEMS IDM making components under its own badge, although it may then run a mix of 70 percent own-brand and 30 percent foundry wafers, Sparks said. However, before it can do that it will likely need to start by offering foundry services to established MEMS manufacturers.

Sparks said that he has been looking at partnerships with MEMS IDMs and foundries. A contract to be a China-based manufacturer on behalf of a MEMS maker would let Hanking install a "copy-exact" equipment line and begin to learn its MEMS skills while making product for someone else. "We've been talking to a couple of potential strategic partners," said Sparks but he declined to reveal names.

Sparks said that he was also talking to MEMS foundry Memscap SA about bringing the multiuser MEMS processes (MUMPS) system to China. MUMPS is a system of standardized process modules that enables the sharing of wafer area by multiple customers, similar to multiproject wafer (MPW) runs in CMOS.

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