STMicroelectronics to Create ‘Lab-in-Fab’ R&D Line
To expand R&D for its Piezo MEMS technology, the Swiss semiconductor provider is establishing a “lab-in-fab” operation inside its existing manufacturing facility in Singapore.
STMicroelectronics recently announced the upcoming addition of a Piezoelectric (Piezo) MEMS technology research and development line to its 8-inch wafer fabrication facility in Ang Mo Kio, Singapore. The so-called “lab-in-fab” line will be the first of its kind in the world, the Switzerland-headquartered semiconductor giant stated in a news release.
STMicroelectronics’ facility in Ang Mo Kio, Singapore. (Image courtesy of STMicroelectronics)
The new operation will focus on Piezo Micro-Electromechanical Systems (MEMS), miniaturized devices used to build actuators or sensors out of bulk piezo material. In the announcement, STMicroelectronics stated that recent advancements in process technologies have “allowed the MEMS industry to design and manufacture products at the wafer level using thin piezo films, opening the door for continued miniaturization, performance improvements, and cost reduction.”
The lab-in-fab will include a cleanroom area with tools, resources, and MEMS and process scientists and engineers from the company’s partners: Japanese vacuum device manufacturer ULVAC and Singapore’s Institute of Microelectronics (IME), an arm of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). The company expects wafer development to begin in the second quarter of next year, with volume production slated to start by the end of 2022.
The new Piezo MEMS R&D line will allow STMicroelectronics to transition from proof-of-concept to volume production in emerging applications such as smart glasses mirrors, transducers for medical products, AR headsets and LIDAR (light detection and ranging) systems, and commercial and industrial 3D-printing applications.
Sales in the company’s Analog, MEMS and Sensors Group accounted for 37% of third-quarter 2020 revenues, compared to 31% in the Microcontrollers & Digital ICs Group and 32% in the Automotive & Discrete Group.
Benedetto Vigna, the president of STMicroelectronics’ Analog, MEMS and Sensors Group, stated in the press release that the lab-in-fab will offer customers “the capability to more easily go from a feasibility study to product development and high-volume manufacturing.”
Vigna also described the Singapore site as “a strategic location” for the company. STMicroelectronics has long had a presence in the country, first establishing assembly and testing operations in 1969, then opening wafer fab facilities in the 1980s. Over the past two decades, STMicroelectronics has invested more than $5 billion USD into its Singapore operations.
In September 2019, STMicroelectronics expanded its 8-inch wafer fab in Ang Mo Kio to increase its capacity for manufacturing power devices and microcontrollers for automotive, industrial and consumer applications. The expansion added more than 400 new jobs to the company’s 4,900-some employees in Singapore.
As of Nov. 12, there are 34 job openings available at STMicroelectronics’ Ang Mo Kio facility.