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Think of this page as the ultimate MMIC supplier guide. A little history has been included for your information and entertainment here and there.
The field of MMIC suppliers and foundries is ever-changing. For example, during the recent twentieth century the word "MMIC" pretty much meant GaAs and InP products, but now other compound semis such as silicon germanium (SiGe) and gallium nitride (GaN) now must be considered. Even plain silicon CMOS has made inroads into GaAs territory! We try to stay on top of the MMIC topic, but if this page is more than three months old (see date on top right corner of the page), all bets on its accuracy are off.
Did you know that thanks to us all, the world is running out of gallium, indium, halfnium and even zinc? Read about this nightmare here!
Want to see the world's first MMIC, which is over thirty five years old? Click here to go to the Microwave Hall of Fame, and meet Pengelly and Turner, who published the paper on it.
Update July 2014: Hittite was bought out by Analog Devices.
New for March 2014: Introducing Arralis!
New for October 2013: We've added National Research Council Canada, which runs a pure-play GaN fab!
Also new for October 2013:We also added a link to Plextek's design tutorials on Youtube for your enjoyment! These include include phase shifter RMS calculations, mixer design, switch design, broadband amplifiers, baluns, calibrations and more.
Six-inch GaAs club: these MMIC suppliers boast six-inch processing lines: Avago, Anadigics, BAE Systems, Eudyna, GCS, Knowledge*on, Ommic, Transcom, TriQuint (Oregon only, but they have been known to boast about building a new 6" fab in Texas), Skyworks and Win Semi. Nitronex if you include GaN on silicon, and Peregrine and Silanna if you include SOS!
GaN foundry club: here we narrow the field to BAE, Cree, Eudyna/Fujitsu, Fraunhofer, freescale, HRL, Nitronex, Northrop Grumman, Oki, Raytheon, RF Micro, Rockwell and TriQuint. Let's also mention Gain Microwave, even though they use a government facility to process their parts. Plenty of other foundries have GaN on their roadmaps, so this list is expected to grow.
SiGe foundry club: Jazz, IBM, IHP and freescale all offer SiGe.
Silicon-on-sapphire foundry club: Peregrine and Silanna.
Boutique fab: this implies low-volume, high-mix products, as you might see at a defense contractor that uses its MMIC expertise to set it apart from its peer-group competitors. Examples: Raytheon, Northrop, BAE, and Agilent. Usually requires deep pockets to maintain, it is next to impossible to make money in this game. Even though we're all engineers here, in this case the word "boutique" in not a bad thing, as in your spoiled daughter hosing away your dough at the mall, a boutique fab is a good thing, because the opportunities to excel are limited only by your budget and your imagination!
Pure-play foundry: offers contract fab runs, but has no microwave design capability. Example: IBM SiGe line.
Fabless: opposite of pure-play, just a group of MMIC designers marketing products fabbed elsewhere. Examples: Hittite, Endwave, Mimix (whoops, Mimix now owns a fab...) These suppliers often use off-shore fabs and package houses, yet most US military contractors don't seem to care about this. Go figure!
Here is a clickable index to the MMIC suppliers on this page:
Auriga Measurement Systems
California Eastern Laboratories
Custom MMIC Design Services (CMDS)
Filtronic Compound Semiconductors
Global Communication Semiconductors
M/A-COM Technology Solutions
Microwave Technology (MWT)
National Research Council Canada
RF Micro Devices (rfmd)
Teledyne Scientific and Imaging LLC
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC)
United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC)
United Monolithic Semiconductors
Viasat Advanced Microwave Products
Metelics used to be just a diode vendor, but it looks like they are moving up the food chain from PIN diodes to an HBT process. You can buy a wide variety of gain blocks up to about 6 GHz from them.
Agilent , the test equipment company, maintains a fab in Santa Rosa, Cali, which is called the "High Frequency Technology Center". This fab and its product line is often confused with Avago, because Avago spun out of Agilent a few years back. Greg helped us sort it all out recently (August 2010), thanks!
Agilent Technologies (formerly HP) continues with a three-inch line for both GaAs & InP. Many of the products are developed specifically for test equipment, so "wideband" is the theme. How else are you going to cram all the features into a 10 MHz to 67 GHz VNA that fits on a desktop? The good news is that Agilent sells some of their IC designs. (This really isn't "news"... they have been selling the HMMC line since the '80s). From here down we will quote Greg:
We are indeed a "boutique" fab - with total capacity of less in a whole year than most fabs produce in one month (and this on 3").
The PRIMARY purpose of Agilent's Santa Rosa fab is to support our T&M equipment. We are continuously innovating and breaking boundaries.
We allocate a VERY SMALL portion of our capacity for external sales. The HMMC/HSCH line has been around for decades (always HP/Agilent's, never Avago's - though people are still confused by this) - and can be purchased by anyone. Yes - you can see Agilent made HMMC-5021's at the front end of some of our competitors NA's - we're OK with that. The new 1Gxx line is also available through distribution, and are for sale to ONLY NON T&M COMPANIES. These are some of our more capable devices - and we don't want to compete with them in our T&M business.
We also, on rare occasion - have acted as a foundry (though we really don't have the capacity for this - but could consider it again for the right business conditions).
This is a "new" GaAs and InP foundry. They bought the WJ foundry located in Milipitas California in 2007 and are now offering open foundry services (TriQuint bought the WJ product line). The play here is that somehow indium phosphide devices offer a big power amplifier efficiency advantage for handsets, but efficiency is not the only goal in consumer electronics. They can survive for a while on purchase agreements that were built into the terms of the sale, but how long will TriQuint want to build products outside of their own foundries after the agreements expire?
Six-inch fab, HBTs for wireless applications. RFICs. Beautiful Warren NJ, in the heart of New Jersey's industrial rust belt. Power amps up to ten watts, and a very high volume GaAs fab.
In September 2007 Anadigics announced that they acquired the design team and intellectual property of Fairchild RF (23 employees in an office in Tyngsboro Massachusetts), an entity which had previously been sold by Raytheon to Fairchild.
Headquartered in Limerick, with a design center in Belfast, Arralis provides MMIC design services as well as module integration on the Emerald Isle, specializing in 60 to 110 GHz. Éire go Brách!
Designs up at 94 GHz are a forte. From the Arralis web site:
The Tucana MMIC and module range is the leading edge of radar chipsets. The complete MMIC range includes Power Amplifier, Low Noise Amplifier, Multiplier, Switch, Mixer & a Medium PA. Each device is available as a module.
Integrated TX and RX modules also available to customer requirements.
Astra Microelectronic Technologies Limited
Astra is a relatively new company based in Hyderabad, India. They boast 20 MMIC designers, and from what we can tell they've been quite busy. Their business play seems to be centered on defense and space products rather that telecomm, Astra offers a full compliment of X and S band T/R module MMICs, and some Ka-band parts as well. This is a fabless MMIC company, they've told us they process their parts at Win Semi.
We wish Astra best of luck in this business, and the rest of the MMIC world better keep looking over their shoulders!
Auriga Measurement Systems
Auriga has successfully executed some contract MMIC designs for clients, including:
- Transmit chip for automobile collision avoidance radar (77 GHz)
- Power amplifier for Transmit/Receive (T/R) module in X-band using InP HBTs (Pout 10W)
- Low noise amplifier for T/R module in X-band
- S band 10W amplifiers
- S band switches
Auriga has some very experienced designers, including Dr. Yusuke Tajima who has numerous patents and published papers.
Avago was spun off from Agilent as a privately-held separate semiconductor company in February 2006. This $1.6B "startup" has its roots as Hewlett Packard's semiconductor products group way back in the 1960s. But please don't confuse the massive Avago foundry in Colorado with the boutique fab run by Agilent in Santa Rosa.
New info from Nameless Insider #44... "The spin-off of Avago from Agilent didn't have much to do with instrumentation: Agilent has a 3" captive fab in Santa Rosa. It makes GaAs FETs (0.25 um), GaAs PHEMTs (0.125 um), InGaP HBTs (2 um), and recently announced production of 1 um GaAs/Sb/InP DHBTs (according to a talk at CSICS 2005). The 6" Avago fab in Fort Collins does produce parts for instrumentation, but I think their products were available to the mass market simultaneously. So Rohde&Schwartz could buy Avago components made in Fort Collins for their instrumentation, while Agilent would use more advanced Santa Rosa captive fab parts where appropriate. The Fort Collins fab was working on 6" InP (!) HBTs before the spin-off. (Incidentally, Centellex is mostly former Agilent instrumentation/circuit designers.)"
We know more about what Avago has been up, to thanks to "Nameless Insider #21!" Did you know that Avago has a 6 inch foundry in Fort Collins, Colorado with 4,000 wafer a month capacity that makes enhancement mode PHEMT? Enhancement mode allows you you get rid of the negative supply that you typically need on PHEMT power amps. What is Avago doing with all of that 6 inch capacity? Mostly building power amps for CDMA and GSM, trying to satisfy some bean-counters by at least breaking even (the goal of every American GaAs foundry), and bucking the trend toward HBTs... hang in there Dudes!
Here's a cool Avago wideband MMIC that takes advantage of their enhancement FET process. It provides up to 1 watt of power from 7 to 18 GHz, with only a single supply. Looks like individual source vias are used, another technology that separates the men from the boyz. You are seeing it here on Microwaves101 for the first time, an article will be published later this year on this device. A real scoop, as Lois Lane would have said!
Here's another tasty little MMIC with a lot of bandwidth from Avago . This is their first new millimeter-wave catalog MMIC in a number of years, the AMC-5024 distributed amplifier (shown below, more data on the Avago web site). This baby works DC-50 GHz, with high gain (17dB), good power (22dBm), a built in power detector, and can be had for 1/4 the cost of anything else on the market according to "NI"!
BAE runs the six-inch boutique GaAs foundry that was built by Lockheed Sanders, in Nashua NH. BAE's processes include MHEMT up to 300 GHz, and GaAs pHEMT to 120 GHz on economical six-inch wafers. They also produce GaN HEMT products up to 40 GHz on four-inch wafers. BAE routinely writes gates down to 70 nanometers and on occasion 50 nm; they have achieved power density of 300 mW/mm at 100 GHz.
The letters "BAE" officially don't stand for anything, just like "HRL", doesn't offically stand for anything (but we all know it was once Hughes Research Labs) but not that long ago the company was called British Aerospace, which acquired GEC and Marconi in 1999 to become BAE Systems. Marconi was started in 1897 by Guglielmo Marconi, the second gigantic high-tech startup success of that century following the transatlantic cable. Marconi, who appears in our Microwave Hall of Fame, got much of his financial backing from the Jameson family that his father married into, you may still enjoy their distilled spirits today. Cheers!
BAE North America is a "foreign-owned U.S. corporation" but a complete firewall between US and UK interests allows them to participate in all manner of military contracts. An example of their recent work is a decade-bandwidth distributed amplifier providing more than 10 watts across 2-20 GHz with more than 20 watts over part of that band. You can learn more about that in Decade Bandwidth 2 to 20 GHz GaN HEMT Power Amplifier MMICs in DFP and No FP Technology by Komiak, presented at the IEEE-MTTS International Microwave Symposium in 2011.
Update on the founder of Sanders Associates, Royden C. Sanders Jr. He passed away February 5, 2007, age 89. Here we'll shamelessly quote from his New Hampshire Telegraph obit:
Long before it became vogue to work amid exposed brick and heavy beamed ceilings, Sanders appreciated the value of the vacant mill buildings in Nashua. Thanks to him, the Nashua mills were among the first to provide space for the innovators whose creativity would place New Hampshire at the forefront of an emerging high-tech economy. Despite its reputation as a rural haven and vacation getaway, New Hampshire always has relied heavily on manufacturing to sustain its citizens, and there was a great danger of losing that capacity if not for the vision of men like Sanders.
He was at first attracted by the available space, but soon came to appreciate the work ethic of the New Hampshire employees, who "really gave a day's work for a day's pay," he once said. His early success demonstrated what came to be known as "The New Hampshire advantage - ample space at good prices, easy access to major transportation routes, a capable and reliable work force, a pro-business tax structure, and a quality of life that made it easier to attract the best and the brightest."
Sanders' previous employer was Raytheon located in Waltham MA, where he was regarded as a "mad scientist" according to The Creative Ordeal by Otto J. Scott. Sanders was a key contributor to early missile seeker work using CW radar that evolved into the Hawk missile system that is still in use today. In 1951 he took 10 other Raytheon engineers to form his own company, "because he wanted to be free to engage in creative engineering along his own lines".
BeRex is a new MMIC company that operates from Silicon Valley California and Seoul Korea. They offer wideband amplifiers at cell phone frequencies, and surface mount Wilkinson power dividers. From their web site:
BeRex offers such advantages as ESD 4,000 volt, MSL 1, product quality uniformity, enhanced band width 10 to 4000 MHz, 100% lead-free green products (RoHS compliant), less external parts, higher performance, 100% RF/DC screen, temperature compensated bias circuit, friendly packaging, MTBF over 100 years...
Reviewing the data sheets, the amplifiers are HBT products. This further info came to us from BeRex Marketing:
BeRex, Corp. is a fabless semiconductor company which designs, produces and markets GaAs HBT RFICs and discrete transistors. With our team of experienced engineers BeRex, Corp., has successfully developed a line of highly advanced IC's for cost-effective integration into high-volume wireless applications.
We use fabs located in NorCal, Oregon, and Taiwan; product dependent.
Makers of gallium nitride substrates, including GaN on silicon and GaN on sapphire.
California Eastern Laboratories (CEL)
This company has formed a symbiotic relationship with Nippon Electric Company (NEC) way back in 1959, and it has worked well over the years. NEC produces the chips, and CEL markets them in the United States. CEL isn't just a bunch of empty-suited ex-surfers, they engineer some of the RFICs themselves. According to Dave, there is a wet-suited surfer or two onboard (forgive the pun). CEL/NEC was the first vendor to market discrete GaAs FETs thirty years ago, and they offer some great commercial GaAs and silicon RFIC products right now. There's a good chance your satellite television low noise block has a CEL/NEC super-low noise FET at the input if it's more than five years old.
Here's an image of another successful California/Japan enterprise that began in the 1950s:
Update May 2006: the Celeritek foundry (not product line) has again changed hands, it was bought from Mimix by Universal Semiconductor Technology, Inc. (USTI). Advice: if you plan on using a "Celeritek" amplifier in a new design, consider a lifetime buy, the multi-year agreement between MIMIX and USTI has to fab the old Celeritek parts might just last as long as a Britney Spears marriage. You can recognize a Celeritek part in the Mimix product line because its part number cleverly starts with a "C"!
The following information should be read in the past tense... "Celeritek, in Santa Clara California, boasts a four-inch fab line processing InGaP HBTs with operational voltages to 15 volts, and 0.25um gate PHEMT with etch stop material for uniform pinch-off performance. Solid low noise epi parts, tons of gain blocks, a few MMICs that operate into Ka-band, and discrete FETs too." This info is thanks to Damian, who was once VP of marketing at Celeritek.
Fabless purveyors of GaAs and SiGe MMICs that span up to 65 GHz, Centellax is located in Santa Rosa California. They have a great web site (probably because no one at Centellax is over 40 years old), including an app note on driving voltage-variable attenuators with an op-amp. Our one complaint about the web site is that Centellax seems to make a game out of hiding whether you are buying a SiGe or GaAs component. Dudes, some of us care about stuff like channel temperature limitations and radiation hardness, so put GaAs or SiGe in the first sentence of each datasheet please!
This came in from Seann, who disagrees with our statement that "probably because no one at Centellax is over 40 years old"...
Actually, two of the three Agilent engineers that defected from Agilent in early 2002 for Centellax in Santa Rosa were well over 40. Jerry XXX and Julio YYY are both "old geezers", the best kind of engineers. They for example were the guys who did most of HP/Agilent's bread and butter traveling wave and bandpass amplifiers back in the 90's, which were only recently discontinued when Avagotech had to split away from Agilent's captive boutique fab in favor of Winsemi for its high frequency MMIC portfolio.
This came in from Nameless Insider #13 (think of this as an unconfirmed rumor but when you visit the Centellax web site it makes sense...)
Don't even think about buy MMICs from Centellax, unless you're planning to buy in bulk (1000s per order). Apparently someone bought some of their chips, repackaged them identically to one of their modules, and won a contract that Centellax wanted. Their CEO has now ruled that only strategic partners can buy bare die. They've changed the website so that you can't even get datasheets unless you already know the part number and search for it. It's a shame, 'cause they make really good devices.
Update August 2013: you can bid for the assets of the Blackburg fab on August 7.
Update June 2013: in a few short weeks, the Blacksburg fab will close down. Best of luck to eveyone affected! Let us know when we can bid for the assets...
Update June 2012: rumors are swirling that Cobham's Blacksburg fab will be shuttered for good early in 2013. It is never a good sign when you lay off the one mask designer...
Update March 2011: the Blacksburg fab is now up and running! Cobham relocated their Roanoke fab to a location in Blacksburg VA (previously the building was part of Rohm and Haas but was part of a divestiture when R&H was acquired by Dow Chemical) - keeping most of the people employed, although times have been a little tough and there have been reductions in force. Thanks to Dan for pointing this out.
Update May 2010: the cat is out of the bag. Cobham is moving the Roanoke foundry to Blacksburg Virginia. And they have recently produced their first functional transistors on the new line.
Update March 2010: Cobham Defense Systems is the owner of the "Gaastek" foundry that was passed down from ITT to M/A-COM. It was based in Roanoke Virginia, but their lease with ITT ran out. We don't know where they moved the fab, maybe someone can clue us in! If you dig around the world wide web, you might conclude that Cobham is still interested in selling MMICs, which sport self-aligned gate GaAs MESFETs, a technology that was cutting edge about twenty years ago.
Update April 2009: rumors have it that Cobham's (M/A-COM) MMIC foundry in Roanoke will be out of business by February 2010, because ITT has opted not to renew their lease (M/A-COM has been renting space for the GaAs fab that they bought from ITT many years ago). Although there hasn't been an official press release on this topic, we've heard the story from as far away as Norway, as Cobham tells key customers that it might be prudent to place big orders now before products go obsolete. Yikes!
Cobhams' shopping spree in the US made for some interesting bed fellows. This is where Remec MMIC designs and designers ended up after Remec disintegrated. Later Cobham folded in another acquisition, M/A-COM, which was a competitor of Remec. Recall that M/A-COM was made of many parts, including the "original" M/A-COM in Massachusetts, and the west coast M/A-COM that was originally Watkins Johnson. We will speculate that these two businesses never really blended well together, even before being teamed with the Remec designers. In 2009, Cobham sold off most of the Massachusetts operation, which is reverting back to the name M/A-COM Technical Solutions. If this is confusing you, you are not alone!
Cobham Remec's fabless MMIC design center is based in Richardson Texas and traces its roots back to Texas Instruments, then Remec. Their eight designers claim 200 years of experience total. They have processed designs at TriQuint, M/A-COM Roanoke, Raytheon, and Win Semi, and their designs have some novel features you won't find elsewhere (according to unnamed sources). Their specialty is compact power amplifier designs, which they employ some patented compact FET layouts. They have in-house wafer-test capability to 65 GHz.
These guys are emerging as a huge player in the gallium nitride field, having already become the established champions of silicon carbide technology. Unlike some of the companies on this page, Cree earns money. Along with TriQuint, Cree announced the availability of GaN MMICs and foundry services at the 2008 IEEE IMS symposium in June. And you make have notied the Cree brand when you visit Home Depot's LED lighting section.
Cree currently offers foundry services for silicon carbide and GaN MMICs, including capacitors, resistors and backside. Don't expect to make any circuits above C-band, as gates are all done optically.
Recent rumors that General Electric was going to buy Cree (to become a player in solid state lighting) seem to have been proved false.
Custom MMIC Design Services (CMDS)
CMDS is a small firm that began with a few ex-Hittite designers in 2006, and boasts design and test capabilities up to 67 GHz. They have a couple of microwave calculators on their web site that we think are worth checking out!
In 2004 Fujitsu Compound Semiconductor formed a joint venture with Sumitomo Electric Industries, which they branded as Eudyna Devices Inc. Note: the correct pronunciation is "you-DEEN-a", don't be a Rube and say "you-DINE-a".) They carry a lineup of MMICs up through V-band, but their papers at recent IEEE MTT-S Symposiums show that they have been very, very busy on the problems associated with gallium nitride devices. Eudyna was the very first company to offer GaN devices commercially, and they did it all without help from Daddy Warbucks, unlike the major US GaN players.
Often you will see cutting edge MMIC technology papers published by authors/inventors such as Toshi Kikkawa at Compound Semiconductor Devices Laboratory, Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. This is a research center (think of them as Eudyna's brothers, they are closer than cousins!), devices with commercial appeal can be transferred later to Eudyna for production.Eudyna is great example of a Japanese company that quietly kicks butt with its products. As Fujitsu, they were one of the first companies to offer millimeterwave LNAs with noise figures less than 2 dB. Now they are offering some 60 GHz designs. Sumitomo brings a lot to the table in terms of world-class material growth capability. Bonzai!
Alas, Excelics is no more. This privately held company quietly went out of business back in February 2011. The sharks are circling, look for other companies to offer data sheets cross-referenced to Excelics part numbers... thanks to David for pointing this out!
Sunnyvale California. Four-inch fab. Mostly discrete devices, but a small product line of MMICs.
Fairchild RF is no more, since September 2007 Fairchild sold off their RF hobby shop to Anadigics.
Raytheon sold off their commercial MMIC interests to Fairchild in November 2003. The two-dozen employees that were transferred moved to their own building in Massachusetts. They took with them all of Raytheon's commercial designs for wireless products, including HBT and PHEMT product designs, plus an agreement to process GaAs wafers in Taiwan at Win Semi. Their product line included handset and base station components, wideband, millimeterwave and wireless LAN components.
Filtronic Compound Semiconductors
Filtronic's product line has now been folded in with RFMD's products.
Update December 2007: Filtronic announced that it intends to sell its entire MMIC compound semiconductor operation to RFMD for the fire-sale price of $25M. That's better than nothing, which is where the negotiations started. Thus the final British company has thrown in the towel on GaAs fabs.
Update September 2007: the Filtronic foundry suffered a layoff of 115 workers to maintain a "cash-neutral" business model.
Update February 2006: wider than expected operating losses probably had nothing to do with it, but Filtronic sacked their Mayor McCheese and a few others recently. If you're interested just search Google's news tab on the name Filtronic to read more...
From their web site: The "Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Festkörperphysik" or Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid-State Physics - IAF in short - is a leading research center in the field of III-V-compound semiconductors and their applications in micro-, nano- and optoelectronics."
Fraunhofer possesses a small fab line, more suited for research than production. But these guys make some really cool millimeterwave flip-chip devices! Not many places on Earth can you buy 220 GHz MMIC products, but Fraunhofer is one. Check out their annual reports for the latest capabilities.
Update May 2010: freescale announced they are back in the MMIC business. It's a lot simpler now that they don't have to pay the electric bill for a fab. We'll venture a guess that the new freescale MMICs are being fabbed in Taiwan. Where else can you make a good power amp for less than a buck?
Update May 2008: it's all over for freescale as a MMIC supplier. freescale has announced that they will be shuttering the Tempe GaAs fab.
Update, February 2008: freescale was bought by an equity consortium a few years back, including the Blackstone Group. Blackstone is one of those private equity firms that takes over troubled companies and sells off bits and pieces of the original company to maximize their ROIC (return on investor capital). Look out Chrysler, now that you're owned by Cerberus Capital Management! But what's this? Blackstone floated their own IPO and is now a publicly traded company, so you, too can profit from the demise of unfortunate companies they take over. Chinese investors immediately bought 10% of the BX stock. Holy cow, Batman, you don't ever want to see a Blackstone limo pull up in front of your North American wafer fab! Or in front of your fab in Scotland, freescale already sold off their two foundries there...
Now that Blackstone is a "partner" at freescale, the entire GaAs product line was sold out to Skyworks in 2007, not including the wafer fab, which is now for sale. This is a very large 6 inch fab in Tempe Arizona. Best of luck to the sellers and buyers, Tempe doesn't need another Costco or WalMart, but there's little market for a compound semi fab these days unless your name is RF Micro.
freescale was a spin-off of Motorola. By not capitalizing the first letter of the name, they want it to appear "friendly". They make all kinds of digital ICs, but if you have the patience, on their web site eventually you can click into their impressive lineups of LDMOS power amplifiers and InGaP HBT amplifiers. They have one of the first six-sigma-inch HBT fab lines, and also do SiGe work in house, competing with IBM and Jazz for this potentially huge market. They also have done some work on GaN, but they seem to be keeping quite about it. There's at least one IEEE paper that reports freescale GaN results.
Like those of so many billion dollar companies, the Freescale web site is a horror show of useless information! So is Motorola's site, come to think of it... they both must have applied their principles of six sigma to its design. Good luck finding freescale's pages on RF stuff, we gave up trying to link to it because the address keeps changing. Six Sigma question: which of these car companies uses six sigma: Toyota, or Ford? Answer: Ford does, Toyota never heard of it!
Speaking of Moto-spinoffs, perhaps freescale will last longer than Thoughtbeam.
A privately held company in Ottawa, Canada, home of that two-four of Blue that you can't purchase in Tucson. They design and supply GaN MMICs which are processed at the National Research Council of Canada. Bet you didn't think of Canada as supplier of GaN! Incorporated in 2003, they already are supported by contract Loonies, not investor capital. We wish them the best of luck!
Here's an image of very compact SPDT series/shunt switch prototype from Gain Microwave. It uses 0.8 um gate GaN HEMT technology on a thick silicon carbide substrate with CPW transmission lines. The RF common port is to the south, the probe on the north side is supplying switch voltages. Loss at 10 GHz was measured at 1.85 dB, power handling hasn't been completely characterized yet, but it will be measured in watts, not milliwatts!
iTerra changed their name to GigOptix in 2007. This blurb came to us from their corporate communications manager:
GigOptix is a leading fabless supplier of semiconductor and optical components that enable high-speed information streaming and address emerging high-growth opportunities in the communications, industrial, defense and avionics industries. The Company offers a broad portfolio of high performance MMIC solutions that enable next generation wireless microwave systems up to 90 GHz and drivers, TIAs (trans-impedance amplifiers) and TFPSTM (thin film polymer on silicon) optical modulators for 40G and 100G fiber-optic telecommunications and data-communications networks. GigOptix also offers a wide range of digital and mixed-signal ASIC solutions and enables product lifetime extension through its GigOptix Sunset Rescue Program.
As for MMICs, GigOptix offers limiting amps, and wideband distributed amplifiers, fixed attenuators and more.
Global Communication Semiconductors (GCS)
GCS is a pure-play GaAs foundry in Torrence, California, they are the opposite of companies like Hittite. Their InGaP and InP HBT processes are state-of-the-art (fT of < 200 GHz for InP HBT!) They offer a 0.5 micron optical PHEMT process, and they offer shared mask opportunities for microwave cheapskates. GCS currently has a capacity of 500 4-inch wafers per week and will soon expand capacity with a 6-inch facility. A good question on this decision is "why"? They also advertise SAW capability.
Short for "Goteburg Microwave Integrated Circuits", Gotmic plans to become a competitor in millimeterwave ICs, with designs spanning 10 to 120 GHz, and highly integrated MMICs their specialty. Gotmic is a spin-off company from Chalmers University of Technology, Microwave Electronics Laboratory, in Sweden. Looks like their products are all 100 um thick GaAs pHEMT, there is no way to tell what fab they are processed at. Good luck!!!
Update July 2014: Hittite was bought out by Analog Devices Incorporated (ADI) of Norwood Massachusetts. ADI is a much larger company and did not compete (until now) in the MMIC world. Good luck to all!
Update September 2011: Up until now, Hittite has enjoyed the highest profit margins in the MMIC industry. But TriQuint recently informed them they are closing their fab to commercial fabless companies that compete with them. Maybe they are sick of seeing Hittite's market cap at $1.6B with TriQuint $1.0B while they do all the heavy lifting. See page 11 of Hittite's recent SEC filing:
Hittite has more than three and a half years to make the transition. Now the fun begins, hundreds of designs have to be ported over to other fabs and bugs worked out. It's long term employment for all Hittite designers!
Update October 2007: Northrop has come to an interesting agreement with Hittite, the entire Velocium product line has been transferred to Hittite. This is good news for both companies, no one markets MMICs better than Hittite.
Hittite is privately owned, and one of the oldest fabless companies (founded in 1985). They are named after an obscure tribe of Indo-Europeans from Anatolia who once ruled Mesopotamia (thanks David for pointing this out!) Hittite is a major success story as a fabless MMIC supplier. With headquarters in Chelmsford Massachusetts (say "Chemsfud" if you want to be understood by natives), they process their designs primarily at TriQuint and United Monolithic Semiconductor but they usually won't tell you where your circuits were fabricated. There would be no sense telling the US government that some top secret program depends on components fabricated in France, Hittite's a US company, right? They offer the most substantial MMIC mixer product line in the world, it seems they have never obsoleted a single component in their history, which is not always a good thing. With the addition of the Velocium product line, Hittite products now span 0 to 85 GHz!
One weird thing about Hittite is that everyone has the same phone number on their business cards, and you have to speak to a switchboard operator before you can talk to a sales guy. How's that for forward thinking?
Hittite trivia: that weird looking emblem next to the name is not some kind of radar, it's the symbol an ancient sun god, who is no doubt pleased with our progress on global warming!
Hittite has an amplifier in our rogues gallery of conditionally stable amplifiers.
You'd think that HRL stands for "Hughes Research Laboratories", but it officially doesn't. This is because when Raytheon bought out Hughes Aircraft in the 1990s they went out of their way to erase the name "Hughes" everywhere that they could. Why? Because the two companies pretty much hated each other as competitors. In 1996 Hughes employee Khai Xuan Le drove coast to coast to murder Raytheon employee Sang T. Lam! OK, it was over a girl, but this story says a lot about the atmosphere of the times. Legend has it in 1997 Raytheon tried to rename Hughes Access Road at their acquired Tucson factory, but the town told them to pound sand. No doubt they would have renamed the Hughes Federal Credit Union which shares the Raytheon Tucson driveway, too bad you can't rename what you don't own!
Since 1997 HRL Laboratories was run as a limited liability partnership between nearly-bankrupt purveyor of SUVs General Motors (which for a time owned Hughes Aircraft), Boeing and Raytheon, a love-child of the wacky mergers of the 1990s. Update December 2006: Raytheon quietly divested from the partnership, but pretty much kept this fact out of the news. About the only way you can tell that this has happened is this message from the Chairman of HRL on the HRL web site:
"I am pleased to include this personal message on HRL's web site. In 2004, my first year as HRL's Board Chairman, I came to recognize the potential value that HRL offers to each LLC Member - Boeing and General Motors."
Funny thing about that sentence, in 2004, the LLC had three members... guess it will take a while longer to rewrite history properly. Maybe Boeing and GenMot will do the right thing and restore the proud name of Hughes Research Laboratories one of these days.
HRL Laboratories is the namesake of the late Howard Robard Hughes, one of the top 100 influential 20th century Americans, who would have celebrated his 100 year birthday on Christmas Eve 2005. After WWII Howard built a formidable enterprise that employed literally tens of thousands of Ph.D. engineers in California, where they invented all manner of missiles, lasers, and other cool toys. Today HRL is about all that is left of the Hughes legacy, but in keeping with tradition, you cannot swing a dead cat without smacking a PhD engineer upside the head within their Malibu facility! HRL contains among other things the ultimate boutique MMIC foundry, with emphasis on indium phosphide and gallium nitride, especially for millimeterwave They make both HEMTs and HBTs. Remember it is not a production house, it's a place where records are broken with each new design, which doesn't come cheap, so bring the long green.
Here's a nice chain of HRL MMICs that provides power at 300 GHz:
Some Hughes records last forever
Speaking of the Hughes legacy, until recently the HRL Laboratories web site was a treasure trove of historical technical information, but all that good stuff is gone. What happened? Rumor has it that a highly paid empty suit advised HRL to "focus on the future, not on the past". Hey guys, here's an offer you can't refuse, send some historical Hughes microwave info to Microwaves101 and we'll keep it posted as long as there's an Internet! In another disturbing development, it appears that HRL has unplugged the surf cam from their web site, which no doubt reduced site visits by more than 30 dB.
IBM is the biggest player in SiGe. Their pure-play fab line in Burlington Vermont sets all of the standards for this technology, and is used by a worldwide army of companies. They are so big they have their own bridge across a real river!
To paraphrase Eddie Murphy in Trading Places, "once you've had a man with no legs (or in IBM's case, no GaAs fab), you won't want anyone else". Funny thing is, IBM pulled the plug on their SiGe design group in 2002, so all they have is foundry services today.
IBM seems to have named their production SiGe processes using the same rating system as Pokemon cards.... are they secretly owned by the Japanese? "5HP", "6HP" "7HP" and so on. They quote some impressive numbers for maximum frequency in the newer processes (120 GHz for 7HP), but the main attraction to SiGe technology is that it is cheaper than dirt. That is, until you add in licensing fees, masks, and design NRE. But you do get a lot of chips on an eight inch wafer.
Operating SiGe at higher frequencies is a double edged sword. As emitter geometries are reduced, breakdown voltages are reduced. The 7HP collector-emitter breakdown voltage is 1.8 volts. SiGe is not going to replace front-end compound semiconductors for millimeterwave applications any time soon. Remember, you heard that here first!
If you click around the IBM SiGe web site (we recommend it!) you will find a nice tutorial on how SiGe MMICs are made.
This information came from Maurizio at IHP (thanks!)
IHP used to be an acronym for “Institut für Halbleiter Physik” (Institute for Semiconductor Physics) from former GDR (“East Germany” before reunification). We are basically located in the “Silicon Valley” of former East Germany.
Now the acronym stands for “Innovations for High Performance” microelectronics.
We are the “Leibniz-Institut” for innovative microelectronics. We are not related to Fraunhofer but we of course cooperate and have joint projects together.
Our processes are on 250nm and 130nm technology node and offer SiGe BiCMOS technologies and provide very high frequency HBTs with cut-off frequencies up to 500 GHz and integrated LDMOS devices with breakdown voltages of up to 22 V, including complementary devices. We also have useful integrated MEMS for frequencies above 30 GHz. All wafers are 200mm diameter.
We are strong in MPW (multi-project wafer, where more customers join and split the mask costs) runs allowing for cost-effective prototyping and we can also give Engineering Runs for low volume applications.
IMEC is European consortium that performs research in micro and nano electronics.
Trivia question - can you name a famous Belgian? and Hercule Poirot doesn't count. Give up? How about Adophe Sax, inventor of the saxophone! Or Edward de Smedt, the inventor of asphalt! How about Leo Baekeland, inventor of Bakelite and Microwaves101 Hall-of-Famer!
Infineon has repositioned itself from a large GaAs fab to a large SiGe fab house. Good luck finding what you want on their web site.
Update October 2007: iTerra has changed their name to GigOptix.
Update November 2008: Jazz merged with Tower Semiconductor. Not sure if there will be a name change...
Jazz offers eight-inch (200mm) CMOS and SiGe BiCMOS foundry, in similar nodes to IBM, down to 0.13 micron.
Another third-world foundry sporting a six-inch HBT process line, located in Korea, one Scud missile away from Chapter 11. If the lowest possible cost is your goal and your design calls for GaAs HBT, check them out.
Update April 2012: M/A-COM Tech launched an IPO in March, in the last month the stock price has held between twenty and twenty-two bucks on NASDAQ (MTSI) with market cap around $900M.
Update September 2011: Could TriQuint's decision not to process Hittite wafers after June 2015 also mark the end of an agreement with M/A-COM-MIMIX? Maybe someone inside could confirm that for us...
Update May 2010: Privately held Technology Solutions M/A-COM is acquiring MIMIX Broadband.
Update March 2010: Late last year, Cobham sold off part of their recent acquisition from Tyco. The result is that the "original" M/A-COM is now an independent business, and this venerable nameplate from the 1950s survives. The company is now called M/A-COM Technology Solutions, and is presumably headquartered in Lowell Massachusetts.
M/A-COM offers an interesting mixture of circuits and technologies. Some of their designs might date back to the 1970s, and most if not all of the military product base stayed at Cobham. But with new ownership and some key players rejoining the team, it is worth keeping an eye on their future products. They still have a great PIN diode MMIC process which is a legitimate money-making niche, and then there's that "HMIC" process that builds glass circuits on silicon. Maybe they can get Dennis Kozlowski out of the slammer to run the show!
Update April 2009: the remnants of M/A-COM's GaAs business were sold to John Ocampo for $90M on March 31, 2009 (there has been a press release on this), and this company is now called M/A-COM Technology Solutions. In hindsight, this was predictable, new owners usually aren't interested in maintaining non-profitable businesses. Ocampo's company is GaAs Labs LLC, and he serves as chairman of the board for Mimix Broadband, a private company where he has made some big investments. He made his original money selling Sirenza (where he was a founder) to RF Micro back in 2007 when this type of business in North America was actually worth more than zero. Good luck to all! Maybe Ocampo should consider changing the name of his investment firm, "GaAs Labs" sounds like the Packard automobile! The future of compound semis is far more diverse than just two elements on the periodic chart. Ocamo is also a big partner in Mimix, and is chairman of their board.
Update October 2008: it's official, Tyco has sold M/A-COM to Cobham plc. The part of M/A-COM that provided MMICs is now known as Cobham M/A-COM RF and Microwave Components.
The fun of consolidation will soon begin! In their press release they mention that M/A-COM's capabilities will be combined with the Remec business that Cobham acquired a few years back. The hose is being connected to the tailpipe, it's just a question of which stray dogs get adopted and which ones go to their reward...
Update May 2008: M/A-COM's parent Tyco recently announced their intent to sell M/A-COM to Cobham plc, a British company, for $425M. The new owners have (sort of) announced that they will be shedding the foundries (they used to have one in the UK so they are familiar with negative ROIC), but the problem is that no one is going to want any of that. If you picked M/A-COM's Roanoke foundry in the compound semi death pool, you're looking good! M/A-COM fab employees, please send us some resumes....
M/A-Com absorbed a number of foundries over the years including ITT's GaAsTek line M/A-Com is owned by Tyco Electronics (previously it was owned by Amp which got bought out). Their ex-CEO Dennis Kozlowski is serving eight years for wasting $400M on himself.
M/A-Com has been a microwave company since long before it was fashionable, so they have a lot of expertise, which is evidenced by the many application notes on their web site. They also have offer an excellent paper catalog, and the woodwork is crawling with M/A-Com representatives who will buy you lunch any time. M/A-Com's foundries are in Lowell MA and Roanoke VA.
One of M/A-Com's interests of late is the automotive radar field (collision-avoidance). Why anyone would want to be involved in a revenue-reduction scheme like that is beyond us. Anyway, they have been developing some impressive low-cost W-band technology, so be sure to check that out.
Microsemi has developed a product line that includes SiC. This was done through acquistitions as well as step-out growth. They offer a variety of discrete transistors as well as CMOS switches up to 8x16 in crosspoint configuration. VT Silicon (of Atlanta) was one of the aquisitions (2010) that put Microsemi into silicon germanium products.
Microwave Technology Inc. (MwT)
This info came from their web site (but we had to spell check it):
Located in California's Silicon Valley, MicroWave Technology, Inc. (MwT) was founded in 1982 by technical principals with broad experience in Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) device design and fabrication. With a factory occupying 35,000 square foot, the Company's principal assets include both its GaAs semiconductor fab and a hybrid chip and wire microwave integrated circuit (HMIC) manufacturing facility. The vertical manufacturing and product strength provide MwT uncommon flexibility and opportunity in the microwave component marketplace.
Update May 2006: MIMIX sold off the fab house that was once Celeritek, to Universal Semiconductor Technology, Inc. (USTI).
Mimix is a fabless MMIC house. Julie Teinert, Mimix director of marketing, wants you to know this about her company:
Mimix Broadband, Inc. supplies high performance gallium arsenide (GaAs) semiconductors from DC to 50 GHz for microwave and millimeter-wave applications. Mimix has offices in Houston, Sydney, Belfast and Hsinchu, and offers a unique combination of semiconductor design expertise and communications systems background to develop state-of-the-art microwave and millimeterwave semiconductors. Mimix markets a highly diversified product line that serves the top tier telecom, satellite and defense companies worldwide.
Here's a picture of one of Mimix's Ka-band power amps. The Lange couplers pretty much guarantee you will see an excellent output impedance match! Guess which foundry this puppy was processed at and win a cool pocket knife!!!
Minicircuits of Brooklyn New York is well known as the biggest advertiser in the entire microwave industry (but apparently they never heard of Microwaves101 until November 16, 2005). They offer a variety of plastic-packaged MMICs (cheap!), mostly HBT efforts. We're not sure where these chips are processed or designed (M-C is fabless), but we're sure that Mini-Circuits does not have semiconductor fabrication capability. They offer "high-directivity" MMICs, and we have a page to explain what that means.
On their web site you will find the "Yoni search tool". After some speculation followed by a half-hour phone call, we've been informed that "Yoni" is named after the founder's granddaughter. Where else will you learn trivia like this except Microwaves101?
Mini-Circuits has an amplifier in our rogues gallery of conditionally stable amplifiers.
National Research Council Canada
This link to Canada's pure-play GaN fab was provided by Brian:
From the NRC web site (where you might find Brian's contact info):
"NRC’s GaN Electronics initiative is helping to establish a strong industrial GaN manufacturing capability for Canadians by offering its semiconductor foundry services to key industry players."
Update June 2014: Nitronex has left the building...
Update July 2013: startup Nuvotronics has taken over most of the Nitronex Durham facility.
Update June 2012: Nitronex announced that they have been acquired by GaAs Labs. GaAs Labs is a private investment company owned by John Ocampo, who put together the MIMIX-M/A-COM merger now known as M/A-COM Technology Solutions which went public earlier in the year. This is just a few months after Nitronex sold a license to GCS for their GaN-on-silicon process. Terms of either deal were not disclosed, however, it the odds are that the original Nitronex investors took a serious haircut.
Nitronex is a developer of patented GaN on silicon technology. The trade space here is potentially lower cost, but lower performance than GaN on silicon carbide. Why lower performance? Silicon isn't really a MMIC substrate owing to its high conductivity, and its thermal conductivity is much lower which reduces the output power density.
Nitronex is planning on offering foundry services, starting in 2008.
You'd think if you were gonna do GaN on silicon, you might sell eight-inch wafers and really blow away the competition. Nope, so far all they've been able to grow is four-inch after burning $56M of venture capital, and come up with the name "Sigantic", which rhymes with Titanic or Satanic, take your pick. On their web site you can visit the Orwellian-sounding "GaN education center".
Update August 2013: What's the difference between Northrop Grumman's east coast and west coast fabs? On the east coast at Linthicum, Maryland, the fab cranks out MMICs for high-power radar TR modules, and should be swamped with work soon since the NG's SABR radar was chosen by Lockheed (at the expense of Raytheon) for the F-16 upgrade. The west coast group at Redondo Beach in California pushes frequency/power/thermal boundaries with many research grants from Darpa over the years. The witch of the west is recently back in the business of selling MMICs commercially to SSPA provides, including 10 watt GaN amplifiers at Ku and Q-band (which might be covered by ITAR), and W-band GaAs pHEMT amplifiers, and modules up to THz.
Genius comes in many flavors, in this case it is pudgy, wears stripes and plays bass.
Learn to recognize it... yet this is not a great original example as Surfin USA was derived from the work of an earlier musical genius who was later credited for both works: Chuck Berry's Sweet Little Sixteen. In any case, sit back and watch your parents cut loose! Yes, we digress....
Northrop has some exciting Darpa programs involving MMICs, including SMART, WBGS-2, COSMOS and others. Northrop has Trusted Foundry status with the National Security Agency.
Here's an interesting little tidbit released by NG to the newswires in October 2006...
Third quarter 2006 unallocated expenses increased to $140 million from $42 million in the 2005 third quarter. In the third quarter of 2006, the company recorded a $112.5 million pre-tax provision for its settlement offer and associated expenses. As previously reported, in October 2005, the U.S. Department of Justice and a classified government customer notified the company of potential substantial claims relating to certain microelectronics parts produced by the Space and Electronics sector of the former TRW Inc. In the third quarter of 2006, the company and the customer commenced settlement discussions. While the company believes it acted appropriately in this matter, the company offered a settlement to resolve all potential claims, avoid litigation, and to recognize the value of the customer relationship. This quarter's pretax provision reflects the company's settlement offer and related expenses. The company is not able to predict the outcome of this matter at this time.
You might think that "certain microelectronic parts" might mean "MMICs", but we may never know what the problem was... but it's too bad NG shareholders end up getting hosed out of $0.20 per share in profits. Good one, guys!
NXP is a part of Philips Corp.
Founded in 1881 by telecom pioneer Kibataro Oki, Oki Electric Industry Co., Ltd. is Japan's first telecommunications manufacturer and is headquartered in Tokyo. They have strong research capabilities in GaAs and GaN technologies, according to press releases they have achieved 115 GHz Fmax for a GaN HEMT on silicon. They also offer GaAs HEMT technology with gate lengths at 0.15 microns.
Oki is the same company that competes with HP for printers.
The clever new name for the Philips GaAs foundry, somewhere near Paris France. No, we didn't misspell "Ohmic", they did. They have a six-inch fab line, and have some advanced capabilities including E-mode transistors, InP double heterostructure DHBT to 300 GHz, and PHEMT and MHEMT with gates down to 70 nanometers. This is world class stuff.
Update June 2007! Ommic has been forging ahead on a MMIC product line, and now offers low noise amplifiers (up to Ka-band), and digital phase shifters and attenuators.
Peregrine Semi is the only source of RFICs processed on silicon-on-sapphire. SOS technology has been around since the 1960s, and removes the biggest limitation of silicon RFICs: sapphire has no loss due to substrate conductivity. We need to add a page on SOS one of these days!
Peregrine offers switches made on silicon that can compete with their GaAs counterparts. They also offer digital step attenuators, prescalers and phase-locked loops.
Plextek RF Integration
Plextek RF Integration was formed from the MMIC design team of Plextek Ltd, and became a separate line of business within the Plextek Group in November 2012 (see press release.) Liam Devlin is CEO of Plextek RFI.
New for October 2013: Here is a link to design tutorials presented by Plextek RFI on Youtube, which include phase shifter RMS calculations, mixer design, switch design, broadband amplifiers, baluns, calibrations and more. Five star rating, Liam and the Plextek RFI team are sure to win a Webby!
Plextek RF Integration is a consulting company near Cambridge, in the UK. They have considerable MMIC design expertise (perhaps some ex-Bookham designers?) and to date have developed over 60 full custom GaAs MMICs. WIN Semi has announced that Plextek is their official design house. If you work in a US company, hiring a British company to design into a Chinese semiconductor foundry and may have ITAR implications. In addition to WIN, Plextek has used wafer fabs at TriQuint, GCS and Bookham (when Bookham was alive) according to Liam Devlin, a good friend and frequent contributor to Microwaves101. Think of Plextek as the Morgan Motors of MMIC design! Here's an example of one of their designs, we'll try to dissect it on our MMIC design page.
Prewell is a Korean RFIC company that sells PHEMT and HBT chips that they manufacture. Nothing spectacular, just low noise, medium power and gain block amplifiers up to about 3 GHz in packages.
qorvo is the new name of the recent rfmd and TriQuint merger. In this "merger of equals", you can tell which company came out on top in many ways, such as the use of all lower case letters in the name...
The origins of the unique name have been explained in a press release. But what is the real story? Is it because "corvo" is Portuguese for crow? Or did Jose Cuervo have something to do with it?
Qwave is a new company with a short portfolio of surface mount GaAs pHEMT MMICs, including switches and a GPS-frequency LNA. They have facilities in Japan and Taiwan.
Raytheon maintains a captive fab for GaN and GaN in Andover, Massachusetts. Their GaN technology was credited for a recent win (October 2013) over Lockheed for the Air Missile Defense Radar which will replace SPY-1. Congrats!
RF Integration Inc.
Located in Lowell Massachusetts and Cork Ireland, RF Integration is a fabless RF/mixed signal manufacturer, in the business of developing custom chip-set solutions for customers. Every day is Saint Paddy's Day at RFI! Don't look for a product lineup on their web site, they don't show one. As a matter of fact, they don't give names of any people on their web site, maybe they are all on the witness protection plan. RFI claims to work in SiGe CMOS, GaAs, and SOI.
Update March 2014: rfmd and TriQuint announced that they will merge into a $2B business. This is roughly a merger of equals but the press releases state that rfmd is buying TriQuint for $1.6B. It is funny how the press releases have forgotten that "RFMD" was recently re-branded as "rfmd" (see below). The name of the new company has not been announced, it is temporarily called "NewCo" in the press releases (should it be "newco"?) NewCo will see $150M in cost savings over the next two years, which you might speculate means "RIF all handset power amplifier designers that wear cowboy boots and consolidate some of the design centers" followed by "close the Oregon fab". In any case, NewCo will have an impressive portfolio of commercial and military products and we wish them well.
Update October 2013: big news... RFMD is now branded as rfmd. Modesty is in this year, the Pope is often seen washing random people's feet. rfmd talked about six-inch GaN with gate lengths that can support millimeterwave at this year's CSICS conference.
Update March 2008: RFMD has announced that they will hold off building a new fab in North Carolina, because of their Filtronic purchase. Hooray for RFMD, for not paving paradise to put up a parking lot!
Update December 2007: RFMD's buying binge continues, this time they'll be purchasing the Filtronic GaAs fab in Ayecliff England, for the pennies-on-the-dollar sum of $25M. That moves them up the food chain toward millimeterwave devices, look for future competition here with TriQuint. Here RFMD will have one slight advantage, there are no ITAR restrictions on selling military parts overseas when those parts that are designed and fabbed overseas.
Speaking of this merger, now RFMD owns the Filtronic amplifier line that dates back to the previous century starting at now-defunct Litton Solid State. They still haven't done the right thing and weeded out the FMA219 from the lineup. Through its acquisition of Filtronic, RFMD has an amplifier in our rogues gallery of conditionally stable amplifiers.
Update October 2007: RFMD has announced their intention of acquiring Sirenza, it looks like this nameplate will be going away.
Let's point out first that RFMD is now by far the largest fabricator of GaAs parts in the world, a remarkable position when you consider that most of their parts are fabbed in North Carolina, not in Asia! And right now they are building yet another 6 inch fab on their home turf.
RFMD is located in Greensboro NC, with a major fab center in Beijing China. Founded by Jerry Neal, Powell Semour and Bill Pratt (all are now zillionaires, maybe one of them has a homely daughter left over that you could marry...), RFMD was the first company to use HBT MMICs for power amplifiers, a move that fueled a generation of mobile phones. Jerry Neal published a book chronicling the success of the company, we'll review it one of these days. It has the unfortunate title Fire in the Belly: Building A World-leading High-tech Company From Scratch In Tumultuous Times. As if the founders of RFMD survived the Great Depression or the Civil War or the Holocaust while inventing a computer that is built of peanut shells.
Through an alliance with Jazz Semiconductor RFMD has entered the SiGe field. RFMD took over RF Nitro in 2001, a company that was working on high-power GaN stuff. RFMD comprises the largest GaAs fab in the world, processing 200,000 4" equivalents per year, according to Nameless Insider 3.
RFMD has an extensive catalog of MMIC low to medium power amplifiers up to around 8 GHz, as well as chip sets for all manner of commercial wireless applications such as handsets, Bluetooth, GPS etc.
They have a good web site with technical articles. An excellent paper catalog too. As they used to say during the Great Depression, enough paper to get you through green apple season!
Teledyne bought Rockwell Scientific in 2007, hence the name change.
Update May 19, 2011. SiGe was officially bought out by Skyworks for up to $275M, ending the dream that one day this Canadian company would join the Nasdaq exchange. So far no one has shown up in SiGe's Andover office with tags for the furniture, but don't be surprised if a Skyworks truck backs up and the tailpipe is routed into a window to clear out this "extra" design center...
SiGe was started by a bunch of Canadians who mistakenly pronounce their company "sigh-gee". They work in (guess what?) "siggy" MMICs, for applications such as Bluetooth, GPS and wireless LAN. Like most SiGe companies they use IBM's foundry, and grabbed a good many employees from Big Blue as well.
Update September 2012: Back in 2010, Sapphicon changed their name to Silanna.
Silanna has a silicon-on-sapphire process similar to Peregrine. They offer a unique "compressed mask" prototype foundry option where only four masks are used to provide 16 layers (saves $$$). They are also the only US trusted foundry that is outside the United States, which says something about the relationship between US and Australia. And if you go to their web site and fill in a form, you can obtain pricing and technical information without the need for a nondisclosure agreement that most other fabs demand.
We added (August 2010) Sapphicon at the suggestion of David from Down Under who can't resist the temptation to plug these "local guys". We shamelessly stole this info from their web site...
For over 20 years the team at Sapphicon Semiconductor has been assisting customers to increase the performance and functionality of their products by developing high performance silicon chips.
Formerly a part of Peregrine Semiconductor it now services a global client base as an independent organization with headquarters and manufacturing in Sydney, Australia.
The company uses advanced Silicon-on-Sapphire process technology that makes possible the creation of high performance mixed signal analog devices such as RF switches, low noise amplifiers, high frequency VCOs and a myriad of other applications.
Sirenza was once called "Stanford" because one of their founders used to be a waterboy for Stanford University's geek team. They lost a lawsuit, hence the name Sirenza. Headquartered in Broomfield, Colorado, with design centers in CA, TX and AZ, they contract-manufacture a huge lineup of amplifiers up though 8 GHz. We believe that some of their amplifiers are sold to Mini-Circuits, where they are rebadged and end up in that huge fold-out advertisement we all know and love to recycle. Can't prove it though.
Sirenza's product line included a mixture of GaAs PHEMT, HFET, HBT, and more recently SiGe. If you have cable TV, chances are you have Sirenza products in your home.
This information was gratefully received from Alex, an employee of Sivers:
Sivers is located in Kista, Sweden, outside Stockholm. We've been around for more than 50 years. Currently produce mm-wave converters, FMCW modules, and VCOs. Most products use commercially available MMICs, but our mm-wave converters use our own in-house designed highly integrated SiGe MMICs, at V and E band. We also offer system integration services, after having acquired Trebax, a consulting company with a microwave/telecom focus, in Gothenburg.
Skyworks was born of the merger between Conexant and Alpha Industries. Conexant was once part of Rockwell International, and was not a "MMIC company" in the sense that it did not process GaAs chips, but offered signal processing for broadband communication systems. Alpha Industries was more of a traditional foundry, offering RF chip types for wireless commercial applications. Skyworks is SKWS on the New York Stock Exchange.
Skyworks apparently has a six inch fab in Woburn Massachusetts and a second six-inch line in Newbury Park California, and partners with a fab in Taiwan. (Thanks to Dan for pointing this out).
Alpha trivia: about 25 years ago, Alpha was banned from participating in government contracts, because they did some funny accounting! They were ahead of their time!
Hey Skyworks, congrats on winning the 2004 Mexico City "Maquiladora of the Year" award! Hope this cheers up all of your ex-employees north of the border!
A new fabless company located in Fullerton CA, Summit has four employees with experience in GaAs and well as SiGe. So far they don't have any products they can show you on their web site, but they want you to know that they have done designs up to 60 GHz in their past lives. Their core experience came from Hughes and/or TRW back in the day. We wish them the best of luck!
Located north of 40 miles north of El Lay California, you are looking at a three hour round trip from the airport if you want to visit Teledyne's boutique fab during working hours. The specialty of the house is quasi-optic free-space combining for millimeterwave circuits, which is very cool: the development of cheap 20 to 100 watt sources for millimeterwaves has long been one of the holy grails of microwave engineering. Teledyne has three and four inch wafer processing capabilities, in four different III-V flavors: GaAs, InP, GaN and InAs. They also have a process for antimonide-based compound semiconductors (ABCS), for ultra-low power consumption LNAs (demonstrated 1.5 mw per stage!) Teledyne is never going to compete for cheap MMICs, but if you are looking to stretch the state of the art, check them out. Like Agilent, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems, Teledyne no doubt would be more than happy to break even on a good year at this research facility. Whoops, we almost forgot to mention that Teledyne can integrate MEMS switches onto PHEMT products. MEMS is not the "other white meat" of microwaves, but rather, the "other career killer". The original microwave career killer was IMPATT diodes, as everyone knows.
A perfect example of Our Gang marketing strategy, Thoughtbeam was founded by Motorola in 2001 to develop and market GaAs on silicon wafers, an idea that dates back to the 1980s but has never made anyone a dime. Too bad the price of GaAs came down when production ramped up, which made GaAs on silicon a tough sell. It turns out GaAs on silicon is a relatively expensive material to manufacture, due to the many extra hours it must spend in material growth. The only thing that Thoughtbeam ever demonstrated was some crummy MESFET technology in silicon, while the rest of the world had moved on to much more versatile pHEMTs, which need a much more complicated material stack that would be a lot harder to push onto silicon. Did Motorola do the right thing and retire the head of Thoughtbeam when they shuttered the operation? Nope, in a Dilbert moment they promoted Thoughtbeam's leader Padmasree Warrior to Chief Technology Officer of the entire Motorola company, and basically hosed the rest of the team, except for the French dude that reminded everyone that worked for him of Napoleon. Did we mention yet that Motorola invented "six sigma"? Thanks a pantload!
TLC Precision Wafer Technology
A spin-off of Honeywell, TLC is a small-business innovation research (SBIR) vendor located in Minneapolis, and has developed designs up through W-band. A MMIC vendor with soul!
Toshiba was once involved in the illegal sale of propeller milling technology to the Russians back in the 1980s, resulting in a steep drop in broadband acoustic noise profiles for the United States Akula-class subs.
Transcom is another GaAs foundry in Taiwan. According to their web site they are capable of producing 15,000 wafers per year. Standard products cover up through Ku-band. They also sell packaged amplifier assemblies that use discrete FETs.
Update September 2014: qorvo is the new name of the recent rfmd and TriQuint merger.
Update March 2014: rfmd and TriQuint announced that they will merge into a $2B business. This is roughly a merger of equals but the press releases state that rfmd is buying TriQuint for $1.6B. It is funny how the press releases have forgotten that "RFMD" was recently re-branded as "rfmd". The name of the new company has not been announced, it is temporarily called "NewCo" in the press releases (should it be "newco"?) NewCo will see $150M in cost savings over the next two years, which you might speculate means "RIF all handset power amplifier designers that wear cowboy boots and consolidate some of the design centers" followed by "close the Oregon fab". In any case, NewCo will have an impressive portfolio of commercial and military products and we wish them well.
Update October 2013: "TriQuint Semiconductor" is now officially just "TriQuint" as they try to emphasize their module offerings. Too bad AMDR was won by Raytheon, otherwise TriQuint could have been in the L-band module business with Lockheed. At CSICS 2013 TriQuint announced they are working on commercializing GaN down to 0.09um gate length.
Update September 2011: TriQuint is closing their fab to commercial fabless companies that compete with them. Maybe they are sick of seeing Hittite's market cap at $1.6B with TriQuint $1.0B while they do all the heavy lifting. See page 11 of Hittite's recent SEC filing:
We haven't confirmed this but it is rumored that TriQuint is closing the fab to Mimix as well.
Update June 2008: TriQuint now offers GaN MMICs, and GaN foundry services, which they announced at the IMS Symposium this month in Atlanta.
Also in 2008: TriQuint acquired what was left of Watkins Johnson's MMIC line. Part numbers starting with AG and EC (DC-6 GHz HBT amplifiers) are the legacy WJ products.
Update December 2007: TriQuint has been spreading a rumor that they are going to build a 6 inch GaAs fab in Texas, open for business by 2010, presumably to expand their military chip business. We're inclined to predict that military business in Texas is going to start suffering in February 2009, just about the time that American Airlines files Chapter 11. Good luck inviting Obama to the fab's grand opening.
There are two very different halves to the TriQuint foundry. TriQuint "Classic" runs a six -inch production line up in Beaverton Oregon, and was born from Tektronix. TriQuint Dallas, with a six-inch boutique line, was once part of Texas Instruments Defense Electronics Group which was bought by Raytheon in the late 1990's. Uncle Sam made Uncle Ray's place divest the TI GaAs foundry, for Important Reasons of National Security (it's funny where Congress has its priorities sometimes...) Say TriQuint slowly and you will see the play on words, three combined with five, which signifies III-V compound semiconductors, rating a 3.5 on the Unknown Editor's cleverity index (ten is highest). Guess they will have to change their name if they ever move into SiGe.
TriQuint often hires models to "man" their booths at trade shows, adding a certain old-school charm for all of the lonely microwave dudes out there who like to meet girls from the yellow pages. We dig that leopard fur, and are glad you are between gigs, Ginger Spice!
Hey Mr. Lonely Microwave Geekster, do you want to know more
about TriQuint MMIC's mounting temperature?
TriQuint's MMIC web site is one of the best, with a lot of data sheets and application notes and now S-parameter downloads.
TriQuint's Oregon production facility is a high-volume six-inch MESFET line which offers the usual alphabet soup of wireless products for CDMA, PCS, GSM, DCS, TDMA, etc. They offer foundry services with some pretty slick Spice models for active devices, which allow you to generate S-parameters for any bias point you like. Oregon part numbers all start with "TQ", as opposed to the Texas parts which start with "TGA". TGA stands somehow for Texas Instruments gallium arsenide monolithic amplifier. "TIGAMA" presumably took up too many square millimeters of precious GaAs. TGA is a throwback label to when the TriQuint Texas GaAs Fab was part of the Texas Instruments Defense Division (thanks for the clarification, anonymous TriQuint Dude!) They started commercializing some of the GaAs products and wanted to differentiate them from other TI semiconductors like the TTL logic series. TriQuint (Texas) still uses a variety of TG labels including TGB, TGL, TGP, TGS, TGC, TGF standing for different product types (passive, attenuator/limiter, phase shifter, switch, control, and discrete FET).
The TriQuint Texas boutique foundry offers a much broader mix of technologies and applications than TriQuint Oregon, spanning DC through millimeter-wave. They are also known to be dabbling in gallium nitride. TriQuint Texas offers a vertical PIN diode MMIC foundry process, which is (almost) unique in the MMIC arena (everyone else gave up on this process because it is truly a niche market). Whoops, we spoke too soon, M/A-COM now offers a similar process! When you visit TriQuint in Dallas, be sure to check out Bone Daddy's House of Smoke. It's like Hooters, but with food you will actually enjoy!
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC)
We're adding this silicon fab to our MMIC suppliers list, as TSMC offers RF CMOS. Thanks to Mohan!
From TSMC's web site:
Established in 1987, TSMC is the world's largest dedicated semiconductor foundry. As the founder and leader of this industry, TSMC has built its reputation on offering advanced wafer production processes and unparalleled manufacturing efficiency. From its inception, TSMC has consistently offered the foundry industry's leading technologies to its customers. The company's manufacturing capacity exceeds 8 million 8-inch equivalent wafers in 2007, while its revenues represent some 50% of the dedicated foundry segment in the semiconductor industry.
TSMC operates two advanced 300mm wafer fabs, four 8-inch wafer fabs, and one 6-inch wafer fab. Fab operations are centralized in Taiwan, primarily in the Hsinchu Science Park and the Tainan Science Park. TSMC fabs are also located in Camas, Washington (WaferTech), Singapore (SSMC, a joint venture with NXP Semiconductors), and Shanghai, China.
United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC)
We're adding this silicon fab to our MMIC suppliers list, as UMC offers RF CMOS. Thanks to Mohan! From UMC's web site:
UMC is a leading global semiconductor foundry that provides advanced technology and manufacturing services for applications spanning every major sector of the IC industry. Founded in 1980 as Taiwan's first semiconductor company, UMC is the world's foundry technology leader, consistently first-to-market on advanced processes and possessing the highest number of semiconductor patents in the industry. UMC's customer-driven foundry solutions enable chip designers to leverage the strength of the company's leading-edge processes, which include production-proven 65nm, 45/40nm, mixed signal/RFCMOS, and a wide range of specialty technologies. The company employs approximately 12,000 people worldwide and has an extensive network of service offices in Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, Europe, and the United States to meet the needs of its global clientele.
United Monolithic Semiconductor (UMS)
The country that developed the venerable Maginot Line now offers some pretty good millimeter-wave MMICs. Actually, UMS is a joint venture between French and Germans. You can't make this stuff up. What's next, are they going to move into the old Krup's cannon factory?
UMS's technologies are capable of 100 GHz operation, and they are betting that automotive radar will one day pay them back for all the money they've spent on their four-inch fab line.
UMS offers a lot of LNA, power amp, mixed-frequency products, with some surprisingly impressive performance. They also have gallium nitride on their roadmap.
Want to know a secret? Hittite processes many of their millimeterwave MMICs in the UMS foundry! Don't tell them you heard that here!
Update October 2007: perhaps Microwaves101 needs to be taken out behind the woodpile for comments about the Maginot Line, according to this fan:
One is surprised that the only thing you have to say about France is a comment on the ML, far-fetched if anything, until one reminds oneself that you are an American, therefore a moron who was brought up by peasants who told him, bending over the cradle, that the French had a king, Louis the XIVth, but no electricity.
As to the rest of your intellectually indigent comment, the French and the Germans (and other European partners on occasions) have come up with many a joint venture since the end of WW2, including Europe, a space programme that left the arrogant NASA in the dust, a commercial aircraft programme which has not made the Old World more popular in Seattle, a number of successful military hardware programmes, and, last but not least, a movement which acted against the 2nd war in Irak in a debate where decency disputed arrogance until the latter shamed Uncle Sam by means of blatant military incompetence and body bags.
I looked at your juvenile web page "Unknown Editor". I would be touching if you were not at the age where others have grown up: you're pathetic.
Stewart, a U.K microwave engineer
Stewart brings up some excellent points from his @usa.com email address that he no-doubt typed on his Dell computer running Microsoft Windows prior to watching a Hollywood DVD. Unfortunately, like Larry Flynt, the Unknown Editor can't be fired for his lunatic rants. Speaking of Hollywood, Germany, England and France, here's three "peasants" that we all know and love, wouldn't have been a dream to have them all collaborate in a movie?
US Monolithics is now Viasat Advanced Microwave Products. Thanks to John!
This marketing jive came right off their web site, in October 2008!
We offer monolithic semiconductor design, millimeter wave MMICs, high power transceiver design, high levels of functional integration, high-frequency packaging, and design for low-cost manufacturing. Our capabilities cover the full range of frequencies from L- to W-band and we're agile enough to meet commercial, military, and space requirements. An array of packaging options fit different environmental and performance needs. Flexibility in our production allows us to make one-time unique products as well as cost-effective high volume products, and everything in between.
A company with almost the same name as the one below!
We've recently added (August 2010) Vectrawave at the suggestion of David from Down Under... and we shamelessly stole this info from their web site...
VectraWave was founded in 2006 to provide OEM's with a partner with well-rounded expertise in the most advanced Microwave, RF and Optical/RF technologies and design techniques. This unique combination of engineering and manufacturing depth is the cornerstone of component designs that enable improved system performance, lower manufacturing cost, and accelerated time to market.
VectraWave is focused on DC to millimeterwave single function to highly integrated semiconductors and ASICs, system-in-package (SIP) modules, and multi-chip modules (MCM) for microwave, RF and lightwave applications. SiP technology is being embraced as an ideal solution for applications that demand miniaturization with sophisticated functionality. SiP also provides the added benefit of compatibility with die design changes and integration of various die technologies (e.g., Si, GaAs, SiGe, SOI, MEMS).
Update October 2007: the name Velocium may soon be retire, Northrop has announced that Hittite will perform the marketing operation of these MMICs...
Velocium's foundry was once part of TRW, which was swallowed up by Northrop Grumman. Velocium offers a lot of millimeterwave products through W-band, this is their forte. Most of the catalog items are 0.15 micron PHEMT, but they have invested heavily in indium phosphide (InP) technology for internal programs.
Velocium chips are expensive for two reasons. They are processed on a three-inch fab line, and there is little competition for W-band MMICs they can charge what they want for now. In the future they will have a tough time with competitors such as UMS.
Velocium is one of the first MMIC vendors to advertise chips for the new "E-band" (70 to 90 GHz). Their HEMT product line has trouble mustering 4 dB of gain per stage at 85 GHz, so don't expect double-digit efficiency power amps here.
Viper another fabless MMIC company, with ties to the Newton Aycliffe (UK) fab that was bought by RFMD. founded by Drs. Mayock and Chan. The two had previously worked together at Filtronic Compound Semiconductors. Viper offers a surprising list of millimeter-wave MMICs to 94 GHz, including coverage of the commercial E-band. Established in 2008, they provide custom designs for clients as well as products. Thanks to Lehane for the suggestion!
Our only question about Viper is: why not spell it "Vipre"? Show some pride in British misspelling, like litre, calibre, theatre, metre...
June 28, 2006 was the last day that Vitesse traded on NASDAQ. VTSS was delisted but now trades over-the-counter.
This from Nameless Insider #44... "Vitesse has accomplished some amazing things in InP DHBTs (as participants in DARPA's TFAST program), with record published performances (at CSICS 2005). Unlike many other InP houses they really embraced DHBTs, and have what may be a very high yield, scalable technology. They're offering 300 GHz DHBTs as a foundry service. But they have some serious financial issues. I believe that their biggest revenues from InP come from making lasers as a foundry service for some partner (it was in their news), and it seems that they make most of their money in physical layer products, not from foundry. I'd bet good money that they'll ax InP soon, maybe sell to BAE (TFAST partner). Pure speculation..."
If you are looking for a huge offshore foundry to produce your GaAs chips at the lowest possible price, you should consider Win Semi.
WIN stands for "wireless information networking". Strategic alliances with companies like AWR and Plextek will help put Win Semi on the map.
Two micron emitter HBT and 0.15 gate PHEMT process on six inch wafers ensures that any job up to 100 GHz can expect a production ready environment. All wafers are fabbed in an ultra-clean class 10 environment by employees that make less than the original United States minimum wage.
WJ is now part of TriQuint.
Update May 2008: TriQuint announced it has completed its acquisition of WJ. A startup named Amp Tech bought the WJ foundry located in Milipitas California, TQNT didn't want it to play with this collection of aging semiconductor equipment.
WJ is a descendent of the venerable Watkins-Johnson company, located in San Jose and Milipitas CA, with about 200 employees. They have preserved some market share in commercial telecom and RFID industries, having divested from military stuff during the 1990s (that piece of Watkins Johnson is now part of M/A-COM, and soon to be part of Cobham). WJ offers gain-block amplifiers, covering DC to 6 GHz, very similar to Mini-Circuits and RFMD's offerings, but we are pretty sure that WJ processes at least some of the parts on their own fab line. WJ offers MESFET designs (part numbers start with AG), and HBT designs too (part numbers start with AH). The cool thing about WJ is that they inherited about the best pile of microwave application notes available on the planet, so be sure to check out their web site!
Xpert Semiconductor Inc.
Xpert is a supplier of epitaxially-grown GaAs wafers, in both four and six inch diameters. They are located in Taiwan, no doubt a convenient distance to Win Semi. They plan to double the capacity of their 4000 square foot facility to manufacture 3000 six-inch wafers per month by the end of 2004. That's enough GaAs to easily tile the roof of a good-sized house each year!
Here's a photo of one of Xpert's six-inch GaAs wafers, which is an image of something that most MMIC companies have never seen up close (thanks to Angela!)
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