Trip Report: Fab Owners Association 1st Quarter Meeting

Contributed by Monica Takacs, Director of Marketing and Membership, MEMS Industry Group

On February 11, I visited sunny Arizona for the Fab Owners Association’s quarterly meeting hosted by Microchip, a provider of microcontroller and analog semiconductors. Microchip also provided attendees with a fab tour–an impressive facility and very interesting for me to see, because I don’t come from a manufacturing background.The meeting generally focused on the semiconductor industry, but there was representation from several MIG members including EV Group, SPTS, MEI LLC, Okmetic, and Lam Research Corporation.   Attendees were very optimistic about the future of the semiconductor industry and the general consensus was that the industry is doing much better than a year ago.

Guest speaker, Brian Matas from IC Insights, talked about the “10 Reasons to be Optimistic about the IC Industry in 2010” highlighted from the McLean Report 2010 Edition. Reasons included the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) raised GDP forecast for the US, the growth in China’s GDP, high fab utilization rates, and the rise of PC and cell phone sales.  He noted that the IC industry is traditionally cyclical and is currently on the upswing of the cycle. He expects the market for electronic systems to be strong for at least the next three years. Q1 2010 revenues have been better than Q4 2009 for many companies including TI, Altera, and Microchip.  Asia-Pacific has provided the current spark for growth, but a rise in oil prices might limit this growth.

MIG members Steven Dwyer from EVG and Andrew Tucker from SPTS both made presentations at the FOA meeting.  Steve and Andrew talked about their respective product lines and stressed their commitment to the MEMS industry.

Another interesting speaker was Iain Black from Philips Lumileds, makers of LED lights. Iain talked about LED technology as being in the stages of the “wild west.” Currently, there are no rules or standards. This reminded me a lot about the MEMS industry, also currently lacking standards. He talked about the LED industries use of silicon-alternative substrates including crystal, sapphire, and silicon carbide. LEDs are currently manufactured on 4 inch wafers, but he expects it to reach 8-inch in about 10 years.

While I was in town, I also met with Freescale Semiconductor and took a tour of their campus in Tempe. I learned a lot about this MIG member’s initiatives for manufacturing low-power and energy-efficient/green technologies, as well as the set of strict standards that they put in place for themselves to achieve the Energy Efficient Solutions mark.

Overall, it was a very informative trip. I learned a lot about fabrication issues and also met many interesting people. I just wish that there had been more time to network and meet with everyone that attended the FOA meeting–there were a few people that I just couldn’t find the time to talk to!

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