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Running 5G and AI, SOI wafer capacity will explode in China

FinFET and SOI are two development routes of wafer technology in the early 21st century. FinFET is used in standardized products, while SOI is beginning to bear fruit in specific areas, such as RF devices, AIoT chips, etc.

Soitec from France, with its unique Smart Cut technology, has become the main manufacturer in the SOI camp. Recently, they held a conference in Beijing to elaborate their latest strategic layout.

A key link

Soitec's own positioning is a connecting link in the whole wafer industry chain. Dr Thomas Piliszczuk, Executive Vice President of Soitec Global Strategy, said, "Our customers are chip generation factories that use our substrates to make chips. But we are very interested in the value of our products is the design enterprises, including terminal design enterprises, they want to reflect some differences in the design, the source of these differences is to optimize the substrate can reflect the value or advantages.

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Soitec, a 30-year-old company, established its manufacturing plant in Singapore in 2008 and entered Asia for the first time. In 2014, it established a partnership with Shanghai's Shin Ao Technologies to become a production partner. By 2019, its annual output of 200 mm wafers can reach 1.3 million wafers per year, and that of 300 mm wafers can reach 2 million wafers per year.

Soitec is proud of Smart CutTM technology, which can cut very thin and perfect silicon layer, superimpose on the insulation layer, and achieve different wafer combinations.

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In this combination, the best performance is RF SOI. Many devices in the radio frequency module of mobile phones, such as switches, low noise power amplifiers, harmonics, antenna tuners, are being used. If the middle layer is thicker, the power SOI can be produced and used in the power equipment of automobiles. If we want to correspond to system-level chips, there is FD SOI. In addition to the above several options, the assembly members also include POI for filters, optical SOI for servers and data centers, and products such as compound semiconductor substrates.

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And 5G technology will bring a broader space for these product combinations. According to the development path of 5G, its main spectrum is Sub-6GHz, which will evolve into millimeter-wave band in the future. Rich applications will accommodate a variety of SOI combinations.

According to Bernard Aspar, Executive Vice President of Soitec Global Business, RF-SOI will be the main force in 5G applications and performance will continue to be optimized. PD-SOI, FD-SOI (fully depleted optimized substrates) and other III-V compound substrates will also be widely used.

Another major application area will be AI. Taking AI edge calculation as an example, FD-SOI (fully depleted optimized substrate) will be very suitable for the above applications. "If it is a low-frequency computing device chip, that is, it does not need the high-speed and high-performance performance performance of the device, it can be achieved through FD-SOI. FD-SOI can also meet the challenge if higher computational performance is required at high frequencies. That is to say, the performance, speed and power consumption of the device control chip can be controlled by applying the base bias technology of FD-SOI. Bernard Aspar said.

Bernard Aspar cites several application examples, such as I.MX RT600 cross-processor of Enzhipu, next generation of LATTICELattice FPGA, Synaptics human-machine interaction interface controller, and Rockchip's IoT solution, all based on FD-SOI technology.

At present, FD-SOI technology has been supported by many manufacturers. According to Thomas Piliszczuk, Samsung launched FD-SOI at 28 and 18 nanometers, Risa in Japan launched FD-SOI at 65 nanometers, and FD-SOI at 12 nanometers will soon be available.

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The Most Future in China

Soitec has a long history with China. Since 2007, it has cooperated with some research institutions in China. "At that time, however, there were few kinds of products, unlike the expansion to 67 kinds now, and even more new products were planned." Calvin Chen, Soitec's head of global sales, told reporters.

In 2014, Soitec formally entered the Chinese market, signed a technology transfer contract with Shanghai's Xinao Technologies, and transferred Smart Cut technology to Shanghai. In 2016, we further cooperated with NSIG, Shanghai Silicon Industry Group. In 2018, Soitec became the first material supplier to join the TD-LTE Global Development Initiative.

So far, Soitec has established a good ecosystem collaboration relationship in China. From research and academia, to wafer foundry, Fabless, to OEM and network operators. "China Mobile, Huawei and ZTE are all the objects of Soitec's frequent communication, and Soitec has now become a partner of China Mobile's 5G Joint Innovation Center." Calvin Chen said.

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Calvin Chen is confident about the future: "China is the world's largest wireless communication market, and now all smartphones have RF-SOI devices in the RF front end. In the age of 5G millimeter wave, Soitec will provide more product portfolios, including FD-SOI." That's why Soitec has established a direct sales team in China, led by Calvin Chen.

However, these products landed in need of capacity follow-up. "That's why we signed a technology transfer contract with Shanghai Xinao nearly five years ago. They have successfully cooperated with many front-line customers in the past few years." Calvin Chen revealed that "the market is still expanding, Soitec will continue to expand production capacity, will be in the"Xinao side to increase more production capacity, from 180,000 to 360,000 pieces per year." Calvin Chen revealed.

According to Bernard Aspar, the new capacity in China will be used in the field of automatic driving, one part of which is the SOI of RF radio frequency, the other part is the power SOI.