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July 12, 1993

SGS-THOMSON SHOWS OFF ITS CROLLES CHIP PLANT AND OUTLINES ITS PRODUCT PLANS

By CBR Staff Writer

SGS-Thomson Microelectronics NV has processed the first 8 wafers from its $200m semiconductor centre at Crolles, near Grenoble, France. The facility is set against the magnificent hills of the Chartreuse region and built with the munificence of France Telecom and its research centre, CNET, to develop advanced technologies to design rules under 0.7 microns. The first silicon came out from the 20,000 square feet of Class One clean room in May, but only as samples. Commercial shipments will start around September. Some of the targets for Crolles are a leap in the Flash generation from the current 1M-bit to 16M-bit by next year, in time to replace Eprom products which will be phased out by 1996. Static RAMs currently being produced as 1Ms will be available with 4M-bits by 1995-96 and vice-president, director of research and development, Joel Monnier claims it will be able to supply the cheapest gate arrays on 8in wafers in the world. There seems to be some disagreement on output levels.

Bicycles in the car park

Monnier said it will be 500 wafers per week by the end of the year, rising to 5,000 per week if needed. Pilot line manager Jean Goube puts the figures as 6,000 per month by 1994’s first quarter, and 10,000 monthly by the end of the year. Philips Electronics NV is also in the act, further to an agreement signed with SGS-Thomson in April 1992, which extends to the development of advanced CMOS logic processes below 0.7 micron, including computer-aided design rules, tools and libraries. CNET has 45 staff at Crolles and Philips, as indicated by the bicycles in the car park, have sent in 10 engineers from Holland, with eight more to follow in the autumn. It’s an impressive building, made of two separate concrete structures to minimise vibrations, and split into three functions: support and laboratories, manufacturing and mechanical centre. Designed only after extensive research into the suitability of the local air, water and ground vibrations, the temperature is a constant 22oC, humidity is 40% and vibration is less than 3.15u/s between 5Hz and 30Hz. The design follows the Japanese plan of putting air-recirculation units at the side of the building, rather than US style on the top. The units are in charge of changing the air in the clean room 540 times per hour, and 360 times hourly in the service areas. At the time of writing, the factory is not completely clean, but that should be achieved shortly. But as Monnier outlined his plans, a fly malignantly settled on the overhead projector, and later in the corridor outside the clean room another of Crolles’ winged beasties buzzed past. The new building adds to Grenoble’s attractions as a technological hotbed: SGS-Thomson already has research and development and manufacturing facilities, Digital Equipment Corp has a sales and marketing office, Hewlett-Packard Co has supplied all client personal computers from there since 1971. Grenoble makes a good base because of its environmental quality, its space, and its proximity to some of the best skiing in Europe. – Kate Potter

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