Tuesday, May 17, 2011

New MRAM plant for Russia

Joint venture with Crocus of the US
By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk

Crocus Technology, a US developer of MRAM technology is teaming up with the RUSNANO Russian nano-technology investment fund to start a new manufacturing joint venture with a combined investment totaling $300 million. Under the agreement, Crocus and RUSNANO will form Crocus Nano Electronics (CNE), to build an advanced MRAM facility in Russia, capable of manufacturing medium to high density MRAM products based on Crocus' Thermally Assisted Switching (TAS) MRAM technology at 90nm and 65nm lithographies.
Approximately $125 million will be invested in the first year for setting up CNE's MRAM facility in Russia. In addition, RUSNANO along with Crocus' existing investors CDC Innovation, Ventech, IDInvest Partners, NanoDimension, and Sofinnova Ventures will make an equity investment of $55 million into Crocus. An additional $120 million is slated to be deployed in subsequent years to increase production capability of the MRAM facility. Further investment to support upgrades to 45nm and finer lithographic processing is also incorporated into this agreement.
However, this is nowhere near enough cash for a 65nm plant, let alone a 45nm operation. While there may be facilities available for such a plant, the equipment cost is going to limit the production volume at this investment level.
The Russia-based CNE facility will use Crocus' technology to create the first dedicated magnetic memory wafer fab in the world capable of high volume manufacturing of MRAM devices on 300mm wafers with 90nm and 65nm feature sizes. The factory will be designed to add MRAM specific processing layers to standard CMOS foundry wafers. The production facility is scheduled to be in operation within two years and will be capable of producing up to 500 wafers per week. 
Expanded capacity of up to 1000 wafers per week is anticipated under a second phase of investment. In addition, CNE and Crocus plan to create a Learning Centre and a Development Ecosystem for advanced memory design and production in the Russian Federation. Crocus will invest over $5 million initially into Russian research organizations to develop advanced manufacturing solutions. This research investment will expand over time to include system-on-chip (SOC) capabilities for secure memory, network processing, and advanced computing.
"RUSNANO's investment reflects their commitment to breaking down international divides to stimulate the global nano-technology industry," said Bertrand F. Cambou, executive chairman of Crocus Technology. "We are pleased that RUSNANO has chosen to invest in Crocus' technology and is actively participating in building a unique Russian-based manufacturing facility that will serve a global market."
"We selected Crocus because we believe their technology is best-in-class and promises to bring differentiated MRAM products to market", said Anatoly Chubais, CEO and chairman of the Executive Board of RUSNANO, which started life in March and is 100% owned by the Russian Federation. It has already made $5.9bn of investments. "Crocus' executive team has a rich history of cooperation with Russian researchers. CNE and Crocus will be important elements of RUSNANO's strategy for establishing the microelectronics industry in Russia based on the world's best technology."
CNE's 90nm & 65nm manufacturing capability will enable Crocus to offer much higher density MRAM devices than currently available. Products manufactured by CNE will be marketed and sold worldwide by Crocus, excluding Russia and other former CIS states, while CNE will market directly within the former CIS. Crocus products sourced by CNE will address key markets such as storage, mobile communications, networking and cloud computing. In addition to general purpose memory applications, Crocus' TAS MRAM technology will serve specific uses in smartcards, network processing, biometric authentication, near-field communications (NFC), and secure memory. The unlimited endurance, non-volatility, and fast read/write performance of Crocus' MRAM technology are extremely valuable for many of these applications. Crocus' technology will be available for use in both standalone and embedded applications, addressing a total market opportunity of more than$40 billion per year.
The CNE joint venture will be complementary to Crocus' previously announced wafer foundry partnership with TowerJazz, which has successfully entered the final qualification stage, with production ramp of 130nm MRAM devices planned for late 2011. In addition, Crocus will continue to work with SVTC, its process integration R&D partner in San Jose, CA, to develop key manufacturing process steps to be used by CNE
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