InZiv raises $10M; Tower president joins the board

Jerusalem-based InZiv, developer of nanometric testing and inspection system for flat panel displays, has completed a raise of $10M in a Series A1 round led by BlueRed Partners, a Singapore based venture capital fund, together with the Israeli OurCrowd and some other Asian investors. The company has also announced that Itzhak Edrei, President Emeritus of Tower Semiconductor, will be joining the Board of Directors. 

InZiv was founded in 2018 by CEO David Lewis and CTO Rimma Dechter, both earned their PhD in Applied Physics at Hebrew University with specialization in optical nanometric. The company has developed verification and quality control system based on optical and metrological technology in nano scale. This technology is intended to be used by flat panel display (FPD) manufacturers, such the ones used in smarthphones, and AR smart glasses.    

The significant improvement in resolution and sharpness of advanced displays currently in the market, such as MicroLED, OLED and QLED is achieved due to the pixels minimization, which are the smallest controllable elements of a picture represented on the screen. As pixels are smaller, more of them can be condensed in the screen, bringing much better quality to the picture displayed. In past generations’ screens, pixels’ size was hundreds of microns, while today we see screens with pixel size minimized to few microns only. This minimization trend, initiated by the smartphones industry, is expected to get boost by the AR/VR glasses industry, since in this area highest resolution is required due to the near-eye concept.

See within the pixel itself

However – as pixels are shrinking, they are more sensitive to defects in the production process. A grain of dust in the production line or microscopic discoloration may be the cause to a significant decrease in the quality of the finished product. This situation poses a complicated challenge to quality testing of the screens during production. Current testing equipment, which is based on standard microscopic optics, may detect defects at 1 micron (1000 nanometer) scale, something that highly limit these system’s capabilities to detect defects at the pixel level.

This technological flaw is ultimately reflected in a lower yield for the manufacturer, who has to discard the damaged screens and higher costs for the consumer. In an interview to Techtime at early 2019, right after the first fund raising, CEO and co-founder David Lewis talked about the current challenge in the market: “Current inspection equipment is fairly limited in the level of optical information it produces, making it difficult to locate defects and  comprehend the origin of the fault. Our inspection system, based on optical nanometric and precise metrological  implementations, makes it possible to achieve a 100 nanometer resolution. Since the resolution is higher, the manufacturer is capable of identifying defects in the early production phases and to detect the production flaw caused these defects. In more advanced screens, some of the defects are originated from within the pixel itself, something our system can detect”.

Intel to Acquire Tower for $5.4 Billion

Intel and Tower Semiconductor (based in Migdal Haemek, Israel), announced a definitive agreement under which Intel will acquire Tower for $53 per share in cash, representing a total enterprise value of approximately $5.4 billion. The acquisition supports Intel’s IDM 2.0 strategy to build a foundry services business. “Tower’s specialty technology portfolio, geographic reach and deep customer relationships will help scale Intel’s foundry services and advance our goal of becoming a major provider of foundry capacity globally,” said Pat Gelsinger, Intel CEO.

As a key part of its IDM 2.0 strategy, Intel established Intel Foundry Services (IFS) in March 2021 to become a major provider of U.S.- and Europe-based foundry capacity to serve customers globally. IFS currently offers leading-edge process and packaging technology, and a broad intellectual property (IP) portfolio. The transaction is expected to close in approximately 12 months. It has been unanimously approved by Intel’s and Tower’s boards of directors and is subject to regulatory approvals, including the approval of Tower’s stockholders.

Tower Semiconductor provides a broad range of customizable process platforms such as SiGe, BiCMOS, mixed-signal/CMOS, RF CMOS, CMOS image sensor, non-imaging sensors, integrated power management (BCD and 700V), and MEMS. It owns two manufacturing facilities in Israel (150mm and 200mm), two in the U.S. (200mm), three facilities in Japan (two 200mm and one 300mm) which it owns through its 51% holdings in TPSCo and is sharing a 300mm manufacturing facility being established in Italy with ST.

“With the addition of Tower, Intel is strongly positioned to bring more value to customers across the nearly $100 billion addressable foundry market.”

Tower join forces with ST in 300mm Analog Fab utilization

above: ST R3 300mm fab in Agrate Brianza, Italy. Source: IAA-NGO

STMicroelectronics (Geneva, Switzerland) and Tower Semiconductor (Migdal Haemek, Israel) have announced an agreement to operate together the ST’s R3 300mm fab under construction on its Agrate Brianza site in Italy. Both companies will accelerate the ramp-up of the fab. ST and Tower will share the clean room space and the facility infrastructure, with Tower installing its own equipment in one third of the total space.

The fab is expected to be ready for equipment installation later this year and start production in the second half of 2022. Both companies will invest in their respective process equipment and work together on the acceleration of the fab qualification and subsequent ramp-up. Operations will be managed by ST, with select Tower personnel seconded to ST in specific roles to support fab’s qualification, volume ramp-up and other engineering roles. In the early stage 130, 90 and 65nm processes for smart power, analog mixed signal and RF processes will be qualified in R3.

This will enable an optimal utilization of the fab almost right from the early stage of production”, said Jean-Marc Chéry, President and CEO of STMicroelectronics. “The products manufactured in Agrate R3 will support the automotive, industrial and personal electronics markets. They will contribute to ease the supply tensions in a wide range of applications in the mid to longer term.” Tower CEO, Russell Ellwanger, said that the agreement “will more than tripling Tower’s 300mm foundry capacity.”

To implement this project, Tower will establish a wholly-owned Italian subsidiary. Tower Semiconductor provides foundry services based on customizable process platforms such as SiGe, BiCMOS, mixed-signal/CMOS, RF CMOS, CMOS image sensor, non-imaging sensors, integrated power management (BCD and 700V), and MEMS. It operates two manufacturing facilities in Israel (150mm and 200mm), two in the U.S. (200mm) and three facilities in Japan (two 200mm and one 300mm) through TPSCo. Tower’s revenues for the full year 2020 totaled $1.266 billion.

Tower Semiconductor Introduced new in-Chip Capacitors

Tower Semiconductor announced a newly developed galvanic capacitor technology integrated with its 0.18um power management and mixed signal platforms, enabling  up to 12kV isolated gate driver and digital isolator ICs. The company said that its new in-chip high capacity capacitors, enhance safety and power efficiency for applications in the automotive, green power and industrial markets, addressing an estimated $1B market.

The new technology offers a cost and size advantage thanks to the integration of the galvanic isolator, saving the need for an additional device. Lead customers are prototyping initial products addressing applications such as battery chargers, power supplies and motor drivers for electric and hybrid vehicles, solar inverters and wind turbines power converters) and industrial applications.

“This new technology supports the needs of isolated power in high-growth markets such as electrical vehicles and other,” said Shimon Greenberg, Tower’s VP and General Manager of Mixed-Signal and Power Management Division. “The new technology augments our 0.18um power technology, supporting applications from 5V to 200V”.

TowerJazz is a manufacturing services provider of integrated circuits (ICs). Its technology is comprised of SiGe, BiCMOS, mixed-signal/CMOS, RF CMOS, CMOS image sensor, integrated power management (BCD and 700V), and MEMS. TowerJazz operates two manufacturing facilities in Israel (150mm and 200mm), two in the U.S. (200mm) and three facilities in Japan (two 200mm and one 300mm).

For more infotmation: Tower Semiconductor Power Management platform

Tower hit by cyber attack, some production disrupted

Tower Semiconductor’s IT security systems identified a security incident on some of its systems as a result of a cyber attack. The company announced that as a preventive measure, it had halted certain of its servers and proactively held operations in some of its manufacturing facilities, and has done so in a gradual, organized manner.

Tower has notified relevant authorities and is working closely with law enforcement organizations and with a team of experts, coordinated with its insurance providers, in order to recover the impacted systems as soon as possible. The Company has implemented specific measures to prevent the expansion of this event.

Tower Semiconductor provides manufacturing services for integrated circuits (ICs) in process platforms such as SiGe, BiCMOS, mixed-signal/CMOS, RF CMOS, CMOS image sensor, non-imaging sensors, integrated power management and MEMS. It operates two manufacturing facilities in Israel (150mm and 200mm), two in the U.S. (200mm), and three facilities in Japan (two 200mm and one 300mm).

In September 10, Tower announced that all of its manufacturing sites are operational, targeting full capability within the next few days. “Tower is confident of the functional quality of the work in progress and production line inventories, with Company and customer data remaining protected. Due to the manufacturing disruption, the Company expects some level of impact to its third quarter results.”

Semiconductor’s Industry under Attack

Cyber attacks pose a big risk to the highly connected semiconductor’s production lines. On May, 2020, the US-based MaxLinear discovered a security incident affecting some of its systems and immediately took all systems offline. On August, 2018, TSMC, a supplier for Apple’s SoC components and a major manufacturer for Qualcomm, fell victim to a variant of the WannaCry ransomware. The infection caused the company to stop production for two days. The shutdown was believed to have cost the company roughly $250 million USD and shipment delays.

According to the Taiwanese cyber security firm CyCraft, multiple organizations along Taiwan’s high-tech ecosystem were victims of an advanced persistent threat (APT) attack , which originated in the semiconductor industry and still continues to be a threat today. “APTs are professional cyber espionage actors that typically receive direction and support from nation-states and often target organizations with high-value information, such as national defense, financial, energy, or now, the manufacturing of semiconductors.”


Tower Semiconductor Announced ultra-fast RF Switch

Tower Semiconductor announced a new radio frequency (RF) switch technology with record figure of merit targeting the 5G and high-performance RF switch markets. The company is engaged with multiple customers and partners to bring this technology to market for next-generation products.

This new switch technology demonstrates a record RF device figure of merit: On/Off transition times (Ron Coff) shorter than 10 femtoseconds vs. 70-100 femtoseconds in use today for the most advanced applications. The switch performs over a wide range of frequencies spanning MHz to mmWave, including the frequency bands discussed for 5G.

The switch is also nonvolatile so consumes no energy when in the on-state or off-state, making it attractive for IoT, and other power and battery sensitive applications. Tower has demonstrated the versatility of this patented technology by integrating it with other process platforms such as SiGe BiCMOS and Power CMOS.

Tower Semiconductor will be offering multi-project wafer runs (MPWs) in 2021 for select customers. This model enables new customers to experience the technology in lower costs, by sharing the wafer in production with other interested parties. The new RF switch will be presented at IMS 2020 (International Microwave Symposium).

The abstract of Tower Semiconductor’s presentation in IMS 2020 reveals more details about the new technology: Two different sized layouts of four-terminal phase-change material (PCM) RF switches fabricated in a 200 mm silicon high volume manufacturing environment. Both layouts have with a record high FCO of 25 THz. Layout-A has a RON*C_OFF values of 6.2 fs, and Layout-B has a RON*C_OFF values of 6.3 fs.

Both layouts show minimal changes to RON or actuation voltage when cycled 10 million times. Also, a Layout-A device was cycled 1 billion times, demonstrating the ability of this RF switch to be used in high endurance applications.