TowerJazz and Soitec sign agreement to provide illumination platform for image sensors

TowerJazz, the global specialty foundry leader and The Soitec Group
(Euronext Paris), the world’s leading supplier of silicon-on-insulator
(SOI) and other engineered substrates for the microelectronics
industry, announced today that they have signed an agreement that will
enable a turn-key solution for high-end backside illuminated (BSI) CMOS
image sensors (CIS) for industrial, medical and automotive applications.

“The market for BSI CMOS image sensors replacing current
Front Side Illumination (FSI) technology is expected to reach $800M in
2013,” according to Jerome Baron, principal analyst at Yole
Developpement. “The BSI image sensor market will be mainly driven by
digital cameras and cell-phone applications, but high performance
imaging applications such as medical, industrial and automotive vision
sensors are also an important segment. We estimate the market for
high-end BSI image sensors to reach $120M in the same time frame.”

The TowerJazz BSI CIS offering will leverage the foundry’s
extensive expertise and leadership in CIS technology and will integrate
SOI substrates and Soitec’s new Smart Stacking circuit layer transfer
technology, customized for the TowerJazz fabrication process. Soitec is
the market leader in SOI wafers and circuit stacking solutions and
TowerJazz is well-known for its industry leading pixel performance.
This collaboration will enable a rapid ramp to a complete BSI foundry
solution that can be transparently utilized by TowerJazz customers.

Backside illumination is fast gaining traction in the image
sensor market for its higher resolution, smaller pixels that capture
far more light, higher quantum efficiency (QE), and improved
performance. BSI allows 100% fill factor of pixels maximizing photon
collection without any shading of metals. This provides very high light
sensitivity in high-end applications.

SOI substrates, which Soitec manufactures using its patented
Smart Cut process, make BSI much more robust to manufacture in high
volume. Soitec’s new Smart Stacking technology enables chip
manufacturers to leverage wafer-to-wafer level stacking through
low-stress bonding and high-precision thinning of partially or fully
processed circuits. It is particularly well suited to achieving low
cross-talk and better pixel quality in BSI CMOS image sensors through
access to the backside of the device.

“This is a unique offering in the foundry area and we will be
the first to offer such technology to customers as a foundry service.
Soitec’s SOI substrates and Smart Stacking circuit transfer technology
are an excellent complement to our industry-leading CIS technology,”
said Dr. Avi Strum, Vice President and General Manager, TowerJazz
Specialty Business Unit. “Our collaboration will result in
high-performance image sensors and will allow fabless designers to
create new generations of ultra-sensitive image sensors – which in turn
will enable exciting new applications for cinematography, DSLR cameras,
space cameras, and high-end medical cameras, among others.”

“This partnership will be a great advantage for the fabless
design community,” said Dr. Bernard Aspar, Vice President and Managing
Director of Soitec’s Tracit Business Unit, which developed the Smart
Stacking technology. “We believe TowerJazz’s excellent CIS technology,
combined with our best-in-class SOI substrates and unique Smart
Stacking manufacturing capabilities, will provide a comprehensive BSI
offering, enabling a turnkey solution for their CIS customers.”


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