Military aftermarket house sells fab; set to broaden offerings

TEMPE, Ariz. - Leaders of Lansdale Semiconductor Inc., an aftermarket integrated circuit manufacturer in Tempe, Ariz., sold their 1985-vintage 10,000-square-foot wafer fab to semiconductor startup Primarion Inc. on Feb. 3. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

Mar 1st, 2000

By John Keller

TEMPE, Ariz. - Leaders of Lansdale Semiconductor Inc., an aftermarket integrated circuit manufacturer in Tempe, Ariz., sold their 1985-vintage 10,000-square-foot wafer fab to semiconductor startup Primarion Inc. on Feb. 3. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

Selling the fab enables Lansdale to continue the work it has become known for, as well as to work with other wafer fabs to broaden Lansdale's product offerings, says Lansdale President R. Dale Lillard.

The move by Lansdale, which specializes in supplying obsolescent and generally unavailable replacement electronic components to upgrade military electronics, follows the current trend toward so-called "fabless" semiconductor manufacturing. The former Lansdale facility is a 4-inch wafer fab designed to yield 1.5-micron bipolar technology.

The sale involves a 5-year contract - with annual 1-year renewals - for Primarion, the new fab owner, to fabricate integrated circuits for Lansdale. The facility includes 10,000 square feet of office space in addition to the wafer fab.

"It's been a lot of work to keep the fab alive, and three of the past five years have been a terrible semiconductor recession. It's been a tough row to hoe," Lillard admits. "Now I get the milk and get to sell the cow, basically. I have a long-term contractual relationship with the new company, and they will support my catalog."

Selling the fab, which includes a Class 100 (ISO Class 5) cleanroom, frees Lansdale executives from the financial and management headaches of running a wafer fab, and helps them focus on obtaining obsolescent product lines from the big semiconductor companies, Lillard says.

"Over the last five years I've had this fab, it has literally taken cash away from Lansdale's ability to support the military," Lillard says. "It was necessary to support the military from a die point of view, but it limited my ability to purchase other product lines. We are now in a much better position to expand our product offerings, and my personal attention will be more focused on the military than it has been."

Lillard says freeing himself of the fab will help him move the nature of his company from a warehouse and chip fab of obsolete parts, toward product management. "In the past, when a customer wanted something not in my catalog we went to the original equipment manufacturer and would try and procure it. We will be able to broaden that service now," Lillard says.

Immediate interest for a Lansdale product expansion revolves around aftermarket Motorola phase lock loop chips, which are based on metal-oxide semiconductor technology fabricated by Mitel Semiconductor in Kanata, Ontario, Lillard says.

Lansdale officials built their foundry largely with equipment they bought from Philips Semiconductors, whose leaders in 1992 closed the Philips fab in Orem, Utah, Lillard says.

Lansdale sold to Primarion about half the floor space that Lansdale previously had occupied in Tempe, Ariz. Lansdale will remain in the portion of the Tempe office complex its leaders did not sell to Primarion, Lillard says.

Primarion specializes in high-speed analog and deep sub-micron digital semiconductors "to solve the emerging high-speed data integrity crisis," according to a company announcement. Toward this goal, the company is developing a technology its leaders call Active Signal Integrity Architecture - ASIA for short.

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