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EETE OCT 2015

ams pres day Watching out for new sensing technologies: ams DBy Julien Happich uring the annual press day that ams AG organized at its headquarters last month, in Graz, Austria, CEO Kirk Laney was upbeat about the company’s future. The fab lite company recorded about 170 million euros of revenues during Q2 2015, a 60% increase over the same quarter last year, with gross margins in the 54% region (including acquisitionrelated costs). “Because we do the tough stuff, specialty analog designs, we can drive high margins even in the competitive consumer market”, commented Laney. The sensors and analog circuits company’s current capacity in its 200mm in-house fab is 180 to 190k wafer equivalent per annum, designing CMOS and specialty analog down to 180nm. But it has maxed out its capacity and ams is having a new fab custom-built by agencies of the State of NewYork that it will rent as a fully operational wafer fab for the next 20 years. The new fab is expected to add up in excess of 150k 200mm-wafer equivalent per year, while being 130nm capable. Production ramp is expected early 2018. “This is very critical for our company, because we use a fab-lite business model, so we can garner premium margins” explained Laney. “Adding that capacity will allow us to bring the costs down, we looked at certain places in Asia but we needed a dollar-based operation for the sake of currency stability, and this opportunity was just too good to pass up”. Although the company outsources some of its production to TSMC, UMC, or GloFo for its non-critical consumer and communication ams AG’s CEO, Kirk Laney unveils the company’s IoT strategy. products (making up 71% of its revenues), it wants to keep the industrial, medical and automotive products under close control on its own fabs. “That’s because when we operate with our in-house processes, we can tweak the transistors, and we have much better simulation models too, so we can achieve better design optimization. For the small volumes we outsource to them, the large foundries won’t bother tuning their process for us, hence some of our key IP would not be transferable to them”, told us Laney. The company also reserves about 10% of its in-house capacity for external customers, so the new fab will allow an extension of this capacity too. Laney expects the extension to be modular, as a gradual increase to balance its outsourcing demand. As for staffing the new facility, there are plenty of high tech businesses from whom to poach engineers, and ams is confident it will also be able to groom new graduates into successful ams engineers. Would this fab be MEMS-capable? “We won’t be touching gyros or accelerometers unless we can add our own capabilities to them” answered Laney who doesn’t want to see his margins shrink through commoditization. Laney briefly commented on the next CEO transition, with Alexander Everke to become the new CEO of ams in March 2016. As the former General Manager of Multimarket Semiconductors Business Unit and Executive Vice President of NXP, Everke came on board when ams acquired the environmental CMOS sensor business from NXP last summer. “We’ll be doing some road shows and working together over the 3rd and 4th quarters of this year, then he will take over during the first quarter of 2016 to lead ams to become a 1 billion Euros company within the next 3 to 4 years”. ams wants to be seen as the largest focused sensor semiconductor company, and it hopes to leverage the smartphonebased IoT sensors frenzy to grow significantly. Executive Vice President of Marketing and Strategy, Thomas Riener gave us his view on IoT, essentially, connecting sensors with big data via the internet to yield new forms of knowledge and insights. ams’ EVP of Marketing and Strategy, Thomas Riener surfing the IoT wave for which ams seems well prepared. 16 Electronic Engineering Times Europe October 2015 www.electronics-eetimes.com


EETE OCT 2015
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