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Mini-Circuits Earmarks US$50M for LTCC Production

The steady demand for wireless products has prompted New York-based semiconductor company Mini-Circuits to invest US$50 million for the manufacture of a new IC component at its Penang facility.

The component is a low-temperature cofired ceramic (LTCC) component that was designed jointly with two foundries in Belgium and Taiwan. Mini-Circuits' four design centers located in New York, California, Israel and India were involved in the development work.

LTCC enables circuits to be designed and printed onto ceramic. Unlike traditional circuits designed on a flat circuit board, LTCC can be created in three dimensions, bringing the size down. Reduced size means lower costs and improved repeatability.

Datuk Kelvin Kiew, Mini-Circuits Technologies Malaysia Sdn Bhd chairman and president, noted that the LTCC will be used in radio telecommunication systems.

"The LTCC is a thin piece of ceramic package that can incorporate 20 layers of circuitry in one ceramic substrate allowing it to act as a semiconductor chip. This enables very high-speed wireless applications," he said.

Kiew added that the IC will complement the company's core production of radio frequency (RF) mixers. Mini-Circuits Inc had set up an RF and microwave component design center in Penang in 2000.

Penang Facility

The Penang facility, opened in 1999, began the manufacturing, assembly, testing and distribution of the LTCC early this year.

"Presently, we sell about 60 million RF mixers to 80 countries. We hope the sales of our LTCC will exceed this amount in two years time when the market for it picks up," Kiew said.

Mini-Circuits Technologies is working jointly with several Penang companies to produce precision-tool mechanical parts for satellite transmission stations. In addition to R&D, manufacturing and logistics, the Penang facility also serves as Mini-Circuits' global procurement and warehousing center. With 11 plants worldwide, Mini-Circuits is one of the world's major RF suppliers with clients such as Cisco, Ericsson, Fujitsu, Motorola, NEC and Nokia.

Plans are also underway to open a sales office in Shanghai, China, to complement the recently set-up Taiwan operations. The two offices will cost the company US$20 million and are aimed at servicing its customers in the two sales territories.

Major calamities such as the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak, the Iraq war and the 9/11 tragedy are said to have had little impact on the company as it managed to grow by 10% in the last two years. Mini-Circuits Technologies currently manufactures and exports a range of mixers, amplifiers, switches, transformers and attenuators to customers across the region and globally.

"We are lucky to be in the business of wireless communication products that are less sensitive to the economic slowdown compared with others," noted Kiew.

by Anita Devasahayam

(October 2003 Issue, Nikkei Electronics Asia)

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