29 June 2017
Single-crystal BAW RF filter firm Akoustis acquires MEMS wafer fab in New York
Akoustis Technologies Inc of Charlotte, NC, USA, which designs and manufactures patented BulkONE single-crystal piezoelectric bulk acoustic wave (BAW) high-band RF filters for mobile and other wireless applications, has completed the acquisition of assets from the Research Foundation for the State University of New York (RF-SUNY) and its affiliate Fuller Road Management Corporation (FRMC), paying $2.75m in cash at closing (plus conventional closing costs including a $96,000 net inventory adjustment).
The assets include STC-MEMS, a 120,000ft2 commercial wafer manufacturing facility in Canandaigua, NY (including Class 100/Class 1000 cleanroom space) and micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) business together with all associated 150mm wafer processing tools, as well as 57-acres of associated real-estate.
The assets also include:
- Two existing leasehold tenants with recently extended, multi-year leases.
- US Department of Defense (DoD) Category 1A Trusted Foundry accreditation for MEMS processing, packaging and assembly (Akoustis is currently pursuing the required security credentials needed to transfer this, aided by support from New York Senator & US Senate Minority Leader Charles ‘Chuck’ Schumer in a letter to US Secretary of Defense General James Mattis).
“Completing the successful transfer of the Defense Department’s Trusted Foundry accreditation is a win-win to enable Akoustis Technologies to grow new jobs while maintaining a trusted supply-chain of locally produced components needed by the Defense Department,” comments Schumer.
To support and motivate its expansion into Upstate New York, Empire State Development (ESD) has offered Akoustis up to $8m in performance-based incentives under the Excelsior Jobs Program.
The acquisition “immediately provides a step-function improvement in our ability to design and manufacture our patented BAW RF filters and will accelerate our timeline into commercial production,” says Akoustis’ CEO Jeffrey Shealy.
The acquisition allows the firm to internalize manufacturing, providing substantial capacity and control of its wafer supply chain for single-crystal BAW RF filters. Akoustis plans to utilize the NY facility to consolidate all aspects of wafer manufacturing for its patented high-band RF filters targeting mobile and other wireless markets. Consolidation of the firm’s supply chain into the facility is intended to reduce wafer cycle time for its RF filter products and enhance its ability to service customers. Shorter wafer cycle time reduces time-to-market, providing the opportunity to increase the number of customer engagements, it is expected.
“Over the past 90 days, our management and board have had the opportunity to engage with the employees at STC-MEMS,” says co-chairman Dr Art Geiss. “The team we have transitioned from STC-MEMS to Akoustis is extremely valuable and provides a critical component to expanding our manufacturing center-of-excellence in New York State.” Akoustis’ staffing has hence risen from 28 to 55.
After a detailed review of STC-MEMS’ customer programs, Akoustis plans to transition up to $1.5m of existing MEMS revenue in fiscal-year 2018.
Akoustis is addressing market requirements for improved RF filters, targeting higher bandwidth, higher operating frequencies and higher output power compared with incumbent polycrystalline BAW technology. Performance is driven by the advances of high-purity, single-crystal piezoelectric materials and the resonator-filter process technology. The material properties drive electro-mechanical coupling, which translates to wide filter bandwidth. High-band RF filters are achieved by leveraging the firm’s high-sound-velocity, single-crystal piezoelectric materials, which offer high thermal conductivity along the path of heat flow, enabling high power handling capability of the RF filter.