Semiconductor Plant Called Great News for UT Dallas

TI Facility’s Mission Complements Engineering School's Analog Initiatives

Sept. 30, 2009

Texas Instruments’ announcement that it will start manufacturing analog chips at its cavernous Richardson semiconductor fabrication plant is outstanding news for analog researchers and students at UT Dallas, according to Kenneth K. O, director of the Texas Analog Center of Excellence, or TxACE.

Front of the Richardson fabrication plant
  Kenneth K. O says there are significant advantages to having Texas Instruments' plant close to UT Dallas.

“Analog circuit design requires particularly close collaboration with manufacturing, so there are enormous benefits to having the world’s first 300-millimeter analog manufacturing facility less than two miles away,” said Dr. O, who is also a professor of electrical engineering and holder of the Texas Instruments Distinguished Chair.

“One of our research thrusts is focused on making analog semiconductors more affordable and more robust, and having the plant here will enable us to do that right. This is a big deal.”

Known as RFAB (for Richardson fabrication plant), the facility will manufacture analog chips on 300-mm (12-inch) silicon wafers. Those chips are essential components in virtually all electronics. The facility will give TI a strategic advantage in high-volume production because thousands of analog chips can be etched onto each of these wafers, more than double the number on the more commonly used 200-mm wafers.

TI’s customers use its analog chips in electronics ranging from smart phones and netbooks to telecom and computing systems. TI plans to ship the first chips from RFAB by the end of 2010, and the facility will ultimately be capable of shipping more than $1 billion in analog chips a year.

UT Dallas began benefiting from TI’s decision to build the fab in Richardson even before the company’s announcement about ramping up production there. As part of the original agreement between community and state partners, UT Dallas received more than $200 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund, the Texas General Land Office, the UT System and has sought private support to expand and bolster engineering research and education.

“The impact of RFAB’s creation on UT Dallas has been dramatic in terms of recognition and research activity,” said David E. Daniel, president of UT Dallas. “This project’s high profile has played a direct role in our efforts to become a nationally recognized research university.

“Texas Instruments could have gone anyplace in the world to build this facility, but it chose this location because of the raw material it provides: brains. Jobs follow brains, and the educational institutions of this area are ready to fill the needs of high-tech operations that require smart people,” Daniel said, noting the contributions as well of Collin College and the Plano and Richardson independent school districts.

Bob Helms, former dean of the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science at UT Dallas, was also on hand for TI's announcement ceremony. Now a professor of electrical engineering at the school, he was one of the architects of the project that resulted in the surge of funding for engineering and computer science at UT Dallas.

The timing of TI’s decision to inaugurate the RFAB as an analog facility dovetails nicely with the creation last year of TxACE, which is dedicated to helping shape the landscape for research in analog electronics, helping solve difficult problems facing analog designers and creating new fields in electronics that can help address various global challenges. It’s the centerpiece of a $16 million collaborative effort among Semiconductor Research Corp., the state through its Texas Emerging Technology Fund, TI, the UT System and UT Dallas.

Although digital technology tends to dominate high-tech news, analog technology is the workhorse responsible for taking real-world information such as sounds, images, smells, textures, temperatures and motion, translating it into digital form (for processing, storage or transmission) and then converting it back into real-world information.

“The majority of electrical engineering students specialize in digital electronics, but as the use of digital grows, the need for analog grows at several times that rate, so analog engineers are in great demand,” according to Mark Spong, current dean of the Jonsson School and holder of the Lars Magnus Ericsson Chair in Electrical Engineering. “Plus many engineers find analog more rewarding to work with than digital, and TxACE helps us convey the excitement of analog technology to students.”

TxACE researchers are working in particular on developing circuits and techniques that improve public safety and security, enhance medical care and help the U.S. become more energy-independent.


Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu

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“This project’s high profile has played a direct role in our efforts to become a nationally recognized research university," said UT Dallas President David E. Daniel at the ceremony announcing the facility startup.

Side of the building

The Richardson fabrication plant, known as RFAB, will produce analog chips on 300-mm silicon wafers.

 

Aerial shot of the TI plant

The facility is at Custer and Alma roads in Richardson, just west of U.S. Highway 75.

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