Tom's Hardware Visits STMicroelectronics In Rennes, France

Chris Angelini: As many of you know, Tom's Hardware is an international organization. We have teams of writers in the U.S., Germany, Italy, Russia, and France. Last year, our friends based in Paris had the opportunity to visit STMicroelectronics' factory in Rennes. The following story recounts their experience learning about the company's history, its current projects, and future aspirations. Their nationalism shines through, but they think they have something to be proud of in STMicro's achievements. We welcome you to read on.

"French factory," they say, is almost an oxymoron. When was the last time you saw a news story about the success of a manufacturing plant in the land of Beaujolais and Brie? I won’t even ask for the last time you heard about a semiconductor fab operating in France that’s actually hiring because it continues to meet a growing demand and manages to stay competitive. The poor overall economic picture and pessimistic approach newspapers like to take in speaking of the electronics industry in France would lead you to think that that scenario is utopian at best.

So, imagine our surprise when a source told us the STMicroelectronics plant in Rennes was recruiting. Don’t get us wrong. We believe firmly in French and European expertise, of which innovators like Crocus Technology, SOITEC, and STMicroelectronics are proof. But a French semiconductor plant that’s not moving offshore and is actually hiring in the middle of an economic crisis? We decided we had to investigate. Lo and behold, not only is the story true, but the site in question recently made news because its circuits were built into Curiosity, the robot rover that landed on Mars.

So we sat down with Patrick Galloy, CEO of STMicroelectronics Tours SAS. He heads the Rennes site as well as the plant in Tours, which employs 1500 people. He was joined by Jean-François Vadrot, manager of the High-Reliability Aerospace Products Business Unit. STMicroelectronics is a French-Italian semiconductor company with a broad catalog of products, including everything from SoC (System-on-Chip) solutions to Digital Signal processors (DSPs) and components for the consumer electronics, automotive, and many other markets. But it's known on Tom's Hardware largely for its MEMS (MicroElectroMechanical Systems).

Between them, the two men have 30 years of experience in the French semiconductor world. They direct one of the sites that’s less well-known to the general public and yet shows significant growth in a niche market for components used in aerospace applications. They agreed to answer our questions about the business line that is responsible for the Rennes plant’s current success, and they also opened their doors to our cameras. What follows is mainly drawn from that conversation. We decided not to print the entire interview, but instead to give you a history of the site, the development of its aerospace-high reliability components business, the challenges such an operation faces, and the plant’s future outlook. It’s no fairy tale, but it is a story that deserves to be told.

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  • Scionyde
    "The poor overall economic picture and pessimistic approach newspapers like to take in speaking of the electronics industry in France would lead you to think that that scenario is utopian at best."

    Maybe I'm missing something obvious, but isn't 'utopian' the exact opposite of the word you were intending to use there?
  • vancedecker
    This is really cool. A totally unexpected article in the swamp of cell phone reviews and press releases, on other sites...
  • blackmagnum
    Vive la France !
  • army_ant7
    I'm thinking that "utopian" was used in a way to mean something highly unachievable, unlikely, or unfeasible. I'm not sure how that would apply though and I can't speak for the author. I'm not sure if this helps explain that...
  • jasonelmore
    well written article. Keep more content like this coming.
  • vaughn2k
    "Once the die is mounted in its case, the wires must be soldered to connect the chip and the pins. This operation can seem archaic compared with the processors used in PCs or smartphones, whose dies are connected via direct contact with bumps on their epoxy carriers." - The wire is not soldered to the pins but welded using an ultrasonic force + power - or Ultrasonic wirebonding. The head of the tool where the wire (either it is an Al or Au wire) comes out, generates this combination of ulrasonic energy to be able to connect the die pad and pins. If an Au wire is used, the process adds a thermal property, which is also called thermosonic bonding. CPU and smart phone chips (and virtually all chips) uses the same process. However, most assembly uses Au wire or Cu wire, instead of Al wire. Another process that is used o intorconnect chips to substrate is called flip-chip bonding, or soldering or ILB (inner lead bonding), and then going into the process of underfilling, to protect these interconnects.
  • vaughn2k
    "The testing also checks for the presence of particles inside the packages" - It is called PIND test (Particle Impact Noise Detection). It is in MIL-STD 883E method 2020.8 -- ;)
  • vaughn2k
    damn this refesh button..... :( sorry for the double post..
  • WyomingKnott
    What double-post? I don't see one.

    More practically, you should be able to delete your own post by going to the forum version of the comments. Click on the blue icon with quotation marks, full-edit the duplicate post, and there should be a delete button.
  • Anonymous
    Hey, and what about Goodram? Isn't it the last european based manufacturer of ram, flash, ssd etc? Can you please make a small trip there as well?