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A Brief History of STMicroelectronics

A Brief History of STMicroelectronics
by Daniel Nenni on 02-27-2014 at 10:00 am

 STMicroelectronics is the result of the 1987 marriage between famed semiconductor companies SGS Microelettronica of Italy and Thomson-CSF Semiconductor of France. You may recognize the name SGS-Thomson which was replaced by STMicroelectronics in 1998. After the merger SGS-Thomson was ranked as number 14 in the top 20 semiconductor companies with revenue of $850M.

Currently STMicroelectronics is the 9th largest semiconductor company with net revenues of more than $8B in 2013. ST has a broad product portfolio serving customers across a wide spectrum of electronics applications including sense and power technologies, automotive products, and embedded-processing solutions.

Before the merger, both SGS and Thompson struggled against the fast moving American and the entrenched Japanese companies that made up the global semiconductor industry. Fortunately, both SGS and Thompson were backed by their respective governments which recognized the need for representation amongst the emerging semiconductor manufacturing industry.

SGS originally emerged as the semiconductor manufacturing division of Olivetti in 1957 to supply other Olivetti divisions. The growth of SGS was aided by Olivetti’s expansion and licensing agreements with Fairchild Semiconductor in the 1960s and 1970s. Unfortunately SGS was still very small in comparison to its American and Japanese rivals and unable to compete effectively in the global marketplace.

Thomson-CSF, a major electronics and defense contractor, emerged from France’s technological efforts in the 1980s as a series of business acquisitions and mergers. In the late 1980s the company separated the defense business (Thales Group) and the consumer electronics business (Thomson Multimedia). Thomson-CSF Semiconductor was then spun out and merged with its Italian counterpart Finmeccanica which was then merged with SGS. (This is a bit confusing so let me know if I got it right)

Pasquale Pistorio started his career with Motorola returning to Italy in 1980 to take a leadership roll with SGS and is credited with the creation of STMicroelectronics. Pasquale started by shutting down outdated manufacturing facilities and began the construction of a state of the art research and development facility in Grenoble France in the early 1990s. Having been a frequent visitor to this facility I can tell you what a marvel it was at the time. ST thrived under Pasquale’s leadership who was CEO until 2005.

The Grenoble campus is no longer a manufacturing facility but hosts many ST divisions including silicon and software design and fab process research and development. The neighboring Crolles site (above) is the silicon manufacturing center with a 200mm and 300mm fab. Crolles is at the base of the alps and is the most beautiful fab location I have ever been to, absolutely. The 300mm fab was part of the “Crolles 2 Alliance” which brought STMicroelectronics, TSMC, NXP Semiconductors (Philips semiconductor) and Freescale (Motorola semiconductor) together to jointly develop process technologies.

Today ST has approximately 45,000 employees, 12 main manufacturing sites, advanced research and development centers in 10 countries, and sales offices all around the world. ST operates a worldwide network of front-end (wafer fabrication) and back-end (assembly and test and packaging) plants. ST’s principal wafer fabs are located in Agrate Brianza and Catania (Italy), Crolles, Rousset and Tours (France), and in Singapore. ST also has world-class assembly-and-test facilities located in China, Malaysia, Malta, Morocco, the Philippines and Singapore.

On the process side ST is leading the way with advanced FD-SOI (Fully Depleted Silicon-on-Insulator) technology which is a frequent topic of conversation on the SemiWiki STM landing page.

More Articles by Daniel Nenni…..

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