Tronics Microsystems SA (Grenoble, France) was formed in 1997 as a spin out from the French government owned CEA-Leti research laboratories to commercialize customer-specific MEMS manufacturing technology.
In September 2013, the company appointed semiconductor veteran Pascal Langlois as CEO and there are signs that Langlois now plans to move things along; introducing new technologies, pushing into new application sectors and taking the company to an initial public offering (IPO) of shares.
Langlois had previously been chief sales and marketing at ST-Ericsson, the ill-fated mobile processor joint venture. Before that Langlois had served NXP Semiconductors as sales and marketing senior vice president. Before that he had come to Philips Semiconductors along with its acquisition of VLSI Technology Inc. in 1999.
But with a history in traditional CMOS integrated circuits Langlois has had to adapt. A MEMS foundry is not the same as a conventional CMOS logic foundry. It is much smaller in terms of wafer throughput – because MEMS elements themselves are so small – and much more diverse. Each product can require a unique twist on a more generic MEMS manufacturing process and the work Tronics does often extends into custom packaging and IP creation alongside its customers, which are more like partners. It even sees Tronics making some products under its own name, something that is frowned upon in the CMOS domain because of issues of competing with customers.
"We are doing a few things under our own name. High performance inertial accelerometers and gyroscopes are some of them. There are special reasons behind for that," said Langlois. This is mainly where Tronics is manufacturing for military customers who wish the MEMS to be manufactured in continental Europe for strategic supply-chain reasons. "But foundry is the main part of our business with operations in Grenoble and Dallas with 70 and 20 people at those locations, respectively. About 70 percent of our revenue is foundry and the rest in other business," Langlois told EE Times Europe.
To date Tronics has not generally tried to compete in the lower accuracy, fast moving consumer business. It prefers to build engineering relationships with customers and create high value add MEMS sensors. This is reflected in the breakdown of sales which is about 70 percent in industrial sector, 15 percent in aerospace, military and security and about 10 percent in life-sciences by way of so-called bioMEMS. "We have small percentage in the consumer sector," said Langlois.
But Langlois' background is in mobile and consumer electronics. Could that small percentage in consumer be about to change?