Tessera Snaps Up 3D Chip Bonder Ziptronix for $39M

As electronic devices get smaller and more powerful, the chip technology inside them has to pack more punch in less space. Semiconductor technology company Ziptronix developed a more efficient and less expensive way to bond the chips used to make the 3D integrated circuits that offer greater performance from a smaller footprint. That technology now has a new home as part of Tessera Technologies.

Tessera (NASDAQ: TSRA) announced after the markets closed Thursday that it acquired Raleigh, NC-based Ziptronix for $39 million cash, a deal that the Silicon Valley company says will help speed up its ability to provide 2.5D and 3D integrated circuit solutions to its own semiconductor customers. San Jose, CA-based Tessera licenses its technologies and intellectual property to companies making smartphones, wearable devices, and data storage components.

The technology that led to Ziptronix’s founding in 2000 was originally developed at Research Triangle Park, NC-based RTI International. Ziptronix came up with a way to chemically bond chips via a process that can be done at lower temperatures than the norm—important, because high-temperature bonding methods can damage chips. The company raised more than $31 million in venture capital from a syndicate of investors that included Alliance Technology Ventures, Grotech Capital Group, and Intersouth Partners.

Ziptronix kept a fairly low profile in the Research Triangle, even after it began selling its products. Publicly disclosed licensing partners include Raytheon (NYSE: RTN), Tezzaron Semiconductor, and Sony (NYSE: SNE), which in March licensed Ziptronix’s technology to help make advanced image sensors. No financial terms were disclosed, but Ziptronix CEO Dan Donabedian said at the time that the Sony deal validated the company’s bonding technology in high volume applications.

Tessera says that Ziptronix helps make 3D chip stacking scalable and less expensive, adding that the company’s bonding technology addresses a wide array of semiconductor market applications that could top $15 billion annually by 2019.

“I’m confident that aligning our respective capabilities with our development expertise will help create a multi-hundred million dollar revenue opportunity for Tessera over the next decade as the industry continues to shift toward 3D-IC architectures,” Tessera CEO Tom Lacey said in a written statement.

Frank Vinluan is an Xconomy editor based in Research Triangle Park. You can reach him at [email protected] Follow @frankvinluan

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