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GlobalFoundries Makes Pure-Play Foundry Great Again!

GlobalFoundries Makes Pure-Play Foundry Great Again!
by Daniel Nenni on 02-09-2017 at 9:00 pm

The pure-play foundry business just got stronger and so did semiconductor manufacturing in the United States. As we all know, the fabless semiconductor industry started by utilizing extra capacity from traditional semiconductor manufacturers (IDMs). However, putting your designs in the hands of a competitor is not a good idea so the pure-play foundry business was born (1987) and has become more dominant every year, absolutely.

Today we still have a wide range of pure-play foundries but most of them have fallen behind and are still struggling with FinFETs (SMIC and UMC) or have stopped leading edge development all together (Powerchip, TowerJazz, Vanguard, Hua Hong, Dongbu, and X-Fab). As a result, the front door was left wide open for IDM foundries (Intel and Samsung) to bring leading edge technology to the insatiable fabless chip and fabless system companies.

That door is now closing with the GlobalFoundries acquisition of IBM semiconductor and the leading edge process development expertise that came with it. Further proof is the multi billion dollar expansion announcement GF made today (GLOBALFOUNDRIES Expands to Meet Worldwide Customer Demand).

GF’s name has come up quite frequently of late during conferences and customer visits, especially by the IP companies who are now developing IP for the GF 7nm process. Take a look at the customer quotes and let me confirm that I have heard significant GF chatter involving these companies and about a dozen more:

“GF has had a strong foundry relationship with Qualcomm Technologies for many years across a wide range of process nodes,” said Roawen Chen, senior vice president, QCT global operations, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. “We are excited to see GF making these new investments in differentiated technology and expanding global capacity to support Qualcomm Technologies in delivering the next wave of innovation across a range of integrated circuits that support our business.”

“Collaborative foundry partnerships are critical for us to differentiate ourselves in the competitive market for mobile SoCs,” said Min Li, chief executive officer of Rockchip. “We are pleased to see GF bringing its innovative 22FDX technology to China and investing in the capacity necessary to support the country’s growing fabless semiconductor industry.”

“As our customers increasingly demand more from their mobile experiences, the need for a strong manufacturing partner is greater than ever,” said Joe Chen, co-chief operating officer of MediaTek. “We are thrilled to have a partner like GF that invests in the global capacity we need to deliver powerful and efficient mobile technologies for markets ranging from networking and connectivity to the Internet of Things.”

The expansion involves their facilities in New York (FinFET), Dresden (FD-SOI, Singapore (CMOS), and the new fab in China (CMOS and FD-SOI), meaning GlobalFoundries is truly a global pure-play foundry:

  • US advanced manufacturing, New York Fab 8, we are expanding 14nm FinFET capacity by 20% as well as developing advanced 7nm FinFET technology by 2018.
  • European manufacturing, Dresden Fab 1, expanding 22FDX*® capacity by 40% by 2020 as well as developing 12FDX™ technology with expected tape-outs in mid-2018
  • Asia Pacific manufacturing, Singapore 300mm and 200mm Fabs, expanding 40nm capacity by 35% at 300mm, 180nm capacity at 200mm as well as adding new capabilities to produce industry-leading RF-SOI technology.
  • China manufacturing, Chengdu Fab 11, a new 300mm fab in joint venture with the Chengdu municipality to support existing 180/130nm technologies, production starting in 2018 and then focus on manufacturing GF’s commercially available 22FDX process technology, with volume production expected to start in 2019.

And of course we can all thank Sanjay Ja, one of my favorite semiconductor CEOs, for making the pure-play foundry business great again:

“We continue to invest in capacity and technology to meet the needs of our worldwide customer base,” said GF CEO Sanjay Jha. “We are seeing strong demand for both our mainstream and advanced technologies, from our world-class RF-SOI platform for connected devices to our FD-SOI and FinFET roadmap at the leading edge. These new investments will allow us to expand our existing fabs while growing our presence in China through a partnership in Chengdu.”

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