While TSMC and Samsung are racing for sub-10 nm manufacturing processes, Globalfoundries has apparently made itself comfortable with being a spectator. CEO Dr. Thomas Caulfield made this impression with his keynote speech on Friday at the Globalfoundries Technology Conference (GTC) in Munich. And he gave reasons for this: »75 percent of the semiconductor market relevant to us can be served with production processes of up to twelve nanometers. In terms of market volume, this means 47 billion dollars.« If Caulfield's growth strategy is successful, Globalfoundries will in around five years no longer generate sales of $6 billion but $8 billion and produce 3 million wafers instead of the current 2.3 million.
But how can this be achieved without an active role in the race for the smallest structural size? The second largest semiconductor contract manufacturer in the world is relying on 12 nm FinFETs, its planar 22 nm FDX technology and even larger production structures. In other words: on already existing and developed technology. Investments are being made in a higher level of integration and the development of process design kits (PDKs). Globalfoundries recently acquired the PDK development team, that is 125 developers, from the Bulgarian company Smartcom.
Globalfoundries Technology Conference 2019New strategy relies on existing manufacturing processes.
The semiconductor manufacturer sees itself as a technical leader in low-power chips. Together with Dresden-based SoC designer Racyics, a microcontroller based on the 22FDX platform was developed for IoT applications with 100 MHz arm Cortex-M4F and 84 kB SRAM. It requires only 6.88 µW/MHz of power and can be operated at 0.4 V. A new function in 22FDX technology was used for this purpose: The threshold voltage of the transistor can be flexibly adapted to the required power consumption of the application. Adaptive Body Bias (ABB) is the name Globalfoundries gives to the function.
Specialization as New Strategy
Other markets that Caulfield believes can be served more efficiently with highly integrated chips than with highly miniaturized structural sizes are the automotive industry, data centers for cloud services, mobile devices and mobile infrastructure equipment. At the conference, Globalfoundries presented designs for a 77 GHz radar transceiver with 19 dB receiver gain based on 22FDX technology and low-power chips with high RF power for 5G antenna modules. The best ratio between power consumption, RF power and manufacturing complexity can be achieved with silicon-on-insulator (SOI) chips in 45 nm technology.
In order to serve these markets, Caulfield has initiated a realignment of the semiconductor manufacturer: The production site Fab 3E in Singapore with 600 empolyees was sold, as was the 300-mm production facility in Fishkill that was acquired from IBM just a few years ago. The latter was for the production volumes targeted for the future no longer scalable enough, according to the management.
The 200 mm Fab 9 and Giga Fab as well as the 300 mm Fab 1, Fab 7 and Fab 8 (Fig. 3 in the picture gallery) are to be expanded. »We can increase our production output by 40 percent even without a new Fab,« says Caulfield. The moste potential for this is in Fab 1 in Dresden, where production for the 22FDX technology is located. The production capacity of the factory, which currently has more than 3000 employees, can be almost doubled when fully expanded.