By Mark LaPedus
The complexity of today’s chips is forcing silicon foundries to expand on both the leading-edge and specialty-process fronts.
For example, GlobalFoundries is expanding in both areas. On the specialty process front, GlobalFoundries confirmed that it recently bought 300mm fab tools from Taiwan’s ProMos Technologies. Many of the tools will be used within GlobalFoundries’ 300mm fab in Singapore, which makes wafers based on various analog and mixed-signal processes. The idea behind this move is to offer “mixed-signal technologies with 300mm economies of scale,” said Michael Noonen, executive vice present of global sales, marketing, quality and design at GlobalFoundries.
On the leading-edge, the silicon foundry vendor recently expanded its technology platform offerings to five, including bulk planar, super-steep retrograde well (SSRW), fully-depleted silicon-on-insulator (minimum), fully-depleted silicon-on-insulator (maximum) and finFET.
Despite a recent setback with FD-SOI, GlobalFoundries will continue to offer the technology and also gave a ringing endorsement about FD-SOI. In March, Ericsson and STMicroelectronics announced plans to disband ST-Ericsson, a supplier of cell-phone chipsets, including an integrated applications processor based on FD-SOI. Ericsson will take on the design, development and sales of the LTE multimode modem products from ST-Ericsson. STMicroelectronics assumed the ownership of the integrated applications processor based on FD-SOI.
Meanwhile, for some time, GlobalFoundries and STMicroelectronics have had a foundry arrangement under which GlobalFoundries will make FD-SOI products on a foundry basis for STMicroelectronics. GlobalFoundries has not wavered in its support for FD-SOI, saying it will continue to provide the technology on a foundry basis for customers.
FD-SOI provides a viable option for customers, enabling them to differentiate their products, Noonen said. “We want to supply options to customers,” he said. “There is a tremendous amount of interest (for FD-SOI).”
Noonen is also seeing strong interest for its finFET process. GlobalFoundries, Samsung and TSMC have all accelerated their finFET process roadmaps. “We’ve accelerated it,” said Morris Chang, chairman and chief executive of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (TSMC), at a recent event. At the event, TSMC reiterated its finFET roadmap, saying it would move into “risk production” by the fourth quarter of 2013.
Like TSMC and Samsung, GlobalFoundries is in mass production for its 28nm processes and is ramping up its 20nm technology. “20nm will be a fast ramp,” Noonen said. “In general, 28nm is going to be a long-lived node.”
On the specialty process front, meanwhile, GlobalFoundries recently disclosed an initiative called “Vision 2015.” The initial phase of the plan will include a capacity expansion of its current Fab 7 300mm facility to be on a trajectory of nearly 1 million wafers per year, up from 600,000 wafers a year right now. The expansion is expected to be completed by the middle of 2014.
As part of that effort, GlobalFoundries wants to give analog- and mixed-signal customers a viable 300mm option to compete against the analog leader—Texas Instruments. For some time, TI has been in production within the world’s first 300mm analog fab, dubbed RFAB, based in Texas.
“We want to be the answer to that,” Noonen said.