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Globalfoundries plans to start FD-SOI prod'n in Europe

Posted: 21 Jul 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Globalfoundries? FD-SOI? FinFET? Infineon? NXP?

Globalfoundries' Dresden wafer fab is being planned by the company to become the European More-than-Moore foundry that the local chip companies lacked the courage to commission. As such, the company could yet receive financial support from the European Commission to boost its presence in the region.

If that seems like a stretch lets examine the clues.

Globalfoundries is investing $250 million to develop and its own variant of a fully-depleted silicon-on-insulator (FD-SOI) manufacturing process and get it into production in Europe.

That's small beer compared with the billions of dollars spent in Malta, New York, which includes developing and then discarding a 14nm FinFET process and bring up an alternative 14nm FinFET process licensed from Samsung.

However, Globalfoundries said it is eager to spend more money to ramp production of 22nm FD-SOI in Europe if it becomes the winning process that CEO Sanjay Jha said it will.

Jha said FD-SOI could become more than 50 per cent of the output of the Dresden fab in 2018. That depends on how fast FD-SOI design wins ramp but also on how quickly Globalfoundries retires legacy bulk CMOS processes currently being run in Dresden. Jha also made the point that the myriad technology combinations that make up what has been called More-than-Moore could now be thought of as making up the mainstream of chip production.

No sooner than that was said than Germany's Federal Research Minister Johanna Wanka announced that her ministry would be putting together about $435 million programme of support for microelectronics.

Turning back the tide

That is German money being spent to ensure, amongst other things, that Silicon Saxony has the critical mass to go forward. The same players could yet qualify for much more money from the European Commission. The European Commission has as much as $5.5 billion it wants to spend in support of chip manufacturing.

That's the European Commission war chest set aside for the pursuit of its strategic goal of reversing the decline in chip manufacturing in Europe. It wants to invest the money across the supply chain to raise European chip manufacturing 20 per cent of global production. Unfortunately, Infineon, NXP and STMicroelectronics, the actors to whom it would normally turn to implement its policies, are all fab-lite and have expressed little interest in ramping their own digital manufacturing or in taking shares in a More-than-Moore foundry operation.

In November 2014 Khalil Rouhana, director for components and systems in the EC's DG CONNECT project, reportedly said: "What we are about is investment in Europe, whoever decides to invest. If it is not for the companies around the table today, then it is open to investment from somebody else."

Dresden is a relatively mature wafer fab that needs a new reason to exist or else face an extended period of decline as it watches investment pile into newer wafer fabs on other continents. So it can be seen that the ambitions of Globalfoundries' Dresden fab and the European Commission are well-matched.

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