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AMD foundry spinoff christened 'GlobalFoundries'

Posted: 06 Mar 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:AMD foundry spinoff? GlobalFoundries company? U.S. fab?

The new silicon foundry spinoff from Advanced Micro Devices Inc. dubbed GlobalFoundries has officially opened for business and disclosed its corporate name and unveiled its strategy.

GlobalFoundries has one 300mm fab in operation, with another two on the drawing board. The company will compete against other foundry vendors, but the startup has its sights set on market leader Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd.

Many of the details of GlobalFoundries have been expected and disclosed for months. Last year, AMD moved to split the company into two parts. AMD itself has now become fabless, as it spun out its manufacturing arm into a new and independent foundry vendor.

"We're beginning our business," said Doug Grose, CEO of GlobalFoundries, in an interview. "We see this as a game changer. There is a need to have an alternative (foundry) that is not set in Asia."

But the company is opening up for business amid a terrible downturn, in which foundries are losing money and seeing poor demand. "At some point, this (downturn) is going to turn," he said.

GlobalFoundries is a joint venture between AMD and the Advanced Technology Investment Co. (ATIC) of Abu Dhabi. Under the current plan, AMD will own a 34.2 percent stake of the foundry venture, while ATIC will own the remaining shares.

The new foundry venture will have 2,800 employees. Some 300 are based in the United States. As expected, GlobalFoundries will service the manufacturing needs of AMD and other customers, putting the new foundry company in direct competition with SMIC, TSMC, UMC, and, to some degree, Chartered, IBM, Samsung and others.

Last October, the foundry spinoff became the latest member in IBM's "fab club," which also includes Chartered, IBM and Samsung. The spinoff will gain access to IBM's common platform technology, including its 32nm technology. The 32nm process, to ship by year's end, includes high-k and metal gates.

Ready for battle
Technically, GlobalFoundries is now making 45nm processors for AMD. The company will focus on the leading edge and find customers that are doing 32- and 28nm designs, said Grose, formerly senior VP of manufacturing operations at AMD.

The company also sees itself going toe-to-toe with the market leader. "The focus is TSMC," he said. "Someone needs to stay ahead (in process technology) and get ahead of TSMC."

Initially, it appears the new foundry vendor will fight for business at ATI. The graphics chip arm of AMD, ATI has the bulk of its chips made on a foundry basis at TSMC. "We are looking at a piece of that graphics business," he said.

Time will tell if it can compete against TSMC. Many have tried and many have failed. The new foundry vendor may have a better shot at competing against Chartered, Samsung, SMIC and UMC.

Analysts have mixed opinions. The market is looking for another leading-edge foundry alternative to TSMC, said Doug Freedman, an analyst with Broadpoint.AmTech.

Bill McClean, president of IC Insights Inc., said that the new foundry venture may not have the capital to keep up with TSMC.

The startup is off to a running start. The main fab for GlobalFoundries is Fab 36 in Dresden, Germany. Previously owned by AMD, that 300mm fab is currently making 45nm processors for AMD. GlobalFoundries is also proceeding with plans to expand its Dresden-based manufacturing lines by bringing a second 300mm manufacturing facility with bulk silicon capabilities online in late-2009.

The Dresden cluster will be re-named Fab 1, which will have two modules. Module 1 will initially focused on the production of high-performance, 45nm silicon-on-insulator technology. Module 2 will be the soon-to-be completed 32nm (and beyond) bulk silicon facility.

It is moving ahead with its previously-announced fab in New York state. In addition to Fab 1, the company also plans to begin construction on a new, 300mm fab in 2009, with plans to eventually process 32nm devices. The $4.2 billion manufacturing facility is located at the Luther Forest Technology Campus in Saratoga County, New York.

This new facility will be named Fab 2 and is expected to create approximately 1,400 new direct jobs and more than 5,000 indirect jobs in the region.

Bucking the trend towards offshore production, "we're building manufacturing capacity onshore," the CEO added.

- Mark LaPedus
EE Times





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