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Foundry 2.0: The Driver of Innovation in the Mobile Era

12 July 2013

Today’s microelectronics and nanotechnology development are technically complex and hugely expensive and the industry needs a new model. That was the message from GlobalFoundries Chief Executive Ajit Manocha, who gave the keynote address at this year’s SEMICON West conference in San Francisco, earlier this week.

Manocha challenged the semiconductor industry to adapt the ecosystem to face the challenges of rapid product development demanded by mobile sector, which has become the industry’s primary driver of innovation and a catalyst for the industry’s transition to nano-scale semiconductor technology.

But today’s semiconductor manufacturers are not prepared for the challenges, Manocha said. He argued that foundries, of which GlobalFoundries is ranked the second largest in the world, are uniquely positioned to ease the transition. Collaboration among the biggest foundries, he said, is key to the semiconductor industry’s financial success.

“Mobile devices are outselling PCs,” Manocha said. “More people access the internet through their phones or tablets than their desktops. Semiconductor consumption by mobile applications surpassed that of PCs last year for the first time. What does this all mean to the electronics industry and the semiconductor infrastructure that supports it?”

One thing it means, he said, is more complexity. “A much more interconnected ecosystem defines this new reality, and companies are jockeying for position to align with the right partners and technologies.”

The old model of manufacturing is not designed for this level of interconnectedness, Manocha said, and will not satisfy the needs of the future. Fabless semiconductor companies have been successful for the last couple of decades, but the model needs tweaking. “Clearly, we must change -- call it Foundry 2.0,” he suggested.

A new paradigm of collaboration

Given the complexities of the technologies and the enormous costs involved to take products from “lab to fab,” collaboration is the only path to the future, according to Manocha.

An example is the recently created consortium centered at the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering in Albany, New York. A $4.5 billion project, the Center brings together a diversity of companies including IBM, GlobalFoundries, Intel, TSMC, Applied Materials, Tokyo Electron, and others to tackle the technical challenges for manufacturing 450 mm wafers.

“With daunting technical challenges like 3D stacking, 450mm fabs, new transistor architectures, multi-patterning, and the long-term viability of extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography, higher levels of collaboration – early, often and deep – is really the only practical approach given the cost and complexities involved,” said Manocha.

Elements of success include: a much closer joint development at the technology definition level; early engagement at the architectural stage, and a more integrated and cooperative ecosystem involving EDA, packaging, and IP companies. “Collaborative device manufacturing partnerships will evolve,” he said, “and revise the true spirit of win-win on which the fabless-foundry model has always been based.”

This theme of collaboration as the key to managing the complexity and cost of development of the next generation of devices is carried throughout the three-day conference.

To contact the author of this article, email abe.michelen@ieeeglobalspec.com


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