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An Introduction To AMD Spin-Off Global Foundries
Date: May 04, 2009
Author: Marco Chiappetta
Global Foundries Fab 2

Early last week, we spent a day or so with a number of representatives from Global Foundries, learning about the company's plans for a new fab that will be built in upstate New York. The name Global Foundries may be unfamiliar to many of you, but the company's origins may not. If you remember back to October 2008, AMD and the Advanced Technology Investment Company (ATIC) of Abu Dhabi announced the creation of a leading-edge global semiconductor manufacturing company, born from AMD's existing fabrication infrastructure. That company officially became Global Foundries on March 2 of this year.


While touring the area in Upstate New York where Global Foundries plans to build its cutting edge fab, we heard from Jon Carvill, Director of Corporate Communications, Doug Grose, CEO, Jim Doran, SVP and GM of the existing Dresden facility, Terry Caudell, Director Wafer Manufacturing, John Pellerin, Director of Research & Development, Tom Sonderman, Vice President, Manufacturing Systems, and a number of representatives from the College of Nanoscale Science & Engineering at the University of Albany. Some of those names may ring a bell to those of you entrenched in technology, as the entire crew is made of former AMD, ATI, and IBM employees.


Fab 2 Project High Level Overview

The facility in Dresden, Germany formerly known as AMD's Fab 36, is now Global Foundries' Fab 1. For the time being not much is changing there for now. Module 1 of the Dresden facility will remain a high-performance SOI 45nm fab for the time being, but Global Foundries will also be offering bulk fabrication to customers soon through a second module scheduled to ramp production late this year.

What we were in NY to hear about, however, were plans for the new Global Foundries cutting edge Fab 2. Fab 2 will reside on the Luther Forest Technology Campus that lies in the towns of Malta and Stillwater--the border actually runs right through the property. Fab 2 will be a 300mm wafer manufacturing facility designed for 32/22nm process technologies. The plant will require an approximate $4.5B initial investment, have a 300,000sq/ft Class 100 Clean Room, and it is expected to come online some time in 2012. If all goes to plan, Fab 2 will be able to handle 35,000 wafer starts per month once fully ramped, and according to Global Foundries, it will employ over 1400 workers with about 5000+ spin-off jobs being created in the surrounding areas. For now, a single module will be built--Module 1--but the property can accomodate more. In fact, the blueprints are already there for an additional two modules, aptly named Module 2 and Module 3. In addition, all of the modules are laid out on the grounds in such a way that they can each be expanded if necessary.


Fab 2 Timline and Layout

The Luther Forest Technology Campus (LFTC) is comprised of roughly 1350 acres, of which Fab 2 will consume about 223. Global Foundries will be closing on the property literally any day now and the ground breaking that will signal the start of construction is scheduled for July. Many of the plans and milestones are broken down for you on the slides above, but there is more to Fab 2 than just a new facility. The resources in the area, in addition to Global Foundries' existing partnerships, are interesting stories as well.

Global Foundries Fab 2 (Cont.)

As we've mentioned, Fab 2 will be a leading-edge facility in and of itself. But to staff and run the fab, and to ensure its success and ability to innovate over time, Global Foundries will be relying on its existing partnerships and nearby colleges and universities.

Global Foundries is already part of a collaborative alliances with companies like IBM, ST, Chartered, Samsung, Toshiba, and others. With the knowledge gained through the alliances and with research taking place at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, however, Global Foundries intends to not only build Fab 2, get it online, and woo potential customers, but to pioneer significant innovation along the way, not just be a workhorse facility.



Fab Process Capabilities

Some of Global Foundries' current capabilities and a few of the breakthroughs that have already been achieved by some of their partners are presented in the slides above. They were already first to market with an Immersion Lithography process, which decreases the wavelength of lithography by putting water between the projection lens and silicon wafer, and they plan to convert part of Fab 1 to use Immersion Lithography sometime in the middle of this year. 32nm SOI silicon is already running in Fab 1 as well and tape-outs will be accepted in late 2009 with an early 2010 production ramp planned for 32nm bulk manufacturing.

Some of the innovations planned with the high-performance 32nm SOI process include a High-k / Metal Gate “Gate First” transistor design approach that reportedly minimizes complexity and cost, while also lowering capacitance for lower power and improved performance. An Ultra-Low-K dielectric, which introduces air-filled pores throughout the insulator, is also planned, as is a 28nm low-power bulk CMOS process. Next generation technologies that are also planned by Global Foundries and its partners also include module structures and processes like 3D ICs, Multi-gate FinFETs which represent a new transistor structure, and EUV, or Extreme Ultra Violet Lithography. The first field tested chips created using EUV have already been demonstrated, although the technology is likely needed for 15nm and beyond.

Global Foundries Fab 2 (Cont.)

One of the major innovations Global Foundries plans to offer their customers includes access to some proprietary tools that were developed by AMD over a number of years to help streamline and partially automate the manufacturing process.


AMP (Automated Precision Manufacturing) Process Optimization Technology

The APM (Automated Precision Manufacturing) framework is comprised of a number of highly automated and synchronized decision making tools, that includes proprietary technologies and logic. There are five integrated algorithmic analysis systems fed by fab-wide data integration and an array of customized monitoring systems. The APM framework is designed to help enable faster time to market and real-time or near real-time feedback on products.

Groundwork begins...

While the plans are well laid out, the work on Global Foundries' Fab 2 has just begun. Touring the grounds, we snapped a few shots of construction vehicles and workers preparing the land. Although the actual ground breaking on Fab 2 isn't scheduled to happen until July, the State of NY has already begun work on a new exit ramp on Interstate 87 that will lead directly to the Luther Forest Technology Campus where Fab 2 will reside. These are all exciting developments that we hope will bear fruit, not only for Global Foundries, but the region itself. With companies like Global Foundries, IBM (Fishkill), and others already in the area, upstate NY has the potential to be the next hotspot in silicon technology development. At the very least, Global Foundries will bring more high-tech jobs back to the U.S, instead of continuing the trend of outsourcing to competing nations. 

In addition, this outsourced partnership fab approach is obviously critical for Global Foundries main customer, AMD, in maintaining a competitive model versus Intel. It will be interesting to watch this all play out in the years ahead, as this approach for AMD begins to bear fruit.  The shift in dynamics of the battle between the two rivals will be significant and will likely change the landscape from a market perspective, not just the upstate New York geographic topology. It will also be interesting to see if Global Foundries is able to land new customers that were or are rivals of AMD, or even rivals from within their existing alliances. At this point, we can only speculate. However, we suspect there are some entities that would like to keep some strategic chip manufacturing within the U.S. Rivals or not, if Global Foundries offers advanced services that competing foundries cannot, there is at least a possibility that former rivals may one day be coming to Global Foundries for fabrication services as an alternative to TSMC or the other usual suspects.

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