During AMD's conference call last week, company CEO Dirk Meyer stated that he expected Global Foundries to announce its first customer "within 30 days." We now know that first customer will be STMicroelectronics, which is a major semiconductor player and manufacturer in its own right. Global Foundries has stated that it will partner with ST to produce products based on 40nm Low Power (LP) bulk silicon. Electronics built using LP silicon are typically used in devices where minimal power consumption is paramount, including cell phones, application processors, and other handheld devices.
“With the addition of an industry-leader in low-power technology like STMicroelectronics we now begin to deliver on this vision," said Doug Grose, CEO of Global Foundries. "We look forward to harnessing our full capabilities for ST to provide best-in-class service in bringing their 40nm design innovation to life in high volumes and at mature yields." Global Foundries will tape out its first set of STMicroelectronic's parts in 2010, and will presumably begin volume production later in the year.
Announcing STMicroelectronics as a future customer is symbolically important for Global Foundries, even if it won't see any revenue from the deal for 6-9 months or more. Global Foundries may have spun off from AMD, and the two companies are currently joined at the hip, but AMD plans to dilute the percentage of Global Foundries it owns as the company raises more capital and acquires additional customers. The mechanics of how all of this occurs are somewhat complicated, due to AMD's continuing need to satisfy the requirements and stipulations imposed by Intel as part of its x86 licensing agreement, but Global Foundries is definitely meant to stand independent and apart from AMD.
It's possible that recent trouble at TSMC is partly responsible for Global Foundries' newfound customer. TSMC and STMicroelectronics have worked together closely in the past, but well-publicized 40nm yield troubles at the Taiwanese company's fabs have hurt both AMD and NVIDIA. Both of these companies are building GPUs that use (or at least, are supposed to use) TSMC's 40nm "G" (general) technology. It's entirely plausible that the same set of issues that have hurt TSMC's 40nm GPU production have impacted its 40nm LP as well.
When AMD spun off and created Global Foundries, it stated that the company was beginning to ramp 32nm bulk silicon production. The immersion lithography AMD deployed at 45nm is capable of scaling down to 32nm; it now sounds as if GF may be building out 40nm and 32nm bulk silicon simultaneously.
The full press release of the announcement is available below...
Global Foundries Announces Strategic Customer Engagement with STMicroelectronics
- Global Foundries secures industry leader as first customer for leading-edge, low- power bulk silicon technology -
SUNNYVALE, CA – July 29, 2009 – Global Foundries today announced a strategic customer relationship with STMicroelectronics (NYSE: STM). One of the world’s leading suppliers of semiconductor solutions, ST will partner with Global Foundries to produce products based on 40nm Low Power (LP) bulk silicon technology. The 40nm LP process is ideal for the next generation of wireless applications, handheld devices, and consumer electronics, which require excellent performance and long battery life. First tape out and production of ST products by Global Foundries is planned to start in 2010.
“When we launched Global Foundries, our long-term vision was to bring a new business model to the foundry market and to become the partner of choice for the largest and most innovative semiconductor design and manufacturing companies,” said Doug Grose, Chief Executive Officer, Global Foundries. “With the addition of an industry-leader in low-power technology like STMicroelectronics we now begin to deliver on this vision. We look forward to harnessing our full capabilities for ST to provide best-in-class service in bringing their 40nm design innovation to life in high volumes and at mature yields.”
“To ensure ample capacity for our customer/partners at the leading-edge of low-power design, ST needs an agile and high-performance manufacturing partner that can adapt to our changing needs,” said Jean-Marc Chery, Executive Vice President, Chief Technology Officer, STMicroelectronics. “With a strong commitment to manufacturing and technology excellence at the leading-edge, we believe Global Foundries is an excellent partner to collaborate on low-power design innovation in 2010 and beyond.”
Global Foundries production is currently centered at a state-of-the-art 300mm manufacturing campus in Dresden, Germany – otherwise known as Fab 1. Consistently ranked as one of the top fabs in the industry, Fab 1 has a proven track record of ramping leading-edge technologies at high-volume and mature yields, most recently evidenced on a seamless ramp of 45nm process technology. In July 2009, Global Foundries also broke ground on Fab 2, a $4.2B wafer manufacturing facility in Malta, N.Y. Once complete, Fab 2 is expected to be the most advanced semiconductor foundry in the world.