Just two months ago, GlobalFoundries was reported to be an acquisition target for Intel, but that deal hasn’t happened, and the Malta, New York-based company has spent the intervening weeks announcing plans designed to prove its value as a foundry at a critical time for the semiconductor industry.
After announcing aggressive foundry expansion plans last month, GlobalFoundries this week announced a series of foundry process upgrades aimed at helping the company better serve the needs of specific industries and products, including 5G mobile smartphones, data centers, IoT and automotive.
“This past 18 months has demonstrated what a semiconductor is and that they are vital to everything we do. This awareness and demand have catalyzed innovation in areas such as automotive and IoT, and this requires a new way of thinking,” said Juan Cordovez, senior vice president of sales at GF.
He said GF is pursuing more intelligent and intuitive manufacturing processes that stress response to complex sets of trends, such as increasing power requirements and at the same time greater energy efficiency.
At the GF Technology Summit 2021 this week, the company’s announcements of new offerings affecting mobile and Wi-Fi included:
• GF RF-SOI sub 6GHz Solutions, which include new features so chip designers can provide a stronger 5G connection today with fewer dead zones for more talking, playing, and streaming, and more time on a single charge.
• GF FDXTM-RF Solutions, including new features to enable the 5G mmWave generation of devices for more robust connections and more connected experiences.
• GF Wi-Fi Solutions now include new features for enhanced RF and Power Amplifier functionality so Wi-Fi 6 and 6e chip designers can provide a higher performing, stronger Wi-Fi connection for the newest generation of Wi-Fi-enabled products for more coverage and more connections.
• GF Display Solutions includes new features that allow display driver IC designers to enable variable refresh on OLED displays to deliver blazing fast refresh rates for more immersive gaming and moderated refresh rates for battery savings while browsing.
“In the smartphone sector, we’re seeing a transition to faster and more responsive display,” said Peter Gammel, CTO of the Mobile and Wireless Infrastructure business unit at GF. “It’s becoming critical to support the next generation of variable refresh rates.”
Also regarding mobile, the company also announced the extension of an agreement with Qualcomm for RF collaboration on 5G multi-Gigabit speed RF front-end products.
GF audio and imaging announcements:
• GF Audio Solutions now includes new features, as well as a non-volatile memory option, that allow audio amp designers to provide more life-like sound quality with a minimal amount of noise or distortion resulting in crystal clear audio for playback and talk.
• GF Imaging Solutions now includes new features that allow image sensor designers to enable stacked CMOS image sensors with >200 Mpixels of resolution, high-dynamic range, slow-motion, and lower power for the newest generation of smartphone cameras.
GF data center announcements:
• GF is extending its silicon photonics manufacturing leadership by announcing a new platform and features for more power and energy efficiency.
• GF Silicon Photonics Solutions are available on GF’s new Silicon Photonics 45nm platform which has passed critical technology milestones and is on track for full technology qualification by Q1 2022. The monolithic platform, combining RF CMOS and optical components on the same chip, includes an innovative new feature, the first micro ring resonator (MRR) optical component in 300 mm wafer technology. GF is engaged with leading customers and partners on this new platform.
“There is a growing need to shift massive data inside and outside of the data center,” said Amir Faintuch, senior vice president and general manager, Computing & Wired Infrastructure SBU at GF. “Silicon photonics has reached its tipping point.”
GF IoT and automotive announcements:
• IoT: GF Microdisplay Solutions for IoT include new features that optimize and improve process speed and reduce leakage as well as provide enhanced pixel driver functionality for enabling smaller and lighter augmented reality (AR) glasses that last longer on a single battery charge. GF Microdisplay Solutions are based on the GF 22FDX+ platform which is seeing broad industry acceptance realizing more than $7.5 billion in design wins around the world.
• Automotive: GF announced the GF 22FDXTM platform is Auto Grade 1 Ready at Fab 1 in Dresden, Germany providing customers with faster time-to-market. GF previously announced that it is making $1 billion investment in Dresden, as well as an additional $5 billion to expand capacity globally.
“In IoT, there are some unique requirements because devices often need to be always-on and frequently untethered,” said Mike Hogan, senior vice president and general manger, Automotive, Industrial and Multi-market SBU at GF. “There has created an insatiable need for embedded sensing, AI and intelligent edge functions.”
He added, “With automotive, supply shortages set aside, this is one of the most exciting moments in automotive history. Now, we’re ramping our automotive semiconductor supply to unprecedented levels and working closer with all of our automotive partners. All of our $6 billion investment [in Dresden and elsewhere worldwide combined] affects automotive in some way. The news is becoming not the chip shortage, but how the supply chains tightens and begins to cooperate as a result.”