While non-standard fabrication processes are sometimes challenging and make it harder to re-use intellectual property across different product lineups, they are just what the doctor ordered when one needs to achieve certain goals. According to GlobalFoundries, the No. 2 contract maker of chips, many customized process technologies are gaining importance nowadays.
Although advanced chips like application processors or graphics processing units greatly benefit from leading-edge manufacturing technologies, many other chips do not require advanced fabrication processes or high clock-rates. When it comes to a lot of consumer electronics devices, especially emerging applications like wearables or Internet-of-things (IoT), lowest cost and lowest possible power consumption are needed. GlobalFoundries claims that designers of chips for the aforementioned devices demand customized process technologies to reduce power consumption to the lowest possible level.
“Along with the rise of a number of emerging markets, we have noticed increasing demand for some niche technologies, customized processes and design services with regard to the development of new chips by clients,” said Chuck Fox, vice president of global sales at GlobalFoundries, in an interview with DigiTimes. “For example, the low power and low cost SOI (silicon on insulator) process which we have developed in 2014 has now been widely adopted by RF chip suppliers.”
It is interesting to note that although GlobalFoundries announced support for FD-SOI [fully depleted silicon on insulator], a technology that can help to further cut-down power consumption of chips made using planar process technologies, early last year, it has not even started to adopt it. Moreover, the company has not even talked about FD-SOI since 2013. Nonetheless, the company claims that it has expanded SOI manufacturing capacities this year.
“Since we have been operating at full capacity persistently, we have decided to ramp up our capacity for SOI process to meet increasing demand,” added Mr. Fox.
Moreover, as some companies, namely, Advanced Micro Devices, cease to use custom leading-edge fabrication processes, a number of other companies seem to have nothing against using such technologies provided that they guarantee lower power consumption and affordable costs. Moreover, they are even willing to pay for additional services.
“For new business opportunities that will increase demand for chips for IoT, wearable device, telematics applications, we also plan to step up our services by providing niche manufacturing processes and technology support,” stressed the vice president.
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KitGuru Says: GlobalFoundries pins a lot of hopes on customized and SOI process technologies, which is logical as usage of both ensures that going forward it will not have to fight for particular customers simply because other foundries cannot replicate GF’s manufacturing processes. Moreover, added value of customized and SOI manufacturing technologies is considerably higher compared to industry-standard fabrication processes. What is not clear is why GlobalFoundries is de-facto downplaying FD-SOI these days, whereas Samsung Electronics, licensed it in May, 2014.