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Globalfoundries Focusing on Financials, Seeks Fab Partners

Saturday, June 9, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Jeff Couture

The new CEO of GlobalFoundries has a charter to improve financial performance of the privately held chipmaker. Thus, Tom Caulfield is seeking partners for the company that is a distant second in a hotly competitive race to make chips.
Caulfield needs a hand building a next-generation fab, probably at 3 nm, and expanding his ASIC services to attract new customers. Meanwhile, he started a reorganization geared to make the company more nimble and to hold his managers responsible for financial progress, he said in an interview with EE Times.

The new fab is probably best suited as an expansion of GF’s existing Fab 8 in Malta, New York, where it is preparing to ramp a 7-nm node. Such a facility likely would need support from federal funds, but GF has other options leveraging its fabs in China, Germany, and Singapore.

In the first 60 days in his new role, Caulfield and representatives of the company’s owners, the Mubadala Investment Company in the United Arab Emirates, spent a day and a half in Washington, D.C. It was one leg in a world tour of GF’s fabs, exploring the techno-politics of the options.
“Saxony provides 25 cents on the dollar, but the U.S. doesn’t … it’s a policy that needs to be reconsidered because these things can drive jobs away,” said Caulfield.

The U.S. Department of Defense could be attracted by the promise of access to 3-nm chips as an expansion of the trusted foundry arrangement that GF acquired with IBM’s fabs in 2015. “This is important for national security and creating jobs … access to a secure domestic supply — we’ll work that angle,” said Caulfield.

Meanwhile, he’s also angling for partners in China as GF starts to bring equipment into its new site in Chengdu, sized to make a million wafers a year. GF could “make it China’s factory, not just ours — customers or even competitors can invest in capacity to create a multi-ownership model rather than trying to fill it on our own,” he said.

Caulfield also likes the idea of another process-sharing deal. He praised the 14-nm collaboration with Samsung for giving customers a second source and providing capacity on the node “similar to” that of rival TSMC.

Indeed, one of Caulfield’s stellar achievements to date was bringing up the 14-nm process at GF’s Fab 8 in Malta. AMD used the process to make the Ryzen CPUs and Radeon GPUs, now returning it to profitability.

Given the uncertain time frame for a next-gen fab, it’s not surprising that Caulfield leans toward 3 nm.

“I don’t know if 5 nm is enough to make a fabless company invest … they need something as defined as 3 nm to get full performance, but we’re still looking at what is the right investment for the next node,” he said.

In the end, GF needs a next-generation fab more than any potential partner. It must serve legacy customers such as AMD and IBM and attract high-valued new ones.

Read the full article on EETimes

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