In a Series of Agreements, GlobalFoundries Buoys Chip Supply From Home
Tracking the goals of the CHIPS+ Act, GlobalFoundries is strengthening the U.S. semiconductor ecosystem with several partnerships and acquisitions.
The U.S. semiconductor manufacturing industry is beginning to reap the benefits of the CHIPS+ Act passed in July 2022. In a series of collaborations and acquisitions, GlobalFoundries (GF) is progressing toward one of the act's goals: to strengthen a U.S.-based semiconductor supply chain and reduce dependence on Asia-based manufacturers. Throughout the chip shortage, GF claims it has remained profitable by steadying productivity, containing cost, differentiating products, and doubling down on supply chain security.
A comparison of GF's and TSMC's EBIT margins. Image courtesy of Seeking Alpha
GlobalFoundries attributes its upward profitability to its strategic approach to chipmaking and its local partnership with key industry sectors, including automotive, memory, and computing as well as education.
GlobalFoundries Partners With GM, Renesas, and Purdue
In a major win for GF in the automotive sector, the foundry signed an agreement with GM on Feb. 9, 2023, to dedicate a manufacturing corridor at GF's upstate New York facility for GM’s key chip suppliers.
GF also secured more production capacity by acquiring Renesas' NVM resistive RAM technology. Specifically, GF now owns Renesas' proprietary Conductive Bridging Random Access Memory (CBRAM) technology, a low-power memory solution built for home and industrial IoT and mobile devices.
GF has secured wins in the education and R&D sector as well, partnering with Purdue University on a semiconductor education program. Purdue was among the first institutions to use the funds from the CHIPS+ Act to finalize a university-level semiconductor program. Now, with this new collaboration, Purdue's staff and students will use GlobalFoundries' facility and resources to create innovative, interdisciplinary solutions for advanced semiconductors and microelectronics. The partnership between GF and Purdue will provide next-generation professionals with hands-on expertise overseen at GF Lab.
GF Supports Next-gen Vision and Computing Technologies
GF is also championing the computing sector, namely with BrainChip's Akida neuromorphic chip built on 22 nm fully depleted silicon-on-insulator (FD-SOI) technology.
Akida architecture. Image courtesy of BrainChip
BrainChip is the world’s first company to develop ultra-low-power, event-based, neuromorphic AI IP to be used for always-on sensor applications. The AKD1500 chip was built on GF’s low-leakage FD SOI platform, promising an array of applications that don't overload the CPU.
Vision sensor specialist Oculi also recently announced a strategic partnership with GF, commissioning the foundry to manufacture its single-chip, intelligent software-defined vision sensor. The new sensor will be based on GF’s 55LPx, a platform that supports RF, ultra-low power, embedded NVM, and high-voltage BCDLite (a process technology).
Expanding U.S.-based Semiconductor Production
While GlobalFoundries relies on five-year agreements to ship chips from storage facilities in Dresden and Singapore, the foundry also plans to expand three U.S. locations, including one in Vermont and two in New York. Specifically, GF is broadening the scope of existing facilities to make 12 nm, 28 nm, and 40 nm chips rather than going back to the drawing board and investing in new technologies to compete with TSMC’s advanced 3 nm – 5 nm chips.
GlobalFoundries' headquarters in Malta, New York. Image (modified) courtesy of GlobalFoundries
GF has increased existing domestic manufacturing capacity in another way, too. The company has invested in gallium nitride (GaN) RF chips, a wide-band semiconductor technology that outperforms silicon in terms of thermal resistance and durability. GF's development of GaN devices at its Essex Junction, Vermont, facility would have been impossible without a $30 million government grant to shorten the time to market for the GaN RF technology.
A GF facility in upstate New York is also getting a boost—this time, from collaborating with Qualcomm. The U.S. mobile chipmaker has previously agreed to spend $4.2 billion on chips made by GF for Qualcomm's 5G transceivers, automotive products, and IoT connectivity.