GLOBAL FOUNDRIES HAD a press conference today that not only announced a two huge fab expansions, but also explained why they chose the term global. ATIC, the investment arm of Abu Dhabi is thinking long term, and that is what you need in the foundry business.
The first and most important part of today’s message were the fab expansions. Fab 1 in Dresden is getting another huge addition, 110,000 square feet of new clean room space to be exact. That will raise the capacity of the Dresden facility from about 60,000 wafers per month to 80,000 or so. This new wing will come on line some time in 2011.
That may sound large, but Fab 8 in New York now gets 40% larger, and could process 60,000 wafers a month if GloFo decides to fill it all with very expensive tools. The new wing will come on line in about 2013 if all goes according to plan. Both of these additions are going to cost about $3 Billion more than originally budgeted. There is no truth to the rumor of a large coin donation bin in upstate New York, ATIC has it fully covered.
There were a few interesting bits that leaked out during the conference about future directions for GloFo. First was double patterning immersion lithography, a likely candidate for the 22/20nm node. From there GloFo said they will take delivery of their first EUV (Extreme UltraViolet) tools during 2011. This does not mean they will have EUV up in 2011, but the ball will start rolling then. It looks like that is their direction for 16nm in 2013 or so.
Much more interesting than the fab makeover was the talk by Ibrahim Ajami, CEO of ATIC, the investment group that owns the majority of Global Foundries. They have a plan called the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030, a two year old plan that needs another 20 years to execute fully.
The idea is simple, Abu Dhabi has a lot of oil, but that is a finite resource. When it runs out, the country has to have a backup plan, and those are not something that you can put into place quickly. Abu Dhabi has identified aviation, telecom, real estate, renewable energy and of course semiconductors as paths to make a post-oil sustainable economy.
If you haven’t guessed already, Global Foundries is one of the key components to this process. Building a semiconductor infrastructure and economy is not a trivial task, it takes more than buildings and tools, it takes people. Because of that, Abu Dhabi is starting with education, building a system that will train those future engineers from almost nothing.
There is a master’s program in microelectronics partnering with MIT, scholarships, and higher education facilities all coming on line soon. Global Foundries plays a part by hosting interns, currently 30 men and 30 women, and training them in a real world fab environment. They will do, learn, and advance, eventually teaching others, and planting more seeds.
Abu Dhabi has also put aside 3 square Km of space adjacent to the Abu Dhabi International Airport for a technology campus. The plan seems to be to eventually put a fab there, but to do that you need more infrastructure than just roads. You need precise machining for parts, repair and maintenance facilities, and most importantly, skilled people to staff all that support infrastructure. Putting up the buildings is the easy part, supporting them is hard.
In the end, it looks like Abu Dhabi is doing the right things for the right reasons. On one hand, Global Foundries is pushing the envelope on high end fab technologies, and on the other, Abu Dhabi is building the blocks to make a foundation for future fabs. We still have a little more than nineteen and a half years to go before 2030, but things so far look good.S|A